August 24, 2010

Melissa Joan Hart Explains It All

Melissa Joan Hart would prefer you don't compare her new sitcom Melissa & Joey to Who's The Boss, is still trying to figure out how to balance work and her family, and would love to nab a role in a feature film. But ultimately, even after being in showbiz since the age of four, Hart is a regular girl, enjoying life as it comes and wanting to stay young at heart (no pun intended).

Hear what else Hart revealed to bloggers during a conference call earlier this week...

Moderator                             Welcome to ABC Family’s Question and Answer Session with Melissa Joan Hart.  I would now like to turn the conference over to our host, Meg Roberts.  Please go ahead.

M. Roberts                            Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining ABC Family’s Q&A Session with Melissa Joan Hart.  As you know, Melissa plays Mel Burke in the ABC Family original comedy Melissa and Joey, which airs Tuesdays at 8/7 Central. 

Moderator                             Thank you.  We have a question from Lisa Steinberg with Starry Constellation.  Lisa, go ahead.

L. Steinberg                           Hi, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. 

M. Hart                                  Hi, how are you? 

L. Steinberg                           You and Joey have been friends for quite some time and you appeared onscreen before.  How do you guys continue to maintain the chemistry between each other? 

M. Hart                                  Joey and I have a great relationship.  We’ve known each other, like you said, for a really long time and we grew up in a very similar sort of environment, working since we were four years old, and we have very strong mothers that have helped us facilitate our careers, we dragged them along through our careers.  We both wanted to do this and be in show biz and our moms came with us, came along for the ride. 

                                                We have a very strong relationship with our siblings and now we have great marriages and children, but we both have this incredible work ethic that I think comes from when we were younger just knowing that we wanted to be in the business and instead of shooting for the stars, instead of just like “I want to be famous, I want to be rich,” like a lot of I think kids do these days, we were more “I want to work.  I want longevity.  I want to do this.” 

                                                So it was very much a, I think we both have this work ethic where we feel so blessed to have work and we love making people laugh and we just have this great timing.  I think our personalities in one way are really similar and in another way are totally opposite, and it just works for us. 

L. Steinberg                           Well, the two of you have young kids, so what’s it like playing the “parent” or older adult to teenagers or young adults?

M. Hart                                  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.

L. Steinberg                           Well, you’re doing a good job so far.

M. Hart                                  Thank you.

L. Steinberg                           Thank you for everything.

Moderator                             Our next question comes from Megan Ward with TV is My Pacifier.  Please go ahead.

M. Ward                                Hi.  Thanks for taking the time today.  So what is it about Melissa and Joey that made you want to come back to doing a series?

M. Hart                                  It was a long road for me.   When I finished Sabrina I spent the next year pretty much just planning a wedding and getting married and getting settled into married life.  And then I actually did a pilot for FOX for a comedy.  I’d actually done a play here in L.A., and the pilot was a workshop and it was supposed to be for FOX and we were supposed to be doing these plays to see if they would be good pilot presentations. 

                                                And I kept telling my friend who wrote it, “I love this play.  I’ll do the play but I’m not going to do the series.”  But then when the series got picked up and the pilot I couldn’t help myself, I loved the role so much and I decided to do this one pilot.  And that didn’t go, which was very heartbreaking for me, but it turns out I was pregnant anyway.  So I spent the next year just having a baby and getting used to being a mommy.

                                                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. 

                                                I thought I was against it.  I thought I wanted to do episodic because it seemed like the only thing missing from my career was a movie element, a feature film element, and I realized a lot of people that do episodics get that chance and a lot of people that do comedy don’t and I thought I wanted to go that route.  But after guest starring on a few dramas I was like, this is not fun.  This isn’t fun to me. 

                                                So 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 FiancĂ©, 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. 

M. Ward                                Speaking of being a mom, how do you balance your life as a mom and your life as an actress on a series?

M. Hart                                  It’s really difficult.  Right now I flew in last night from the East Coast, kissed my babies goodbye and came to work 3,000 miles away.  It’s quite a commute.  I haven’t quite figured it out yet.  The hard part for me right now is the distance.  If they were here with me, which they were all summer – this is the first time I’ve been without them – if they were here with me right now it would be fine.  It would be like anyone else going off to work and coming home. 

