Melissa Joan Hart: Multi Multi-Hyphenates
As a kid, Melissa Joan Hart was more than a little obsessed with the 1980 horror movie The Watcher in the Woods."My family and I watched it over and over and over again," Hart said, and she dreamed of one day starring in a remake. She and her mother tried to secure the rights for seventeen years before they finally succeeded. After so many years of waiting, Hart had to make a slight adjustment to her childhood dream. "I was too old to play the teenage role, too young to play the older witch part," she said, "and I decided to take on the role of director."
For Hart's adaptation of The Watcher in the Woods, which premieres October 21st on Lifetime, she worked completely behind the camera. Starring Anjelica Huston, the film follows an American family who moves to the woods of England and finds themselves haunted by a supernatural presence. Hart has also enjoyed the opportunity to introduce her childhood favorite to her own kids. Before filming began, "I sat down with my then-10-year-old and said, 'Let's watch this movie together.'" She worried the horror wouldn't hold up, but the film "freaked him out so much that I was like, 'This still works!'"
Supernatural projects are nothing new for Hart, who spent seven seasons playing Sabrina on the NBC sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witchafter getting her big break on Nickelodeon's Clarissa Explains It All.Hart told host Ophira Eisenberg about how Sabrina unexpectedly led her down a new career path. She became a director as a matter of practicality: the show's "weird hybrid between atrue sitcom and a single-camera show" was difficult for new directors to learn, so Hart and some of the Sabrinastaff decided to "just do this ourselves."
In addition to her childhood affection for Watcher in the Woods, Hart is also a lifelong fan of a much less menacing cultural icon: child actor and singer Shirley Temple. Hart has a collection of Shirley Temple dolls and lots of signed memorabilia, and once produced a TV movie about her life. We tested her knowledge of Temple's life and career in a trivia game about missing teeth and "The Good Ship Lollipop."
On being both an actor and a director
You have to be in hair and makeup, you have to learn your lines, you have to do your shot lists, you have to, you know, answer every question from the crew about, like, what should the duffel bag look like? What color should it be?
On her approach to directing
They say that there's different kinds of directors and I consider myself an actor's director, which is more like: trust the actors to do their thing, but guide them as far as the story goes.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.