This is the VICE Interview. Each week we ask a different famous and/or interesting person the same set of questions in a bid to peek deep into their psyche.
Melissa Joan Hart began her career with two huge roles in the world of youth TV, first as Clarissa in Clarissa Explains It All, a sassy relatable teen who treated the fourth wall like it was her bitch. Then she became Sabrina, the girl with magical powers and a couple of kooky aunts and a talking cat called Salem on Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Since the heady days where she would win Kids Choice Awards, she's had a bit more of a low-key career. She opened a sweet shop at one point, acted in a few small movies, settled down to have a family, and wrote a memoir. Her new film, God's Not Dead 2, is about Christianity in America. The story follows a high school teacher, Grace, who finds herself in legal trouble for answering a student's question about the similarities between Jesus's teachings to those of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
What would your parents prefer you to have chosen as a career?
I've been acting since I was four years old, so I don't think there was ever another pathway for me. My father never really liked the business. He's a blue collar kinda guy. He gets his hands dirty. He's an entrepreneur. My mom, on the other hand, started her own production company when I was a teenager called Hartbreak Films, which did Sabrina and Joey and tons of other movies. She got involved on the producer end so that she could protect me in terms of roles and what not. They're happy that I'm happy. That's all they ever wanted for me. When you start something at four, and you're successful at it, and parents see you have talent, they'll really spur that passion on. For me, I always say I want my boys to be architects or in robotics or engineering and be good at math and sciences. My husband jokes around that I'm like that character in Seinfield who pretends to be an architect because I'm pushing our kids to be one.
What have you done in your life that you most regret?
If I went back and changed anything, I might not have my healthy kids and strong marriage and beautiful home, but there are a few things I might try and change if I knew it wouldn't turn the tides. When I was doing Sabrina, on my summers off, I'd do Sabrina movies. They always coerced me into doing them by doing storylines that I might want to do. They knew that Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn was my favorite movie, so they wrote a script that was similar called Sabrina Goes to Rome, and they brought me to Italy. Alongside them coercing me into doing these, I was getting offered a lot of horror movies. I didn't really like the genre or wanna be a part of it. So I think at that point, I talked my way out of a movie career. That's something I'd go back and adjust.
What have you done in your career that you are most proud of?
Oh gosh. My current movie. Religion is a controversial and hot topic here in America now. Also people know me as a comedic actress for my sitcoms, so this character stands out as the most challenging and probably the one I was the most nervous about taking on. But at the same time, it was the most rewarding. She's an introvert and quiet. I'm used to driving scenes with learned dialogue, and this character required a lot more inner monologue and quiet moments.
What's the closest you've come to having a stalker?
I have a few. Scotland Yard actually found one for me and arrested him apparently. It was when I was doing Sabrina Down Under in Australia, and no one would tell me what the threats were. Apparently, though, they were so horrific that Tom Cruise's bodyguards had to protect me for a few months out in Australia. I guess it was a boy from the UK as it was Scotland Yard. I do have a few restraining orders now. A lot of men seem to think I'm their wife? These deranged men. Luckily I have a very big husband and lots of dogs.
What was your first email address?
I can't tell you because I still have it! It's a jokey one. A personal joke. It's cute, we'll say that. What memory from school stands out to you more than any other?
Getting married in second grade. It was a big deal. I was obsessed with weddings and kissing boys and convinced Tim Bowers to marry me. Then we had to get divorced in third grade and remarried in forth grade. You could say he was my first husband.
Is university worth it?
Absolutely. For the experience alone. Just living among people and sharing space, learning to be in social situations and being responsible for yourself. Instead of being let loose in New York on my own at eighteen, I was with a bunch of other kids all in the same dorm building with the same purpose, just figuring out life and adulthood. I attended NYU for seven years but never graduated. Some day I will. I was working on Sabrina the whole time and trying to go to school in Manhattan, so I didn't end up getting a lot of credits.
Do you think drugs can make you happy?
Not in the long run. Absolutely not. I think they are a quick fix and a long-term problem. There is some stuff in my book concerning some more wild times, but I'm a safe, kind of person and always need to feel responsible for myself and others around me. If I had a rebellion, it was a careful one.
What is the nicest thing you own?
Probably my house? I'm proud to be a homeowner. I bought my first one when I was twenty-one, and I really wanted to make sure I had a roof above my head, and I wanted to raise a family. I don't really have any funny or superficial things, but I have some nice jewelry. I bought myself a ring once at Tiffany's because I heard a story of a girl who got engaged for the wrong reasons because the ring was nice and shiny, and the moment was so romantic, and it was very difficult to give back the ring. So I went and got myself a diamond ring from Tiffany's and called it my "nobody loves me like me, and I will never say 'yes' for the wrong reasons" ring. It doesn't fit anymore, though. I gotta get it fixed. It fits on my ring finger, but now I have a real engagement ring on it.
What's the grossest injury or illness you've ever had?
I had bronchitis last year that was pretty horrific. I had it when I was pregnant with my son, and I was coughing after he was born a lot, and that was horrible to have just given birth and be coughing like crazy. It's not fun.
What film or TV show makes you cry?
The movie Steel Magnolias. I don't think anyone can resist a tear at that one. When her daughter dies and the speech that Sally Field gives at the funeral: How could you be dry-eyed at that scene?
When in your life have you been truly overcome with fear?
Whenever I fly in an airplane during take off. Every single time. I have to take a flight like once a week for work. I have a phobia. Once I get in the air, and we level off, I'm OK. I pray the entire time that if something happens, my children will be taken care of. I try and accept the fact that I'm not in control, and I'll probably be OK. Flying is a necessary evil these days, in this world, unfortunately.
God's Not Dead 2 is out in the US and in UK theaters starting April 29
Follow Hannah Ewens on Twitter.