                                                I have these later mornings, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are later mornings so I’d get breakfast with them, and then Monday and Tuesday I’d get to come home a little early so I’d always have dinner with them, except Friday nights when we’re shooting the show live, that’s the late night.  But it’s a great schedule and I live a block away from the studio so I ride my bike to work, they’d ride to meet me for lunch, then I’d ride and meet them for dinner, and if we had a chance we’d go to ice cream if it’s early enough when I get done with work, or that kind of thing.

                                                So it’s really lovely and a great little schedule to be able to work and play with them, but right now I’m trying to work it out because they’re about to start school, they’re both in pre-school, which I think is really important for them.  We’ve moved them around our whole lives.  We travel a lot, we have family all over the country, and I’m always working all over. 

                                                This is the first time in seven years I’ve had a job in Los Angeles, and of course I just moved to the East Coast last year.  I moved to the East Coast last August, I think it was August 1st, and starting August 20th I was in rehearsals for Dancing With The Stars, and by September I was here in L.A. until December.  Then I got to go home in January and through June I pretty much was in Connecticut and then now I’m here for pretty much the remainder of this year and we’ll see what happens after that. 

                                                So it’s kind of crazy and I’m working it out.  Our schedules are all over the place so it’s day by day, week by week we figure out where we’re going to be and then day by day we figure out what we’re going to do and when I’m going to see them and when they’re going to see me.  So it’s a challenge, but I think that’s what everyone has to deal with, anyone that’s a working mother or father has to deal with that and that’s what we’re dealing with right now.

Moderator                             Our next question is from Pattye Grippo of  Please go ahead.

P. Grippo                               Hi, Melissa.  Thanks for talking to us today.  You’ve been working and in the public eye, like you said, since you were four.  I was wondering what, if anything, would you have done differently if you could go back and re-do it?

M. Hart                                  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, when I was doing 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.

P. Grippo                               It makes sense.  You’ve done a lot of different things.  You mentioned the plays, you’ve done the television and the films, you’ve done all of this in your professional life, what was the most difficult of all of those and what was the most fun?
M. Hart                                  You know I would have to say Clarissa Explains It All was very interesting to me because I loved the role.  I loved the people I was working with.  I thought she was so cool.  I got to do such great things on that.  I learned so much about – I learned how to direct on that show and how to run a lighting board and how to operate a camera.  I was very interested in all of that behind the scenes stuff, but also having a great time just playing that character.  I knew I had something really juicy and fun to play. 

                                                But it was really, really, really hard.  I was in Orlando away from my family as a teenager.  My mom and my sisters would come down when they could, but my mom had four other kids to take care of and my dad was very hard working, he’s a lobsterman, so there was a lot of time away from my family and stuff like that.  I kept getting sick a lot.  I think it was from being on stage.  I was never in the sun. 

                                                We worked six days a week, school was on Sundays, we did school Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then we shot the show on Thursday and Friday, and really long hours, like 15, 18 hour days, and that included school for me, and once the SATs started and college applications then it was like forget it. 

                                                My days were just packed.  I didn’t have any friends my own age.  Everyone on the show was a lot older than me, which was great because I absolutely adored them and loved them and it showed me that high school pettiness was just that.  I was at that age where I realized that kids can be cruel and being around adults was really nice because they were really great to me and I could be anyone I wanted and as long as I was good to them they liked me.  It wasn’t like it mattered to them what I was wearing or who I was hanging out with or that kind of thing, it wasn’t like who are you, are you a cool person and we’ll hang out with you. 

                                                So I learned that great lesson but at the same time I didn’t have anyone my own age, so for years any time I got around someone my own age I kind of didn’t know how to handle it.  And any time a girl came on the show, like I think Joanna Garcia was in an episode or two and a few actresses came on that were on the show and I was so desperate for a girlfriend that I was like, do you want to have a sleepover, do you want to come over and watch 90210 and eat cookie dough? 

