What is it about MELISSA & JOEY that made you want to come back to doing a series?
Melissa Joan Hart: It was a long road for me. When I finished SABRINA I spent the next year pretty much just planning a wedding, getting married and getting settled into married life. And then the first thing I did the day my baby turned one I went off to Calgary and did a TV movie with Mario Lopez for ABC Family. And I enjoyed it so much just being a mom and being able to be funny and have a great time and work with some fabulous people; I worked with Markie Post on it and just some amazing TV comedy actors that made it so nice to go back to work.
There’s a shorthand between people in television, and especially people in sitcoms, that’s so nice that you just fit and you know how to make it work and it’s fun to go to work every day when you have people that are so professional like that and it made me go, you know what, maybe I really want to be doing sitcoms since I had all these little brush-ins with it again. Originally, I was against returning to sitcoms, I thought I wanted to do episodic [television] because it seemed like the only thing missing from my career. But after guest starring on a few dramas I was like, this is not fun. This isn’t fun to me.
I realized that if I was going to have kids and have a career that the best possible job I could have again would be to go back to sitcoms. With working with Joey in Atlanta on MY FAKE FIANCÉ, I realized that we had something really special, we had a lot in common, we’ve known each other forever, we had this great onscreen chemistry and that we should try to make a go of this. ABC Family agreed and we’re all happy.
You’ve been in the public eye and working since you were four. Is there anything that you would you have done differently if you could go back and re-do it?
To be honest, I wouldn’t change anything because I like where I’m at right now. I love the balance I have between work and family and I busted my butt when I was a single lady, when I was doing SABRINA, and CLARISSA. On CLARISSA I worked really hard between school and work and on SABRINA I worked really hard between work and for the first time in my life having a real social life, having real friends and having that experience but also I was shooting movies on the weekends and at nights, and I didn’t sleep. There was one day I worked 51 hours straight. There was one point where I was doing Drive Me Crazy and I worked 54 days straight without a day off, and this was at the age of 22, 23. We were shooting the movie in Utah and I was shooting SABRINA here, plus we were doing the animated series as well, so it was an absolutely crazy schedule.
So I’ve really enjoyed the last few years of having a little time to myself, but the only thing I would change would probably be some auditions and things like that, some projects I refused to do. There was a phase where, well, I guess the country’s still going through it, but this horror phase came around and I didn’t want to be a part of it. I got asked to be in every big movie that was coming out and I just didn’t want to be a part of the horror thing and that’s unfortunately what everyone my age was doing. I guess if I could go back maybe I would give that a shot and do one or two of those horror movies because then maybe I would have a little bit of an easier shot of doing the features I want to do. But that’s the only thing. I don’t really regret that, because I made a very strong decision that I did not want to be in a horror film.
MELISSA & JOEY is being compared a lot to a ’90s sitcom. I was wondering how you felt about this comparison and if this is anything that you guys considered going into the series.
It’s a little frustrating when people compare the show, but then again that’s the way you describe things, so we totally get it. In the beginning we didn’t have any thoughts of any shows going into it. We were just creating our own. Then once we had the show put together, we got the first script and we were working on the pilot then we sort of went, okay, how do you describe the show? And to me one of the first things that popped in my head was Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character in THE NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE, and I loved that because I think she’s fabulous and that show is so funny. My first thought was that about my character, and then when I started to think about how to describe the show to other people of course WHO’S THE BOSS popped into my head and I went, oh, WHO’S THE BOSS, interesting.
But that’s not how we designed the show at all. Actually before anything started we talked about how Joey and I, we wanted the relationship to be very much like MOONLIGHTING, and it actually started with MOONLIGHTING, truth be told, if anything. Honestly, the WHO’S THE BOSS reference kind of came in after we were done with the pilot and we were like what is this like, and then we went oh, this is like – so that’s where it all came about. And we might get there, but right now it’s a lot more about Joey and I and how we handle the situation, whether it’s living with each other or whether it’s the kids. I think it’s really different. But it’s not terrible to be compared to anything. Of course people want to hear stuff like that because hey, look, Who’s The Boss was a huge success, so we have no problem being compared to something like that
After only a couple of episodes it seems like Joey is starting to grow on you. So what can you tell us about what we have to look forward to in upcoming episodes?
From what you saw in the pilot and the first few episodes it really only gets better. The writers have done an amazing job of finding our voices and finding where this show lives. Joey and I know this just from past experience, that when you’re on a show like this it’s about the middle of the second season that everything starts to click. Even if you watch early episodes of FRIENDS, any of those shows, they struggle to figure out where these characters live, who are they, what’s this going to be like. And we’ve been really, really blessed that we have writers and Joey and I have a chemistry where we’ve found that halfway through the first season already –we’re not even halfway, we’re like halfway through the first chunk of the season, so it’s really only a quarter of the way through, but we’ve found this great chemistry and we’ve figured out where these characters live and where the show lives.
Both yourself and Joey are the parents of young kids, so what’s it like playing the “parent” or older adult to teenagers or young adults?
It’s funny, because they’re not our children and we’re kind of all of a sudden thrown into parenthood and we don’t know the right thing to do and we’re floundering around trying to find the right answers for these teenagers and trying to do right by them, and we constantly have to check each other and say, you know, that’s not a good parent thing to say. It happens in almost every episode now where we just have to say that’s not something that a parent would say, so it’s different. Being the parent of teenagers we don’t have to have all the answers because they’re not our kids, so that’s what lends the comedy is that we’re fish out of water, we’re just totally trying to find our way through raising these teenagers.