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Interview with Melissa Joan Hart of
"Melissa and Joey" on
ABC Family 10/17/14
It's always nice to speak with Melissa! She's very
normal, down-to-earth and professional. She's been in show
business a long time. While we were on this call, her child
was clamoring for attention (and candy) in the background.
It was clear that she's just like any other working mom! I
asked her the question below about whether this was the
start of the next season or not (ABC Family sort of
re-worded my question, but that's okay).
ABC Familyís Q&A with Melissa Joan Hart
Melissa & Joey
Moderator: What initially inspired you to direct an episode
of Melissa & Joey?
Melissa: Iíve been directing since I was about 20-years-old
from my days on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I guess I was
always very bossy on set [laughs] and I was just always
wanting to learn new things. From my days on Clarissa, I was
constantly following the directors and shadowing them and
talking to the crew and figuring out how the cameras worked
and trying to play with the lighting boards. I was always
very curious about all the stuff going on behind the scenes.
I was fascinated by it all and when it came down to Sabrina,
we had such a difficult time finding directors that could
handle the style of show that hadnít really been done
before, because it was technically a three camera show but
it probably should have had only one camera. We didnít have
a live audience, but we did shoot three days a week and we
rehearsed twice a week, so it was sort of a hybrid show as
one of the first hybrid, technically, single-camera sitcoms.
It was really complicated to film with all the magic and
talking animals. We had a permanent green screen. It was
very complex and we constantly had directors coming in and
out that were confused and asking us, ďWait, how doI do
this?Ē So instead of us answering those questions all the
time, we took it amongst ourselves to direct including
myself, Beth Broderick, our UPM. We had a lot of people
behind the scenes on our show that started to step up and
direct a few episodes.
I remember, I directed the 100th episode of Sabrina and a
few Halloween episodes of Sabrina -- that was something I
always liked. When I was done with Sabrina, I decided to
make my own short film and show a little bit about my
storytelling technique. I did a short film called Mute and I
worked at a bunch of other shows including a few Disney
channel shows. Then with Melissa & Joey, Iíve been able to
direct a few for the last few seasons!
Itís a lot of work to be in front of the camera and behind
the camera, but I enjoy it. This one was especially special
to me, the Halloween episode of Melissa & Joey airing on
October 22. Not only because it was the Halloween episode,
but also because itís a Sabrina reunion of sorts. People
have been asking me for a long time to do a Sabrina reunion
so, with this episode, weíre able to give the fans a little
bit of what they want to see. We had fun with animals and
magic and playing with the different premise of our show and
flashing back to my past!
Moderator: Can you tease any of the Sabrina jokes or
references we might see?
Melissa: Youíll see some recognizable faces! Youíll see some
cat action happening [laughs] It was very reminiscent of my
days on Sabrina and the fact that I was directing it was
special because it brought me right back to those days when
I used to direct the show. Actually, I would say itís more
Sabrina than it is Melissa & Joey!
Moderator: Did you get to choose to direct this episode?
Melissa: This is the one they asked me to direct because of
the special tie to Sabrina. My mother is the executive
producer of Melissa & Joey and she was the executive
producer of Sabrina, as well. She was the one who really
said I should direct this episode. I think it was always the
works for me to direct this episode.
Moderator: What are the main differences between directing
and filming Melissa & Joey and Sabrina the Teenage Witch?
Melissa: Sabrina was so incredibly complex because it was
basically a single-camera sitcom. It was like shooting a
small movie every week. We did about 20 to 30 scenes a week.
We did things you do in a movie, lots of special effects, a
permanent green scene, that sort of thing.
It was very complicated. Melissa & Joey is a totally
different beast. This is my first live show, so itís the
first time Iíve ever worked in front of a live audience. So
thatís just a whole other set of matters that I hadnít
really done before, so Iíve directed probably four or five
episodes. Iíve done a bunch of Melissa & Joey episodes and
itís tough because Thursday night we do our live episode in
front of 200 people and you have to make sure it runs
smoothly and itís very apparent.
Theyíre two very different shows -- so to put the two
together and do this Halloween episode was exciting and fun
and challenging because we had to do both things at the same
time. A lot of costumes in front of 200 people in a live
audience. It was interesting to combine my two worlds
together, but it was a lot of fun.