                                                It was like, I was so desperate to find a girlfriend down there.  But I did make some great friends out of it and actually the reason we moved to Connecticut is because of two people that worked on the show, they live in Connecticut and they’re my first son’s godparents.  She did wardrobe on Clarissa and he was the executive producer’s assistant, and they’ve been my closest friends my whole life.  They’re older than me, but now it doesn’t matter.  And then it didn’t really matter either, but when I was around kids my own age it was scary to me.  It gave me a little panic attack.

P. Grippo                               Good luck with the new show.

M. Hart                                  Thank you very much.

Moderator                             We have a question from Sarah Eve from

S. Eve                                     Hi, Melissa.  It’s nice to watch a sitcom that’s actually funny. 

M. Hart                                  Thank you.

S. Eve                                     Were you involved in choosing the writers?

M. Hart                                  Yes.  My mother, that was a big thing; my mother is executive producer along with me and Joey, and we did Sabrina also with our company Hartbreak Films.  And that was her big thing on Sabrina was picking the writers and she’s involved with the casting and the editing and the wardrobe and everything like that.  But yes, in the beginning of the show the big thing was can we find the right writers for this.  And ABC Family knew they wanted to do a show about a nanny and we knew that Joey and I were going to be doing this, so Joey and I were very particular about what kind of characters we wanted to play, especially if we were going to have to do the show with the concept that ABC Family had, that we wanted the writing to be a certain way. 

                                                So we sat down and met with a few writers, and Kendall and Young were the two that ABC Family liked the best.  My mother liked them; my mother was feeling really confident about them.  I sat down with them and told them what I wanted from the character and Joey did the same, and when we got the pages my mother would actually call me and say, oh, you should see these pages.  It’s coming together really well. 

                                                We were just happy that these smart, funny guys stepped in, and they’re really great with my voice.  From day one they just have my voice stuck in their head.  I don’t know how they do it, but they’ve managed to write perfectly for me the last nine episodes.  And we now have a writers’ room full of great people.  One person, if you heard me earlier I said that I did a pilot called Dirtbags for FOX and the creator of that show is actually writing now on Melissa and Joey, so we were able to bring him over here, and he’s hilarious and he knows my voice so well.  He’s been a friend of mine since college and written a pilot for me before.

                                                So it’s great.  It’s nice to have a writers’ room in there where you feel safe, you know that they know you, they know what you’re capable of, and the more we work together the more they see that I’m comfortable with physical comedy.  They’re now making me very Lucy-esque, they’re adding a lot more of that silliness for me. 

S. Eve                                     With you and Joey being executive producers, does that make it more challenging with more work to do or easier by having more control?

M. Hart                                  A little bit of both.  Sometimes we have to troubleshoot.  We had some problems in the beginning with some crew members quitting for whatever reason and we had a whole department kind of fall out and we had to troubleshoot that as an executive producer, but also because I had hired them but then they decided not to be there anymore, and we’ve had a little bit of that going on. 

                                                We’re just trying to find our rhythm here.  But a lot of the time, we had one episode so far out of our eight that we’ve shot that was not up to par, not so great, and Joey and I would rehearse it and we’d go to them and we’d sit down with them and say, you know, it’s not working out, you guys.  You’ve got to come see this.  We dragged them down to the set and they’d watch us do a few scenes and then they’d go try to fix them and we’d try to tell them how we think they could fix it, so it’s great to be able to have that sort of, that we go to them and they actually listen. 

                                                Because I’ve had it before where I go to them and I’m like what about ..., and they’re like yes, yes, yes.  So it’s really nice to be able to not just be an actor for hire, to actually have a little say in who surrounds you too.  When you’ve been in the business 30 years you kind of want, you know, I have certain hair and makeup people or wardrobe people or crew members, script supervisors, that stuff’s really important to me.  And the fact that I actually get to hire the crew and just surround myself with people that I trust and love just makes it nice to go to work.

S. Eve                                     Thank you for answering my questions today.

M. Hart                                  Sure.
Moderator                             Our next question comes from Lena Lamoray from Go ahead, please.

L. Lamoray                          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?

M. Hart                                  It only gets better.  From what you saw in the pilot and the first episode it really only gets better.  The writers have done an amazing job of finding our voices and finding where this show lives.  We’ve had some great guest stars that you’ll see in the next few weeks that have been on tons of sitcoms and they’ve given us such great compliments by being on the set and telling us, and of course 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. 

