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Melissa Joan Hart used to be known for explaining it all, but now the former Nickelodeon star does it all.
The star of ‘90s favorites like “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” Hart has gone on to establish herself as a director, writer, and producer. She’s also a mother of three. And, of course, she’s still acting, most recently in the Netflix series “No Good Nick.”
Now, you can add one more item to the list: Radvocate.
A lifelong cyclist, Hart adopted the Rad way after finding conventional bikes ill-suited to tackle the steep hills surrounding her family’s Lake Tahoe home. “We live on a 1,500-foot vertical street,” Hart explained. “There are places you just have to walk it, because at the altitude, you’re just huffing and puffing.”
We caught up with Hart this week while she was on the set of “The Goldbergs,” an ABC sitcom that has her returning to the director's chair. Here is our conversation, below.
RPB: You seem totally, wildly normal, which was really refreshing to find out. I’m guessing that’s why you wrote a book subtitled your “Abnormally Normal Life.” Aside from being a producer, actor, director, and author, describe Melissa in three words.
MJH: Fearless. Hopefully empathetic, and family-oriented.
Did you have bikes growing up? What are your earliest memories?
I did. I rode my bike everywhere. At the time, I was the oldest of five kids, now I’m the oldest of eight. Being the oldest, I had to get myself around. I would do ballet and I had to get myself there, so I would ride my bike through town, or I’d ride my bike to friends’ houses. My best memories are riding my bike all around town.
I also really wanted to go on an international trip, so I decided to join a bike road trip across France with a bunch of teenagers, kind of like a bike-riding camp. We spent four weeks riding all around France, everywhere from the western side, to Paris, down to Nice and up into Geneva.
So you’re not in Westport anymore, are you living full-time in Tahoe?
I go back and forth, depending on where we are for work, and this year for school we’ll still be in Tahoe, but we do spend a lot of time in both Connecticut and L.A.
Did you ride a lot in Westport?
You know, it’s funny. That’s probably the one place I don’t ride a lot. I ride more in L.A., strangely, because there are safer sidewalks than in Connecticut, but of course, Tahoe is the ultimate for riding.
We’ve had a house in Tahoe for 13 years, but I’ve never had a bike there. All my kids have a bike there, my husband, I got him a bike for Christmas last year there, but I don’t have a bike. So I started renting bikes, but it was just too hard to get up those hills. It was just exhausting. So when I found out about ebikes I was like, ‘Yes, please.’
You’ve had a RadRunner for a couple weeks now. How’s it been going so far?
Oh my god, I love it. I’m back in L.A. right now, but last week while I was there I was out on the bike the entire time. I’m going to put my son on the back and take him down to school on it.
What kinds of rides have you taken it on so far?
I’ve been able to take it down into town to run errands, but also around the edge of the lake on a bike path. I went on a little cruise with a friend and we stopped for tea. It was just gorgeous: the views of the lake, the colors, and the scenery.
Lots of bugs, though. I got hit in the forehead at one point by what I thought was a drone, but it turned out to be a giant fly.
You recently had a mammogram scare that you talked about on Instagram. Kudos for your bravery and putting that out there. How important is wellness in your life, and how does ebiking fit into that lifestyle?
It’s huge in my family. Mark was an athlete and has always worked out like a champ, and our son Nathan is following in his footsteps. Being outside is something that really appeals to our family. We really want to stay active and healthy. That doesn’t mean we don’t eat pizza and have ice cream, but being active and being outdoors has always been a big thing for us. It’s part of the reason why we live in Tahoe, because we love all those activities. We love hiking, we love biking, we love skiing -- just being a part of nature. I’m a person that likes to get out and do things. I don’t want to sit at home.
I do have a stationary bike at home, and I love to go to spin class. Biking is just one of my favorite activities in general. However I’m doing it, it’s how my body responds best. My body loves to be pushed and pedaled.
If I can incorporate exercise and fun into my everyday errands, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. I’m one of those multitaskers -- I like to check a lot of boxes. Exercise? Check. Fresh air? Check. Got the groceries? Check.
Back to social media for a little bit. You’re real and raw and open and fantastic at interacting with your fans. One of them said it best today: “I enjoy forgetting that you’re famous. Being able to see how ‘normal’ you guys are is eye-opening, to say the least.” What role does social play in your life and in branding Melissa? What’s your mantra for staying positive?
I try not to spend too much time on it, but I do get stuck in the black hole of Instagram when I really should be working or researching or playing Legos with my kids. It's kind of important to your brand and to business these days. Casting agents do look at your Instagram numbers to see if they want you in their movie or on their show. If you have a million followers, that’s a million people knowing your film is coming out. I try to keep it active. I try to post every 3-6 hours. I try to show all the different aspects of my life, from the glamorous to the really unglamorous, to the mom stuff. And of course, as a mom, I want to post my kids all the time. But also just letting people know what’s coming and promoting projects I have, it’s just an amazing tool and I try not to worry about the trolls.
I posted a picture with a cheetah the other day and it went kind of crazy. People were getting upset about it that were animal lovers and I get that, but I had to defend myself. A lot of times I don't feel like I have to, but in that case there was a lot of hate coming at me, so I wanted to make sure I explained my position.
You’ve got “No Good Nick” season one in the books, you’ve got a production company, you’ve got three boys. How do you keep it all afloat?
It’s not easy. It's a matter of organization and having a really, really good calendar. My husband and I share a calendar on our phones and everything goes in there -- everything. Every doctor’s appointment, every school in-and-out time, every playdate, every time I have to be out of town, every meeting, every soccer game, every practice, every everything. There's no guessing. I think it makes me sharper to have to stay on top of all of it. It’s a big part of the job of being a mom and a working person.
So what’s next for you?
I’m directing a bunch of shows, a few for Netflix. I’m directing a few episodes of “The Goldbergs” this year and waiting to see if “No Good Nick” is picked up. Any day now, I’ll know.
Any adventures in store for the fam and the bikes in the coming months or is it just back to school?
We’ve just traveled so much. We were in Fiji and Africa this summer, so we’re just trying to buckle down at home and make sure the kids are doing homework, language classes, and our athletics.
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