Moderator: What was it like working with Beth Broderick (Aunt
Melissa: Actually, she guest starred on Melissa & Joey last
year, so it was a perfect tie-in for her to come back and
yet still reveal that she has this witchy past with me. It
was a lot of fun and we had a blast on set. Now weíre 10
years older and we wrapped Sabrina about 12 years ago -- so
it was really nice to catch up, now that Iím a true adult
and to work together again was really lovely. Now Iíve just
got to get Caroline Rhea on the show!
Moderator: Did you get to channel your Sabrina the Teenage
Witch in this episode?
Melissa: Yes! It was a little confusing for me to be like,
ďWhat character am I again?Ē -- I had to play Mel who has
magical powers. So it was a little confusing, but it was
fun! We had a total blast. It just took me back a good
decade or more to just be able to play that character again.
Moderator: Like your character Mel, do you enjoy a nice glass
of wine as much as she does?
Melissa: No, Iíve never really been much of a drinker
[laughs]. I just donít enjoy the taste -- I do enjoy a
mojito or a pina colada here and there. There is definitely
a time and place for everything. I am not the kind of person
to want a glass of wine at the end of the day Ė thatís never
really been my thing, but I love playing that as the
character of Mel. I love the lush side of her. I totally
relate to it because I have a lot of friends like that, but
I donít myself do that [laughs]
Moderator: How does this episode differ from ďA Fright in the
Attic?Ē from Season 1 in which they reference Sabrina?
Melissa: We sort of touched on the history of Sabrina with
that episode and we got to do some fun, spooky stuff. It was
a little bit more of silly comedy.
With this episode, weíre really giving a nod to Sabrina and
my past and combining the two shows so completely. Itís very
different. It really is a standalone episode as opposed to
the other one I feel like you can play that along with the
body of Melissa & Joey and it fits into almost any context.
Granted itís Halloween but, in this case, this one is so
specific and really stands alone.
Moderator: What special Halloween plans do you have with your
kids for this year?
Melissa: Well, weíre arguing about their costumes right now
[laughs] I really like to do a uniform costume for the
family, have some of kind of theme, but my oldest one is
starting to fight me on that. Iím trying desperately to make
him watch Return of the Jedi because my six-year-old wants
to be a storm trooper and Iím really pushing for that one.
My baby, Tucker, has an Obi One Kenobi costume, but he also
has an Olaf costume, so weíre tossing around. Am I going to
be Elsa? Am I going to be Princess Leia? My oldest wants to
be Flash, so right now weíre just working through that.
We are moving into a new house so weíre just trying to get
the new place together! Weíre hoping that sometime soon
weíll have a house that we can put some pumpkins on the
porch, and some Halloween lights up, and really have a fun
Halloween. But either way, weíll definitely go
trick-or-treating and weíll carve our pumpkins at some point
and weíll do the Halloween parade and Halloween parties
happening at the school, we definitely wonít miss those!
Moderator: Whatís the biggest difference between a regular
episode and this Halloween episode, specifically in regards
to filming in front of a live studio audience?
Melissa: This episode was more difficult to film because of
the special effects. It just takes a while, and itís slow
going, and itís not an instant gratification. We pre-shoot
on Wednesdayís, we gather all the pieces that wonít run
smoothly in front of an audience. Then, during the show
night, we can blow through the show quickly, smoothly, and
anything that needed to be edited together for the audience
is done and they can watch it on a monitor.
In this case we had so many scenes that we couldnít
pre-shoot all of them, so we had to do some of it in front
of the audience, which breaks it up which is cool for the
audience because they get to see how the behind the scenes
work. Maybe with new eyes looking at it for the first time,
I would hope that they were fascinated by how the process
We try to do it smooth and quick to help them, so they donít
get bored, but it is a lot of pressure to have 200 people
sitting there watching you! If things start to mess up, itís
very apparent so thatís something Iím still getting used to
after five years on the show.
Moderator: If your two characters, Sabrina and Mel, were to
have a conversation Ė what do you think they would talk
Melissa: I donít know that theyíd have anything in common
[laughs]. Mel likes to be very flashy and can be a little
obnoxious. Sheís very selfish and sheís very flashy. Sabrina
was very reserved, very humble. She likes to be the
wallflower and that is not what Mel likes.
Moderator: Whoís the funniest person on set?
