You can follow your favorite stars on Instagram, rewatch their shows a dozen times, and read their memoirs, but that doesn't mean you know everything about them. "There are a few things about me that people don't realize," No Good Nick star Melissa Joan Hart tells Bustle over the phone in early April. "I have a mouth like a trucker or sailor." For the record, she doesn't curse once during our conversation, but that tidbit may still surprise fans, who associate the actor with her often squeaky-clean characters rather than her real-life persona.
Those characters have meant a lot to many generations of kids, from Clarissa Darling explaining it all to '90s kids, to Sabrina Spellman dazzling the early '00s generation with her magic, to Mel Burke drawing in laughs years later alongside Joey Lawrence. "The thing I hear the most from fans and strangers is, 'I grew up with you,' and that's a huge compliment because they feel familiar with me," Hart says. "There's something special about that."
It took until a 2009 reality TV competition for Hart to finally be referred to by her actual name. "People used to call me Clarissa or Sabrina a lot in public," she recalls. "Once I did Dancing With The Stars, it changed a lot." The reaction shifted to, "'Oh my god, you're Melissa,' instead of like, 'You're Clarissa,' or 'You're Sabrina!' I still get all of those, but I do get Melissa more often now. People know my name," she says.
With the premiere of new Netflix series No Good Nick, Hart is giving fans a whole new character to get acquainted with. She describes the show as a "combination of This Is Us meets Scandal," and the type of character she's playing this time around is a deviation from her usual girl-next-door persona. Liz Thompson on No Good Nick is little colder; she's career-driven and logistics-focused. "She never gets to be the fun one," Hart says.
It's a new type of role for Hart, and that was intentional. "All of these characters are very unique to me, and I've never played a mom before," she says of her role on No Good Nick. Yup, in all her years of being on TV, she's never portrayed a parent. "It's funny because I went from never being pregnant [on-screen] to being a mom of teenagers. I skipped a decade there," she jokes.
Though both Hart and her character are mothers ("It's a natural fit for me, it's where I am right now in life"), that's where the similarities between them end. "We're both very different in our parenting. She is, as she says in the show, 'the brains of the family,' but at home I'm the heart of the family. I'm the one that's always like giving them candy for dinner."
Hart may be Liz's opposite, but there's one past character she connects to most. While she says her Melissa & Joey role is one that's "pretty close to my personality," she clarifies, "They're exaggerated versions of certain things in my life, but I would say that people that loved Clarissa probably get a better sense of who I am." Yes, the spunky girl who spewed out wisdom from her bedroom is most like real-life Hart. Yet just because she relates the most to that role, she says, "All my characters have been like little children to me."
With No Good Nick, Hart is hoping to spark that same connection all over again — with the whole family, too. "On Sundays, Mom can watch Game of Thrones. And then on Mondays, the whole family watches No Good Nick together," she hypothesizes. "It's definitely a family dramedy over a comedy," the actor explains. And since it's on Netflix, she says it's "built for bingeing" and "every [episode] pretty much leaves on a little cliffhanger."
Who knows, maybe in a few months she'll walk down the street and get recognized as "Liz." But really, she's Melissa Joan f*cking Hart — sailor mouth and all — and fans shouldn't forget it.