Two different decades collided on The Goldbergs this week — and no, we’re not talking about the ’90s set spin-off that aired last month, but that decade certainly factored in.
Melissa Joan Hart, best known for her ’90s sitcoms Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, actually directed Wednesday’s episode, and though she’s taken a spin in the chair before, helming this episode was particularly special for her.
“I have a lot of credits from network television, but mostly directing myself, so this is the first time I really got to do this,” Hart tells EW. “It was exciting, thrilling, scary. It was just one of the highlights of my career so far.”
The actress explains that the gig was born out of a meeting with The Goldbergs boss Adam F. Goldberg, whose childhood is the basis of the show. “I guess I impressed him in the room,” she says, explaining this was truly unlike her past directing credits, which include half a dozen episodes of Melissa & Joey. “I’ve never stepped into a show that was in its fifth season before, so the crew and the cast are a well-oiled machine at this point, there’s no building chemistry or getting the wheels greased, it’s already rolling. So, in a sense, the director is almost useless unless you can bring new things to it.”
“It took me a little while to figure out what I was doing there, what’s my purpose?” Hart says with a laugh. “Everybody here does their job so well, what do they need me for? But I realized it was more for the energy, it was for boosting up performances and bringing a new energy.”
Hart, who previously worked with The Goldbergs star Hayley Orrantia on the film God’s Not Dead 2, says she was blown away by The Goldbergs‘ attention to detail, saying it was like a blast from her past getting to step back into the ’80s. “It was so fun,” Hart says. “That was such a fun part of it. The art and costume departments were so well-versed in the ’80s. I could ask them anything.” But that also led to some challenges once she stepped behind the camera. “The show itself is very different,” she says. “It’s very stylized, and it was really different for me, because normally in directing, when someone walks in the room, the camera follows them from the doorway to whatever their mark is, but in this one, people just pop in, background doesn’t move, so there were a lot of rules and things I had to learn about the show that were outside of the norm and outside of my comfort zone, but one of those great challenges that you fully accept head-on and afterwards feel so good that you accomplished.”
Though Hart certainly sees more directing in her future, she hasn’t given up entirely on acting, either. “I love directing and I love it as a balance for my comedy career,” she says. “After I directed the movie Watcher in the Woods two years ago, I turned to my producer, my mom, I said, ‘I’m exhausted, I don’t want to direct again for a year, I just want to put on makeup and say funny lines and entertain people.’ And then I went and did a Christmas movie [for Lifetime], and after four weeks on that, I turned back to her and said, ‘Okay, now I just want to go back and be creative and control the story,’ so I really like going back and forth, it’s a really nice balance.”
Hart’s episode of The Goldbergs is available now to stream on Hulu.