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Melissa Joan Hart, Clarissa

Nickelodeon

We all know Clarissa Explains It All. We all love Clarissa Explains It All. But do we know why it was such an awesome, realistic, so-perfectly-'90s TV show?

That's easy: The Doc Martens, the chokers, the pet alligator, the science experiments. The list could go on and on. But truly, it's because Clarissa Darling was somebody who was just so incredibly real and easy to look up to. And while that was the ultimate goal of the show's creators, to build a heroine who wasn't a walking stereotype of femininity, it turns out that there were some behind-the-scenes dealings that led to Clarissa's refreshing qualities, too.

E! News spoke with Emily Hart—yes, that would be younger sister and occasional onscreen costar to Clarissa star Melissa Joan Hart—ahead of next week's big audio release of the series' book followup Things I Can't Explain, and she gave the, ahem real talk about the sitcom. 

"She made it okay for young girls to be themselves and not have to be the dumb cheerleader or the pretty popular girl," (Emily) Hart said about Clarissa's appeal. "She made it okay to be smart and to be herself. I think that definitely impacted kids of the ‘90s. My mom had a big part in that too, because they wanted to pluck Melissa's eyebrows and put makeup on her and my mom said absolutely not. She's a child, you're not gonna put makeup on her and you're not gonna tweeze her eyebrows. Melissa had big bushy eyebrows and missing teeth, so she was definitely a kid, a normal kid."

While Hart was a young fan of the show during its original airing (and would go on to appear alongside her older sister in Sabrina, The Teenage Witch), she recently stepped into Clarissa's shoes to voice the aforementioned audiobook. The novel catches up with everybody's favorite Darling as a late twenty-something living in New York City, and Emily was the perfect person to take her on. "I've always worked with my sister, and they wanted a more current-age Clarissa," she explained. "She's a millennial during the time of the book, and young and feisty, so they wanted someone like me."

Feisty is the operative word with Things I Can't Explain, as it's the biggest aspect of the old show that viewers will recognize. Clarissa may have swapped her alligator-filled bedroom for a tiny walkup in the Big Apple, but she she's still sassing everything that should be sassed and living every day with a boatload of personality. 

"My favorite thing about the book is that the very first line is just classic Clarissa," Hart joked. "I read it in Melissa's voice in my head and I tried really hard to emulate that [on the audiobook]. She's still the same person, she's still Clarissa. She's an individual, she wants to be different than everybody else but she's also trying to fit in at the same time."

Getting to be the voice of a generation's favorite onscreen child may be a dream job at age 29, but being the younger sister to the star of Clarissa Explains It All came with its own perks—like personal set visits. (And no, those little squiggles aren't actually on the walls in person). Hart counts tours of the Nickelodeon studios, complete with behind-the-scenes views of Double Dare and even getting let it on Nickelodeon family secrets as favorite Clarissa memories. 

Oh, and since you asked, the secrets involve that infamous slime and ear wax Nick shows would pour on unsuspecting visitors and them possibly being made of applesauce in reality.

Be sure to stay tuned for an exclusive clip of Emily reading Things I Can't Explain, and download the entire book next Tuesday here