                                                And as you watch it grow, like the next few episodes you’ll really see us find our groove and a little bit of our rhythm and it only gets better because they banter off each other so well and it gets funnier.  The first two were setting up so much stuff that it was hard to just go for it, but now we can just go for it.  So I think it’s going to get better.  I think you guys will enjoy it more as it goes on.

L. Lamoray                          Sure.  How is working on Melissa and Joey a different experience than the other shows that you’ve worked on and why?

M. Hart                                  Well, Clarissa was honestly just so much work and I never got to leave the set except for Saturdays, when I was just so tired I stayed in bed.  Because of school and because of how many monologues I had to memorize and the amount of workload I had on that show it was humongous, so that was a lot of pressure, even though it was a lot of fun. 

                                                Then Sabrina was great, but I was a single woman and I didn’t have a family to rush home to, so afterwards the whole crew we’d be like want to go shoot some pool?  Want to go bowling?  Literally for the first two years we went bowling every Friday and after that we just had to go shoot pool, and who wants to go to the gym at 4:00 in the morning before we go to work, and who wants to go to lunch, and we’d have book club meetings, once a month we’d have pizza out by my trailer, we carved pumpkins for Halloween, every weekend I just never left those peoples’ sides.  They were my dearest friends.  And we had such an amazing crew.  The whole crew was together for seven years, very few people left the show, and if they did they came back. 

                                                So we were really lucky.  We traveled all over the world together, the crew, we did Sabrina movies.  We went to Australia together.  We all shot an episode in Florida, and ABC flew us all to Florida.  We went to Italy together.  We went to Canada together.  We went to Mexico together.  We went everywhere together and had a blast.  I was single and it was fine, and now it’s been a little tricky the first few weeks of this show trying to, like I was trying to get that back. 

                                                I tried to surround myself with the people that I loved from Sabrina and really kind of get that back where I had such a blast at work.  And I am having a great time at work and we have a great crew around us, but I realize that now that I have a husband and boys it’s not the same.  I have to do my work and I have to go home. 

                                                So it’s been tricky for me to balance that a little bit, to just get it in my head that it’s not the same as Sabrina.  This is a different segment of my life and I have to figure out what this is for me, and that lunchtimes are going to be spent with my little – even though I’m exhausted and I want to just chill at lunch and have a conversation with an adult, I am going to chase around my kids and play with them because that’s the only time I’m going to get that afternoon.  So I’ve been trying to learn that kind of thing.  So they’re all very different, but this one Joey and I are on the same page where we want to work, we want to make work fun, and that we want to go home to our families. 

L. Lamoray                          Thank you so much.

Moderator                             The next question is from Far Hassan from Far Flips.

P. Hassan                              Hi.  I wanted to talk about the character of Mel.  You said that you had a lot of input into what the writers would create, but what made you decide or what made the writers decide to make Mel a local politician?

M. Hart                                  You know I’m really not sure about the local politician thing.  There were a few ideas that were thrown around about what she could be, but they were pretty clear that this is what they thought would work best for the character.  My thing with her was not so much what she did or that kind of thing, it was that I didn’t want to be the straight man anymore.  I didn’t want to be the one trying to fix everything.  I wanted to be a little bit of a loose cannon; a little silly. 

                                                She’s self-centered and she’s domestically challenged.  And for the first time in my life to play a silly girl, but not that she’s dumb or ridiculous, but that she’s a little over the top, a little dramatic, whether it’s good or bad she’s got high emotions, but that I can also play all those levels on a real note that people can relate to my character no matter what crazy situation I’m in.  So I had to play that balance, but the writers were great about making me crazy Aunt Mel.  I get to be funny Aunt Mel.  For the first time, all these years I’ve played children that were very adult-like and now I’m finally getting to play an adult that’s very child-like, so it’s really fun. 

P. Hassan                              I also wanted to talk about you directed episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and you’re producing and you’re acting, so what do you like the best of the business?