Melissa: Oh, thatís me, of course [laughs]! Joey and I argue
over it -- but actually Nick is quite hilarious, we canít
stop giggling with him. Weíve had Chris Rich on the showówho
plays my dad Ė and heís hilarious. Last night we shot our
Christmas episode, which is really spectacular. Our
Christmas episode is so much fun and itís an old 1880s
throwback. Itís Mel and Joe in the 1880s and Chris Rich was
there for the episode and it was just fantastic. We had a
Heís the man that we love having around and we keep bringing
him back because heís so stinking funny and he just keeps
coming up with stuff on the set and we have a great time
with him. I would say out of the four main cast members,
itís probably Nick whoís the silly, goofy one. Taylor and I
have also become super close. Sheís a little doll, sheís a
fantastic actress. She is such a mature, wonderful young
woman. Sheís grown up on the show and so beautifully and Iím
so proud of her.
We just have an absolute blast on the set and weíre like a
second family to each other.
Moderator: Is there a difference in your attitude when youíre
acting versus directing?
Melissa: Iím a little more focused when Iím directing. When
Iím acting we have a lot more time to joke around, but
thereís another person doing that job. When Iím trying to
act and direct, it takes a lot of focus and everybodyís
really helpful to me; the whole crew. Itís not easy to do
both and I canít do it too much during the year because itís
just exhausting. Directing is very mental and the acting is
very physical so itís a combination.
Moderator: Does this Halloween episode bridge the first part
of the season to the second part of the season?
Melissa: It is technically the fourth season, itís a one-off
episode, so weíll do this Halloween episode airing on
October 22 and then the Christmas episode will air on
December 10. Then weíll have a proper season premiere for
the fourth season in January when weíll have 20 new
episodes. That includes Christmas, Halloween, and then 20
others. Itís been a really wonderful season so far. Weíve
only done a few, but the writers just continue to impress
me. Between this Christmas episode and this Halloween
episode, which were so special, they were able to bring so
much life to them, but then thereís also the everyday
episodes about life as a married couple, about honeymooners,
about when do we have a baby, that kind of thing. Itís been
really exciting and fun and they keep bringing new life to
this show and these characters. They just keep reinventing
it in such a brilliant, smart way. Iím so proud to be on the
show. I love this show.
Moderator: Whatís it like working with Joey Lawrence?
Melissa: Weíve known each other since we were kids and would
always run into each other, but the first time we ever
worked together was on My Fake Fiancť and we hit it off so
well. Itís all about the timing, we have very similar past
experiences in the business and our previous shows. We find
each other very responsible and professional and have a lot
I think that just added to the chemistry and made us want to
continue to work together. Thatís where my mom, and myself,
and Joe Ė along with ABC Family -- decided this should be a
series and went out and sought out some great writers.
Between the five of us, weíve have been able to really make
this show grow and help develop these characters as a team.
Itís been such a great journey and so much fun. Heís just
such a pro. He always knows his lines. He knows his
blocking. He knows how to hit a joke. He knows timing. We
had this really easy rapport and with characters being able
to have that love and hate relationship that they have. Itís
the perfect combination for the two of us to play in these
Moderator: Can you give us any teasers for next season?
Melissa: Mel and Joe got married in the last season finale
and Mel ended up in the hospital with a broken foot. Joe had
just found out he had a daughter, so they didnít really have
the dream wedding that they were trying to have. They had
some surprises come up, but they made the best out of it.
The same sort of storyline is going to continue on through
Season 4 with the honeymoon. Itís going to be a never-ending
saga of ďwhen will we get a proper honeymoon.Ē The writerís
brought up the ďwhen will we have a babyĒ storyline right
away. The baby and the honeymoon will be discussed a lot in
the fourth season.
Moderator: How is balancing your family life with your work
Melissa: Itís great! It is really hectic right now. Iíve just
got a lot going on. I directed a TV movie this summer for
Lifetime, a big Christmas movie called The Santa Con. I
believe that airs December 13 or 15 Ė which is right after
the Christmas special of Melissa & Joey which airs December
10. That was a huge undertaking this summer to direct a
film. I was acting alongside Barry Watson, Scott Grimes,
Alimi Ballard, Melissa Sagemiller, John Ratzenberger and
Wendy Williams Ė it was so fun.
