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Hart Is The Magic Behind ‘Sabrina’

Kinney Littlefield The Orange County Register

Someone is a little testy today and we don’t just mean Sabrina, TV’s favorite teen-age witch.

On the set at the Universal lot, Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) of the hit ABC comedy “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” is in a really foul mood, giant witchy forehead wart and all - snow storm-starting, girl-into-goat-morphing foul.

To add stress, alter ego Hart is less than happy as she rehearses playing against her visual image in a mirror, fake wart and all. Then she pretends she can’t find the furniture in an imaginary backward world, for an episode called “Sabrina Through the Looking Glass.”

It’s all part of casting “Sabrina’s” special effects-heavy spell, requiring Hart to do multiple takes of sometimes-clunky things that get magicked up in post production.

As the high-energy heart of “Sabrina” Hart is in nearly every scene. It’s an intense gig. Still Hart, a diminutive 5-foot-3, looks near-flawless in a slim earth-colored pants suit, her hair glowing golden.

In a season of only so-so successes, “Sabrina,” from Viacom Productions, is the only new comedy with a truly fresh slant. Filled with real-life themes for teens, it also plays sophisticated enough for adults. The result - numbers as good as a witch could brew. For the week of Dec. 23-29 “Sabrina” ranked No. 14 of more than 100 prime-time shows.

Of course, Hart’s magic started earlier, when she played clever teen-ager Clarissa in the smash Nickelodeon series “Clarissa Explains It All.”

Then there were Hart’s other accomplished lives. She shot her first TV commercial at age 4. She starred opposite Martin Sheen in “The Crucible” on Broadway. She won three Youth in Film awards. She appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and daytime drama “Another World.”

Melissa Joan Hart sees Sabrina as pretty darn normal, by the standards of teenage America 1997.

“The show is a coming-of-age thing,” Melissa Joan Hart explains. “Clarissa was a strong role model who helped kids out a lot and made them feel better about themselves. But Sabrina is as vulnerable as anyone and has her weaknesses and has fears and shows them a lot in the show.

“Kids identify with that. Whereas Clarissa was ‘Oh, I want to be like that,’ Sabrina is ‘Oh, she’s just like me.’

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