Melissa Joan Hart Answers All Our Burning Sabrina the Teenage Witch Questions 25 Years Later

25 years and countless spells later, Sabrina the Teenage Witch is still our go-to spooky season binge. Melissa Joan Hart spilled on all the behind-the-scenes details and more.

By Samantha Bergeson Oct 10, 2021 4:00 PMTags
Watch: Happy Birthday Melissa Joan Hart: E! News Rewind

Witchcraft? Who said anything about witchcraft? 

Well, our favorite former teen witch certainly did. Sabrina the Teenage Witch icon Melissa Joan Hart exclusively revealed her biggest confessions, behind-the-scenes memories and favorite celebrity guest stars in honor of the series' 25th anniversary this year.

Based on the Archie Comics series, Sabrina first premiered in 1996 on ABC, later moved to the WB and ran for a total of seven seasons before concluding in 2003. The ensemble cast featuring Nate RichertBeth BroderickCaroline Rhea and Nick Backay voicing sassy cat Salem, made for a true family both on and off-screen.

"Right before the pandemic hit, I was able to put together a quick reunion for the crew, where we took over a coffee shop, had some appetizers, had some drinks," Melissa reminisced of a Feb. 2020 party to celebrate 17 years since the show ended. "The cast, even though we're all in our 40s now, acted like we were still the kids on set and decided to go out all night as if we were still in our 20s. It was funny being back in that place, we all kind of reverted back to our old roles."

20 Secrets About Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Despite wishing for more cast and crew parties in her future, Hart clarified why those reboot rumors are, unfortunately, false—despite a deceptively good fan-fiction art pitching a mother-daughter spin-off titled Sabrina's Teenage Witch.

"It looked so authentic that even my makeup artist called me and said, 'Is this true? Because if it is, I'll come back,'" Melissa joked. "Especially when some of the crew started reaching out, they were like, 'Can we do this?' And I was like, 'If we got to work together and be together for a few years, that would be awesome.'" 

However, returning to the original series would be a "dangerous" decision. "As much as I had a blast on the show, I think [a reboot] would be over-critiqued," the upcoming Mistletoe in Montana star dished. "I've never really wanted to go back to Sabrina." 

Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images

Now, as Halloween season approaches, we're looking to hop on our broomsticks and relive the top Sabrina moments—through Melissa's eyes. Which '90s heartthrob made the best guest star? How many episodes has Melissa seen of her own show? Did she even enjoy playing Sabrina?

The O.G. teenage witch herself answers all of our burning questions below!

How Did Sabrina the Teenage Witch Happen?

The year was 1996: The world was on the brink of a new millennium...and Melissa Joan Hart was looking for her next big break. After her hit Nickelodeon series Clarissa Explains It All concluded in 1994, Melissa had been turning down roles in search of the perfect follow-up. Her mother and manager Paula Hart "didn't like the projects that were coming my way, as far as content goes for characters that people wanted me to play," Melissa exclusively told E! News. With a sprinkle of magic, a whole lot of determination and some witchy intervention, Melissa landed Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Mother Knows Best

The Harts sure do have a lot of heart"The show doesn't happen without my mother," Melissa explained. "Seeing how I had just come off Nickelodeon, a kids channel, a kids show [with Clarissa], she was trying to find the right project for me and someone handed her the Archie comic book of Sabrina. She brought it to Viacom, which is where Clarissa was out of at the time, and they wanted to do it as a movie." 

But, Paula didn't just want a Sabrina to be a teen flick TV movie, and she took matters into her own hands. 

First a Ryan Reynolds Movie, Then a Hit Series

Yep, Melissa starred alongside Ryan Reynolds for the Sabrina the Teenage Witch movie. And no, he did not play Harvey! Instead, Ryan was cast as Sabrina's crush Seth, whom she tries to woo with her newfound powers. While Melissa has previously revealed that she and Ryan had a fling while filming, her mother Paula was more focused on creating a lasting legacy for Melissa. The movie was sold to Showtime, but Paula "cut together" a trailer to prove that the storyline had series potential. "She kept saying, 'It would be a great TV show, it would be a great TV show,'" Melissa recalled. "And they were like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah but let's get the movie out there.'" 

According to Melissa, her mother singlehandedly "went to L.A., pitched it to five different networks and got offers in the room from three different networks." Ultimately, Paula decided on ABC because of the TGIF time slot. "Next thing you know, we're moving to L.A. and have a TV show," Melissa summed up. Oh, and Paula was also pregnant with her seventh child while all this was going on.

