Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Drug binges, affairs and THAT naked photoshoot – the scandals behind show as it turns 25

ONSCREEN she was the wholesome wise-cracking teenager with a talking cat and a tendency to cause havoc with magic spells.

But away from the cameras Melissa Joan Hart – star of Sabrina the Teenage Witch – was a party animal who snogged girls at the Playboy mansion and got high on ecstasy.


The iconic show marks 25 years since its first episode this Monday, and it’s fondly remembered by a generation of viewers.

Sabrina, produced by Melissa’s mum Paula Hart, followed the antics of a 16-year-old schoolgirl who discovers she’s a witch and goes to live with her two aunts while she learns her craft.

But Melissa was actually 20 when she took on the role – and made the most of the party lifestyle in Hollywood between days on set, experimenting with drugs, cheating on her then-boyfriend with film star Ryan Reynolds and almost getting fired for a nude magazine photoshoot.

"I did Sabrina from the age of 20 to 27," she told Oprah Winfrey in a recent TV special.

"At the beginning, it was my first time really hanging out in LA, and starting to make my own money, buying my own house, starting to go out and party and do all this crazy fun stuff – and just really enjoying my life as an adult for the first time."

Now a happily married mum-of-three, Melissa has been open about her wild times during the Sabrina years – here's what she got up to when the cameras weren't rolling.

Hotel room tryst with Ryan Reynolds

As a teenager, Melissa found fame with the title role in Clarissa Explains It All, which ran for three years from 1991.

When Sabrina came along, she was on a break from acting and studying at New York University.

But she dropped out of college after her mum bought the rights to the comic book character of Sabrina from Archie Comics for £1 – then cast her in the lead role.

After moving to LA, Melissa began partying with some very famous actors.

In her memoir, Melissa Explains It All, she recalls kissing a lot of young stars on nights out, including Backstreet Boys singer Nick Carter and Scary Movie 5 star Jerry O'Connell.

But it was a steamy encounter with up-and-coming Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds which she recalled in most detail – admitting she cheated on her then boyfriend James.

I had a boyfriend at the time but we were smitten and cute and he was adorable

Ryan was playing Sabrina’s crush in the 1996 TV movie version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and the pair spent six weeks filming in Vancouver.

"He was very sweet. I had a boyfriend at the time but we were smitten and cute and he was adorable,” Melissa says.

On their final day of filming, Ryan gave Melissa an expensive Bulova watch as a gift, which made her go "weak in the knees" and she admitted his "taste in bling" turned her on.

"There's a ridiculous moment in the Sabrina movie where Ryan looks at me and says in a throaty, whispered hush, 'I think what we need is a little less talk and a little more action'," she said.

"When I opened Ryan's gift, I couldn't agree more with this statement."

In a scene which could have been straight out of a movie, Melissa ran out of her trailer and jumped in front of his car to stop him leaving the set.

"Not sure whether to chastise or make out with him next, I decided to plant a big, fat kiss on his mouth without saying a word more," she wrote. "It was very dramatic."


The pair went back to her hotel room where they "fooled around all night" – but, after the brief fling, she decided to stay with her boyfriend.

Less in her favour was Ashton Kutcher, whom Melissa tried to get booted out of parties for making "smartass remarks".

She said: "Ashton and I just didn't get along."

Drugs and steamy clinches at the Playboy mansion

As Sabrina continued to soar in the ratings, Melissa’s partying got increasingly wild – and she later admitted to taking a lot of drugs.

"I experimented with weed, ecstasy, mushrooms and mescaline for about a year and a half," she says.

"I was kind of running with a bad crowd.”

During one of her wilder nights in 1999, Melissa hung out at the Playboy mansion and took ecstasy, before making out with a girl in a limo on the way home.

"That was my third or fourth time on ecstasy,” she revealed.

The following day she turned up at a shoot for lads’ mag Maxim, still high, and shot a controversial nude cover.

"I'd gone to the Playboy Mansion the night before and had a little too much fun, explored a little too much of that Playboy Mansion," Hart says.

"And so the next morning I rolled up to the Maxim photo shoot and I was pretty hungover and coming down. And here I was, having a full day of… hair extensions and bikinis, and I was not prepared for it – so that was probably the least professional I've ever been in my career."


The famous cover – tagged with the line “Your favourite witch without a stitch'' – showed the former child star naked, holding a sheet to cover her chest.

The image almost got Melissa booted off the show, as Archie Comics tried to sue her for posing in the buff.

"Archie Comics had a contract that I would never play [Sabrina] naked,” she wrote.

“But then I did the cover of Maxim magazine, and for some reason – no idea how this happened – Maxim had the cover say 'Sabrina' instead of 'Melissa'.

"It was a big press scandal at the time my movie Drive Me Crazy was coming out. And so I wasn’t really able to enjoy the movie launch, because I was so focused on whether I was gonna get fired."

In fact, the scandal blew over and she stayed until 2003, but it proved a wake-up call and she knocked her drug use on the head.

“I just didn't enjoy taking drugs,” she said. “I don't like the loss of control.”

She also insisted she had never snorted or injected drugs and added: “The one time I was offered coke, which happened to be by Paris Hilton, I turned it down.” Paris has since denied the claim.

From party animal to devoted mum

By the time Sabrina ended, in 2003, Melissa had already met her future husband, Mark Wilkerson, at the Kentucky Derby and was ready to settle down.

The couple wed in Florence in July 2003 – three months after the final episode aired – and the preparations for the ceremony were filmed for a reality show, Tying The Knot.

The couple went on to have three boys – Mason, 15, Braydon, 11 and Tucker, nine – who are all child actors themselves.

Tucker starred as the baby in Melissa’s long running sitcom, Melissa and Joey, while Braydon appeared in The Santa Con, a TV movie directed by his mum.

The family now live away from the bright lights of Hollywood in Nashville, and Melissa continues to work as an actor – most recently in the Netflix series No Good Nick – and director.

Now a devoted mum, who home-schooled her three boys in lockdown, Melissa hit the headlines in August when she became ill with Covid, despite being vaccinated.

The star’s memoir, Melissa Explains It All, came with the tagline "Tales from my abnormally normal life".

But her party days in Hollywood were anything but normal.


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