M. Hart                                  I like to mix it up.  Producing just goes hand-in-hand, for me at least, whether I’m acting or I’m directing, so that’s great.  But if I’m doing one or the other producing is also in there.  Directing for me is a really great creative outlet.  Your brain, it’s so amazing to be able to use your brain in that way and you imagine something visually when you read, like when you read the script or when you read a book you picture something in your head and it’s amazing as a director to make that come alive.  Sometimes you amaze yourself too with the way it actually comes out, you’re like, that’s not what I meant but that was great.  I love that.  I love the visual part of directing. 

                                                With acting I love just making people laugh and being silly, and there’s nothing better than when we’re rehearsing and the crew can’t stop giggling because of something I’m doing.  Like there’s an episode coming up where we did a Dancing With The Stars episode, and everybody, we just couldn’t keep it together because there was such ridiculous stuff happening that was so funny, that no matter how many times they saw it they still laughed.  So that to me is such a rewarding feeling, but directing to me is so much more creative. 

P. Hassan                              Thank you.

Moderator                             I have a question next from Sheldon Wiebe of  Please go ahead.

S. Wiebe                                Hi, Mel.  I enjoyed Sabrina a lot and it’s really interesting to watch your progression.  Over your career you’ve gone from playing a precocious tween and a well-intentioned teen with a unique gift and a smartass cat to a former party girl who goes back to the family business, which is politics, and becomes a single mom by proxy.  How did the role evolve? Where did the party girl thing come from?

M. Hart                                  That was something I really wanted to do because of this great pilot that I did, Dirtbags, for FOX a while back.  I got to play this really wacky girl and I really wanted to do that again.  I love the way that felt.  I wanted to show that I could be the lead but not the one that fixes everything, not the one that’s always in control, not always doing the right thing but still likeable.  So that was the writers’ way of coming up with what I wanted to play, and that was just that I did not want to play a character that was so put together, that everything was perfect.  I think that’s more Judith Light on Who’s the Boss or that kind of thing, or Sabrina.  Sabrina was like that. 
                                                I just wanted to play someone that was just silly, that was very much like Lucy or Phoebe on Friends or that kind of thing, something a little more kooky crazy.  And the former wild child thing just played into that so well that here she is, she’s a girl who likes her drink and likes her dating life, likes her single life, but here she’s now an aunt raising her niece and nephew and she has to kind of get it together but she doesn’t really know exactly how to do that.  So I just thought that was such a fun element to it. 

                                                And I don’t think it ended up in the pilot, but there is a copy of me on the cover of Maxim that says, “The Bad Girls of D.C.” and they used my actual Maxim magazine cover and doctored it up.  Maxim gave us the okay to do it and we doctored it up to say “The Bad Girls of D.C.” so it looks like I was actually on Maxim when I was 16 in the show, so it was fun to do stuff like that.  And it was great to play off of, because it just gives me another element to play when I’m doing this character. 

S. Wiebe                                I’m just saying that Aunt Mel having been a real party person, no matter how much the kids misbehave, Aunt Mel was there, partying, first and to a greater degree, so there must be some interesting plot elements that revolve around that.

M. Hart                                  There is, and tomorrow night you’ll see.  In the 8/24 episode is Mel is dating a bad boy and so is Lennox and she’s trying to convince her that bad boys aren’t the way to go, but meanwhile she’s dating a bad boy too and she gets caught and there’s that fun element.  I think there will be times when Lennox and I are both sneaking in the house at 3:00 a.m. running into each other in the hallway and saying “Sh, don’t tell Joe,” that kind of thing.  I told the writers recently I want to do an episode where I take Lennox to a karaoke bar and I take her out and it’s maybe inappropriate but we’re just having fun and it’s like bonding time. 

                                                So I think she just does these inappropriate things because of her past, but she’s also trying to teach the kids based on what she went through and what she’s trying to fight now with her reputation that this isn’t necessarily the way to go; always wear a pair of underwear when you get out of a limo and keep it together and get good grades.  It’s funny, there’s a little reference to it at least once in every show so it’s fun, we get to play a lot of that and we love coming up with it too.  If it’s there, if it’s not there we love coming up with these moments that just show a little bit of Mel’s background. 