"The Little Engine That Could" Go Up Against Clueless

Despite the initial excitement around Sabrina, the casting process was "hard core," as Melissa recalled. Plus, Sabrina was viewed as an after-thought to the highly-anticipated Clueless series spawned by the iconic 1995 movie of the same name. "We were supposed to be the Little Engine That Could after Clueless," Melissa reflected, citing the "big push" from the network for the competing series. "Clueless had a big push. Everything said, 'Clueless! And then watch Sabrina afterwards.' We were the bottom fourth of the advertising pages and stuff." 

However, by mid-second season for Sabrina, "we got picked up for third and fourth," Melissa proudly stated. It's clear Sabrina cast a spell on audiences! Meanwhile, Clueless only lasted one season on ABC before moving to UPN for two other seasons. 

Sabrina's "Close-Knit" Cast & Crew, On and Off Screen

Across seven seasons, Sabrina had the same crew throughout production. "We became a really close-knit group," Melissa said. Plus, working with her mom Paula made it a true family on set. "With the two of us at the helm, we sort of set the tone for a family-friendly, fun atmosphere," Melissa noted. "People that like to get the work done but who like to have fun." 

A majority of the crew had come from Murder, She Wrote and brought a comfortable familiarity to the Sabrina set. "They knew this was going to take them to retirement, so it was just a happy atmosphere all around," Melissa continued. "We really just set a tone, like, 'Life's too short. We're not going to let people come in here who will ruin our day. We're just going to keep the egos light and get the work done.'" 

Together, the cast and crew traveled the world, from Rome to Australia to Florida. "We even got to go to Vegas for a wrap party," Melissa said. "We traveled all the time together on weekends for hiatuses. We'd go snowboard together or go away on girl trips. Those are still some of my best friends. It was basically my college years, stretched out over seven years. We were really tight. It was definitely, definitely like a family." 

From *NSYNC to Britney Spears, Sabrina Had the Biggest Guest Stars

Britney Spears, *NSYNC and even Coolio?! "Everybody wanted to be on the show, either because it was a hit or because their kids loved it," Melissa proudly explained of the "amazing guest stars" each week on the series. However, Melissa wasn't as starstruck as you may expect. "Having those guests on felt more like my peers," she confessed. "I'd see them out at awards shows and go to events with them and see them in passing a lot more, but it was the legends that really struck me, like 'Wow, look who I get to work with.' I swear I'm like a little old lady since I was 12 years old." 

So Melissa was "more fascinated" by the "legends" and industry veterans who appeared on-screen with her. "My requests to have on set were Violent Femmes, which was my first concert. Davy Jones from The Monkees, I loved that TV show when it re-ran on Nickelodeon on the '80s, even though it was more of my mom's generation," Melissa continued. "I wanted Blondie to come on. We gave her a role as a witch."

Raquel WelchI Dream of Jeannie's Barbara EdenPenn & Teller and CheersJohn Ratzenberger, Shelley Long and George Wendt all made appearances on Sabrina. And, even then up-and-comers Donald Faison and Paul Feig guest-starred! The only other series that Melissa can compare to the star level of Sabrina is Young Sheldon, which she directs.

Shirley Temple Once Sent Melissa Joan Hart an Apology Letter

Melissa hoped her idol Shirley Temple would play Sabrina's grandmother on-screen, but the Bright Eyes star turned down the role—in a very special way. "Shirley actually sent an apology letter saying, 'I gave up the industry long ago and I can't make an exception from anybody, sorry,'" Melissa explained. Instead, the role went to Broadway star Shirley Jones

Melissa Still "Adores" Her Boy Band Co-Stars

The Backstreet Boys will always have a special place in Sabrina's heart IRL! "Howie Dorough played a character, besides being in the Backstreet Boys episode," Melissa said. "And those guys I adore. Now that I live in Nashville, I'm close with [*NSYNC's] Chris Kirkpatrick again so we're getting to hang out." 

Elvira Should Have Been on Sabrina

Cassandra Peterson a.k.a. Elvira, this is our official pitch for a Sabrina crossover event! "I can't believe she was never on Sabrina," Melissa admitted. "I don't know why we didn't have her. It's kind of weird." And, even though Melissa doesn't "get to go out and really work it" during Halloween season, the former teen queen and the Mistress of the Dark would be a perfect pair. 

"I probably should have started some sort of Halloween party or teamed up with Elvira to do X, Y, or Z, but never happened," Melissa noted. It's never to late!

Nick Backay a.k.a. Salem Was Actually a Staff Writer

While the hilarious talking black cat Salem was a fan favorite, voice actor Nick Backay had another role on Sabrina: being a writer! Melissa raved that Backay "did an amazing job" helping craft the female-centric show. "You've got two aunts, raising their niece, there's a cat who used to be a witch who talks. That's her familiar," Melissa explained. "Then there's Harvey, who she's in love with. Then we feathered in other characters  and storylines and whatnot, but the good thing about magic is you can do anything. There's really no limit on what you can write and what you can create."

