Melissa Joan Hart says she was almost 'sued and fired' from 'Sabrina the Teenage Witch' over her racy Maxim cover

  • Melissa Joan Hart said she nearly got fired from "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" in 1999.

  • That year, she posed for Maxim to promote her film "Drive Me Crazy."

  • It caused controversy about whether former child star Hart was "allowed" to be sexy at 23.

Melissa Joan Hart claimed that she was almost fired from her hit ABC show "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" after she posed for Maxim in the late 1990s.

Hart recalled the incident on Monday's episode of "Pod Meets World," a "Boy Meets World" rewatch podcast hosted by series stars Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong, and Will Friedle. The hosts, who chatted with Hart about her guest spot on a 1997 Halloween episode of "Boy Meets World," brought up a photo she'd taken with Britney Spears while asking Hart to reflect on different photos from the '90s.

Hart and Spears worked together a lot in 1999. Spears was a guest star on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" that year, and Hart appeared in the pop star's music video for "(You Drive Me) Crazy," which was on the soundtrack for Hart's 1999 rom-com, also called "Drive Me Crazy." Hart explained on "Pod Meets World" that for the photo in question, she and Spears were at a Planet Hollywood afterparty in New York following the premiere of the movie. She also revealed she'd been "crying all evening" at the time the photo was taken, because that particular day was the "worst day" of her life at the time.

The actor recalled she'd made the "heartbreaking" decision to end a relationship with her boyfriend at the time. The day was made worse by her lawyer showing up at the party with troubling news for her.

"My lawyer shows up and goes 'You did a photoshoot for Maxim magazine?' I'm like, 'Yes I did.' They're like, 'Well, you're being sued and fired from your show. So, don't talk to the press, don't do anything,'" she recalled at about the 55-minute mark of the podcast.

Britney Spears and Melissa Joan Hart in 1999.
Britney Spears and Melissa Joan Hart in 1999.Ron Galella, Ltd./Getty Images

Hart said she then fielded a stressful call from her mother, Paula Hart, who was also her producer, asking her what she'd done wrong.

"I did a photoshoot for Maxim. It's Maxim. Of course you're gonna be in your underwear," Hart recalled telling her mother.

When the terrible night ended, Hart said she "hid" in a New York hotel room for days and wallowed in her misfortune with friends, chocolate ice cream, and alcohol.

"I woke up like in a rockstar moment the next day of like, 'What's going on in my life,'" she said.

"Sabrina the Teenage Witch" ran for eight seasons on ABC, ending in 2003. So Hart said ultimately nothing came of the threats to fire her in 1999. The miscommunication, Hart said, had to do with the fact that Maxim had used her character's name on the cover. In her contract with Archie comics, Hart said she'd agreed that she would never play the character naked.

According to Hart, someone involved with the show thought she was in the role of Sabrina for the Maxim interview and was therefore in breach of her contract. But as Hart pointed out, she had "no control" over Maxim's decision to use the fictional witch's name on the cover instead of her own. "So, I wrote an apology letter and it was all gone," Hart said, adding that the situation took "weeks and weeks" to set straight.

Hart did point out one "silver lining" of the Maxim controversy. She said that after it happened, everyone in the media was running stories about whether Hart, who first rose to fame as a 14-year-old on the Nickelodeon show "Clarissa Explains It All," was "allowed to be sexy." Hart was 23 years old at the time she did the cover.

"It made for 'Drive Me Crazy' to come out and be a huge success,'" she said, describing the whole ordeal as "insane."

"Pod Meets World" drops new episodes weekly.

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