S. Wiebe                                Great, thanks very much.

Moderator                             The next question is from Jeanine Poggi from Too Much To Tivo. Go ahead, please.

J. Poggi                                   Good morning, Melissa.  I was wondering, Melissa and 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.

M. Hart                                  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.  It was just the elements of a nanny show, a man that was going to come in and help run the house, that my character was going to be kooky crazy and need some help, that it was not going to be our own kids, that was a big thing, it wasn’t going to be our kids it was going to be someone else’s kids that we’re raising, that they’re going to be teenagers.  At first I thought that they should be younger, but then the network wanted them to be teenagers. 

                                                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 Old Christine, that my character was a little bit like Old Christine, like Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ character in Old Christine, and I loved that because I think she’s fabulous.  I think that 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.  Look, they all had great long lives on television and if we’re half that lucky we’ll feel really blessed.  But it’s funny because I don’t think it is Who’s The Boss, and Joey definitely doesn’t either.  I think they’re really different shows.  I think the only similarity is the setup, that a man comes in to domestically run the house while the woman’s working.  But in their cases they each had kids and it was very different.  I think it’s more centered around the kids in that show.  I feel a lot more was centered around them, the kids getting in trouble and doing stuff than we have going on right now. 

                                                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.

J. Poggi                                   Is there any sort of message that you’re hoping your show is sending to families?

M. Hart                                  Honestly, we just want to entertain people.  We’re not trying to be too serious here.  We’re not trying to teach a lesson.  We’re just in it to make people laugh.  And if we can do that then we’ve done our job.  I think that it’s up to the writers and the network, and the network likes to find little moments to kind of send across a little message or be politically correct or be subtle about things, and the writers are really good about making the characters likeable while also making them funny, which is the trick, but once we get that script in our hands and the network approves stuff, then we just go crazy with it and we go, okay, how can we make this funny?  How can we make people laugh?  How can we make people enjoy this?  That’s all that we really care about. 

J. Cogge                                 Great.  Thanks so much.

Moderator                             Our next question comes from Danielle Turchiano from the LA Examiner. Please go ahead.

D. Turchiano                        Hi, Melissa.  I was actually just wondering what it’s like to film in front of a  live studio audience? 

M. Hart                                  It’s kind of crazy.  I did an episode of Just Shoot Me which I think was in front of an audience and then I did the pilot for FOX five years ago, and that was a little crazy for me.  My adrenaline was going so much in that pilot that I could not calm myself down.  I couldn’t slow down to actually enjoy the moment.  I was just so nervous.  But I had just come off stage, in April I did Love, Loss and What I Wore on Broadway, and I think that that helped me in this case to get in front of an audience, although Dancing With The Stars did too, having to dance in front of the audience. 
                                                Then as soon as we were done with the finale of Dancing With The Stars I came to the Valley and shot the pilot the next week, so to have come from that kind of audience and that kind of pressure to this kind of situation, the very first scene of the pilot I screwed up my very first line.  I was so nervous that my heart was pounding and I couldn’t calm myself down. 

                                                I just kept saying, “You don’t have to dance.  You just have to act.  You don’t have to dance.  You just have to act.”  And I couldn’t get myself to calm down and then I screwed up my first line and I was fine.  Then Joey screwed up his first line and he was fine.  And I was like, oh, that’s it?  Oh, I can totally mess up my lines and the audience doesn’t care.  They’re here with me. 

                                                I started to talk to them and got more comfortable and now I get a little bit of a rush right before the show starts, but then I’m pretty good.  I’ve really warmed up to them and I know how to handle it now.  I know that they’re there for us and that they’re excited just to be in the audience no matter what we give them, no matter how many times we do a scene or whatnot, because sometimes I feel bad like oh, we’re boring them, they’ve seen the scene three or four times.  But then I’ve starting to get used to that and just go, all right, if they want to leave they can leave.  So it’s interesting.  And there are so many different terms and whatnot in working with an audience that I’m learning all these new phrases and terms in the industry that I’ve worked in for 30 years.  So it’s exciting.  It’s fun.