But itís just a lot of work to direct a movie Ė weeks and
weeks of preparation, casting, location scouting and then
afterward you have the post, the editing, the music. Weíre
still working on music and special effects. Then to get it
locked and now have to put on a screening, so thatís been a
huge undertaking. Then coming back to the show and weíre
doubling up some episodes and doing these big special,
one-off episodes. Iíve also been shooting a very exciting
commercial campaign that I canít tell you about right now,
but will someday soon! So itís been just a whirlwind of
I launched a clothing line this summer called King of Harts
and itís available right now. Thereís a limited edition
thermal line up on our website and the spring line, weíve
been hitting all the markets. Weíre going to ENK at Java
Center in New York this weekend and last weekend we were in
LA Market. Iíve been touring factories and sourcing it all;
making it all in the US. Iím doing that all on my own. Iím
not bringing in any big companies right now.
Iím just really doing all the leg work myself, so itís just
been a huge undertaking and then with three kids and a house
under construction, itís just been very hectic, but Iím
really enjoying it! Iím the kind of person that really likes
to stay busy.
Moderator: How would you say the cast has changed from that
first day on set to now?
Melissa: Well, Nick has grown about a foot-and-a-half. Nick
and Taylor have just really come alive as actors. Theyíve
come out of their shells and are willing to play into a lot
of the scenes they might have been shy to do when they were
younger. They love the comedy of it. They love to be big and
bold and silly. Thatís so fascinating to watch.
Thatís a hard thing to do and I really think that theyíve
grown and become amazing, talented comedy actors and
amazing, young adults. Weíve all become such a family. Our
crew has been pretty much the same since the beginning.
Weíve shifted a few people around but, really, weíve been
able to hold onto the same crew and do these live shows that
are such a blast.
We are so blessed to be able to bring a smile to someoneís
day that might really need it. We say that before every
show, actually. We say a little group prayer before every
show just saying that we know weíre blessed to have our
television family, and our home families, and that we know
that weíre blessed to be working, especially in this
industry and in this time, and that we really know how lucky
we are to be able to make entertaining a career. Together,
we just count our blessings and love to just make people
Moderator: What can we expect from this season in comparison
Melissa: We bring in a few new storylines. We have now a
great little actress, Jada Facer, who plays Dani, Joeís
daughter. Then we have Kevin Fonteyne coming back as Joeís
nephew, who we saw in the Jersey episodes last year and the
wedding episodes. He comes back and is fighting for Lennox.
Heís in love with Lennox and sheís torn between him and
Zander, played by Sterling Knight.
We have a fun storyline going on there all the time between
Sterling and Kevin and Taylor, a nice love triangle thatís
really fun to play around with. Theyíre all so talented.
Then Chris Rich came back for the Christmas episode and
heíll be back for a few more. Weíll have Faith Prince back
again and we had Tamera Mowry back again. Weíve been having
some fun bringing back some old guest stars that we love and
adore. Trevor Donovan came back for the Christmas episode.
Thereís a big 1880s style duel that goes on, between him and
Joey, for my hand.
Itís been really fun and we had such a blast being able to
bring back cast members that weíve loved and adored through
the years. That adds to not only the comedy, because weíre
bringing back some of the stronger performers, but also
people that really gelled and characters that really
resonated with the audience.
Moderator: Are there any Halloween traditions or things you
love and/or watch every year for the holiday?
Melissa: For Halloween, I usually like to go to one of these
Fright Night things, like Halloween Horror Night at
Universal Studios. I usually leave the kids behind but, this
year, I was thinking of taking them or going on the haunted
hayride or doing something along those lines. As far as
Halloween goes, we usually go trick-or-treating with my mom
or some friends.
Luckily, this year, itís not on a school night, so we donít
have to go to bed early, but I think this year we may do a
little candy swap. At school, they do the candy swap where
you give the candy and you get something else. I think we
may do that this year because we donít need any candy in our
house. These kids are hyper enough [laughs]. Otherwise, we
donít have that many Halloween traditions really. I just try
to make sure we carve our pumpkins. We give ourselves a good
afternoon to go pumpkin picking and carve the pumpkins,
which weíll do this weekend.
Then picking out the costumes. We talk about it for months
and months and months, but the kids always change their
minds the second they see something else thatís new and
exciting. Iím trying not to buy the costumes too soon. Iím
trying to wait until just before so that I can make sure I
know exactly what they want to be. Last year we had to buy
three rounds of costumes because we started shopping for
them in September [laughs].
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