Sabrina also showed a different kind of nuclear family: "It also got to be one of those rare stories of a family—other than, like, I can think of My Two Dads or some others—but a different sort of family set up. Not the traditional mom, dad, and kids," she added. "We got to focus on different things. Hell, we had a talking cat!"

Nick went on to write for Mom, and collaborated with Kevin James on King of Queens and the Mall Cop. "The writing staff was incredible and came up with great, fun jokes that still pretty much hold up today," Melissa gushed. 

Melissa Has Never Seen Sabrina the Teenage Witch

An icon who has not watched her own witchy series? It's true! There's no magic wand to change the fact that Melissa has never watched herself on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. "You have to remember this about then, we didn't have TiVo. The only way I could watch Sabrina was if I was home on Friday nights, which I wasn't because I was working, or they would hand me on the night it would air, I was allowed to get a copy of it on VHS. So unless I went home and popped it in the VHS player—which I wasn't doing on my weekends off—I never watched it," she explained. "So I have a totally different perspective on the show than other people do."

Melissa's memories are rather about the personal moments she shared on set. "It means I remember certain things: the costume I was wearing when my dog died, or when my boyfriend broke up with me." 

The series was also shot out of order. "I don't remember it the way the audience does, which is kind of getting frustrating because I just don't recall things the way other people do," Melissa opened up. "I probably need to go back and watch 163 episodes, but it's also kind of weird to do that." 

Sabrina Was Part of Melissa's Honeymoon

While Melissa may not have seen her whole series chronologically, she has watched a few episodes...while dozing off beside her husband Mark Wilkerson on their honeymoon. 

"We were just exhausted after getting married. We should have gone somewhere with a beach or something, but we ended up in Scotland wanting to be tourists," Melissa joked. "We didn't want to get out of bed. We were so exhausted. We were like, 'We should probably go to the pub and get a pint, or we should probably go golf at that place over there.' We were just sort of like, ‘What do we do?' We were so busy planning the wedding, we didn't really know what to do. So we ended up in the hotel room, and the only things on TV every half hour were Sabrina or Saved by the BellWe wanted to watch mindless television to fall asleep to. Our honeymoon is probably the most I've seen Sabrina but that was 18 years ago now." 

Hold Onto Your Broomsticks: Melissa "Never Enjoyed" Playing Sabrina

Did we just hear that right? Well, Melissa is just being honest. "I never enjoyed playing Sabrina. I loved being part of the production. I loved being on that set. I loved every minute of it," she clarified. "I just didn't necessarily enjoy playing Sabrina. I had much more fun being Melissa or Mel on Melissa & Joey because that was a character I could really dive into and be ridiculous and that's where I had a lot of fun." 

Melissa is Just Starting to Embrace "Witch Culture"

Over 25 years later, Melissa is just starting to get into the "witch culture" like former co-star Caroline Rhea. "She's like, ‘Hey, my witchy niece! What's going on?' She really took to heart the whole ‘We're witches!' and I'm like, ‘What?'" Melissa joked. "I'm just now finally embracing it. I want to buy all the towels that say witchy things on them now like ‘Yes I can drive stick' and ‘Best witches' and all that stuff." 

Looking back, Melissa cited her hesitation to identify too much with Sabrina due to her a work-life balance outside of production. "We'll have to get a psychologist to really tell us, but I think it probably comes from the separation of work and home," Melissa explained. "Work is work, and I don't bring that home. I'm not going to decorate my house and pretend to be a witch. That's my work. That's not me. I think that's where the two don't really blend together at all." 

Melissa is More Bewitched By Her Family Than a Return to Sabrina

Don't hold your breath for Sabrina to return, witches. "I've never really wanted to go back to Sabrina," Melissa revealed of her character. "As much as I had a blast on the show, I think it would be over-critiqued, and I don't think it would be successful. It's kind of like the last Game of Thronesright? Everybody has predicted for years how they think it should end, and by the time you do it, you're disappointing so many people. I don't think there's any way to get a good outcome of something you're putting a button on."

Melissa concluded, "I do think we ended Sabrina in just the right tone and just the right way, with enough of a closure but a little bit of a wink towards the future that I wouldn't want to go back and revisit it. We would never be able to get that kind of button on it again. It would always be out there to be critiqued, and I just think it's dangerous with a project like this that's become so loved over the years." 

Instead, she's focusing on going "all out for Christmas" with decorating her new Nashville home and taking her three sons "trunk-or-treating" every Halloween. Sabrina, it seems, is grown up for good. 

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