D. Turchiano                        As a mom, is it important for you to do a show now that your kids could watch?

M. Hart                                  I don’t think this show is good for them.  I do think that this show is much older than them.  They’re four and two and they’re barely watching Little Einsteins.  I won’t even let them watch certain cartoons.  I think that this show is very much PG-13.  We’ve had a lot of 13-year-olds in the audience and they seem to enjoy it, but I think if you get around that 7, 8, 9 age it’s too young, and especially the episode that’s going to be on tomorrow night, there are some things that happen that I wouldn’t want some younger kids to see, especially with the parents, the parents show their kids this thinking that it’s a safe thing to show their kids and it’s not. 

                                                I don’t know, I think the parents should watch the show before they let their children watch it.  But I think it’s a good family show if you have teenagers and you all as a family sit down and watch this, because I don’t think there’s a lot of that on, there’s not a lot of shows where you can sit – like I think Modern Family even is more geared to the adult, so I don’t know that teenagers would enjoy sitting down and watching that.  But I think teenagers would enjoy sitting down and watching this. 

D. Turchiano                        Great.  Thank you.  I just want to say that I love SweetHarts ( as well. 

M. Hart                                  Thank you.  Speaking of SweetHarts, I don’t know if any of you know that I’m working with right now and there’s a contest on there right now,, and families can win a trip to California for a week and come visit SweetHarts.

Moderator                             The next question is from Martha Agee, Pop Culture Madness.  Please go ahead.

M. Agee                                 Hi, Melissa.  Thanks for speaking with us.  About the sitcom, why did you decide to keep the original names for your characters on the show?

M. Hart                                  That was an interesting decision.  The show was originally called Annie’s Manny, and Joey and I were both like that’s not going to fly.  We don’t like that.  Plus, I don’t think it would have worked anyway because of the show Handy Manny.  But when the pilot was being shot and we were tossing around ideas for the title Joey and I were trying to come up with something and we were like what about something like Melissa and Joey, and we said it sort of as a guideline.  What we really meant was a Dharma and Greg or a Will and Grace, that kind of thing, but we didn’t really pull out the names quickly enough so we just said what about Melissa and Joey and they went oh, we like that. 

                                                And then about a week later we saw a lot of things that said Melissa and Joey, and we were like no, no, no we just meant like that, not that.  And they were like, no, it’s great.  It’s perfect.  And I guess the marketing team did a lot of research and it turns out it tested high and in today’s day when there are so many channels and shows to filter through, that it kind of cuts to the chase and people can find the show really easily, so in our day and age it just helps to find the show, to spot it quicker. 

M. Agee                                 Besides your current project, where do you see yourself going career-wise ten years from now?

M. Hart                                  I don’t know.  I’d love to do this show for a good five years or so.  I’d love to just really sink back into a nice sitcom and have a good long run and maybe in between dabble in some – I’d love to do an animated feature.  I would love to have my voice in an animated feature, especially now that I have kids, that would be really super cool.  Then I’d love to just be able to pick and choose some characters along the way and in the next ten years I would just really like to have that freedom in the business, I’d like to get the respect of Hollywood where I can pick and choose my characters a little, my roles a little bit more, and when a movie like The Help comes out that I can say I’d love to play a small character in that, or when Dragon Tattoo or one of these upcoming movies that I’ve read the books and I’m so into that I could actually be in some of these amazing projects.  I would love to be able to dabble in that a little bit. 

                                                But I don’t know, I could see myself doing the show for five years and then giving my husband a good long time to get his music career back on track too.  He’s right now writing 20 new songs and he just built a music studio in Connecticut and he’s going to be producing some albums and doing his own album as well, so I’d love to just do my work and go home to my kids and let him go do his work and we can just trade off. 

M. Agee                                 Great.  Well, thank you for answering our questions.

Moderator                             The next question comes from Amy Breedmeyer, 

A. Breedmeyer                     Good morning, Melissa.   I was actually curious, with Clarissa you had more of like an eclectic wardrobe and with Sabrina it was very teenager, and now with the character of Mel it’s the fitted dresses and the high heels.  What has been your favorite wardrobe?

M. Hart                                  This one for sure.  No, I can’t say that. Clarissa was pretty groovy too, but I felt a little embarrassed in Clarissa.  I knew that the people dressing me were really cool and I never had anything to say against what they put me in, but I was like, really, this is weird.  Okay.  It felt a little funny.  But I also got to be really comfortable and wearing combat boots and jeans and stuff like that, so that was fun. 

                                                The beginning of Sabrina I dressed like a temp.  I had pantyhose on and suit jackets from BeBe.  It was kind of bizarre.  It wasn’t quite as funky as I wanted it to be.  I finally was able to loosen it up a little bit towards the end and find some more groovy stuff to wear.  But the beginning of it was so weird.  All the original stuff was really great, whenever we built a costume for Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, that stuff was all fun.  But this one is really fun because I get to be sexy and I get to be feminine but like in a classy way, but also a little sassy, so it’s been really fun for me.  I have a really hard time walking in high heels, so I’m fighting that. 

A. Breedmeyer                     Then also going back to the creation and evolution of the Mel character, I was wondering if you follow your local politics at all in Connecticut?

M. Hart                                  No, I haven’t had a chance yet, actually.  I wish I did.  I’ve been actually just trying to catch up on current events these days.  I listen to a lot of CNN in the car and I usually watch a lot of CNN or news channels on TV, but not so much local stuff yet.  It’s funny, I’m more into the national or the international news programs, so I do have to get my bearings in Connecticut once I get back there and I get settled again.

A. Breedmeyer                     Thank you and have a great week.

M. Hart                                  Thank you.  You too.

Moderator                             Our next question is from Alex Sternberg, the

A. Sternberg                          Hi.  Thanks so much for taking my call.  How did your past roles help you get to where you are now?

M. Hart                                  It’s interesting, it’s just been an evolution.  With Clarissa, she was very smart, sassy, kind of tomboy, she was the quintessential teen but at the same time she had a rebellious streak in her.  But it wasn’t a bad rebellious streak, it was more of a well calculated, educated rebellion.  She wanted to push the limits.  She had a crush on the school bully and stuff like that. 

                                                Then with Sabrina, Sabrina was hard for me to play because while it was a high concept show and we had a lot of fun playing the magic element of it and the talking cat and all the other craziness that happened, the character itself was sort of whiny, a little unsure of herself, she was always looking to fit in, and didn’t want attention but she was the kind of girl that could get attention because of the witchcraft element.  She was always trying to lay low so it was interesting to play that because that’s so not like me. 

                                                But Mel is like a totally different character than either of those two.  I feel like all three of my characters have been very different.  Each one of them is a little bit of me, but I would say Mel is much more like me now, and I think Clarissa was the same way.  When I was doing Clarissa I was very much like Clarissa.  Sabrina, I would say I was very different from Sabrina when I was playing that character. 

                                                But now, I don’t know because I am raising children and I’m not always doing the right thing, my husband’s constantly having to say, “You don’t say that in front of kids.”  I’m like, “Oh, really?”  So stuff like that.  I love playing a little bit of a goofball and a little bit of the girl that won’t grow up, and that is very much me these days.   I very much like being in touch with my child-like side and just making people giggle even at the expense of tripping over something.  I feel like the older I’ve gotten the more immature I’ve grown, so the character is sort of like that to me.

A. Sternberg                          That makes sense.  I feel kind of the same way myself.
M. Hart                                  Yes.  I’m too old now to take things seriously.

A. Sternberg                          Do you have any plans to write or direct an episode of Melissa and Joey coming up in the future?

M. Hart                                  I do plan to direct one if we’re lucky enough to get to a second season.  Both Joey and I would love to direct.  And one of our executive producer writers is also a big time director and the network is very careful to give people only one job at a time, so we don’t want anyone unfocused in their main career line, and I agree with that.  I think it’s a great decision to bring in different directors and let us get our feet under us before we all go switching up jobs. 

A. Sternberg                          That makes sense.  Well, best of luck with the rest of the season.  Thanks so much for your time today. 

M. Hart                                  Thank you.

M. Roberts                            Ladies and gentlemen, with that I would like to conclude today’s call.  Don’t forget that Melissa and Joey airs on ABC Family Tuesday nights at 8/7 Central.  Thank you, everyone. 

M. Hart                                  Thank you.

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