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Melissa Joan Hart's Sexy "Maxim" Shoot Sparked Threats of Being "Sued and Fired" From Teen Show

The Sabrina the Teenage Witch star evidently broke her contract by appearing in the magazine.

In the fall of 1999, Melissa Joan Hart was one of the busiest young stars in Hollywood. She had been starring in the TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch since 1996, was about to see her rom-com Drive Me Crazy hit theaters, and had appeared in the video for "(You Drive Me) Crazy," Britney Spears' song for the movie's soundtrack. Yet even with all of this professional success, the star recently admitted that the day of the Drive Me Crazy premiere was "the worst day of [her] life."

During a recent appearance on the Boy Meets World rewatch podcast Pod Meets World, Hart revealed that, not only had she gone through a rough breakup that day, but she had also been told that her future at Sabrina was in jeopardy. The now-47-year-old said that her lawyer told her that she was in danger of being fired from the show and also sued, all over a provocative photoshoot she'd done for Maxim magazine. Read on to find out more.

RELATED: Former Teen Idol Says She Was Told Not to Hug Black Co-Star During '90s TV Special.

Hart was going through a lot the night of the premiere.

Melissa Joan Hart and Britney Spears at the "Drive Me Crazy" premiere in 1999
Robin Platzer/Twin Images/Getty Images

Hart was a guest on Pod Meets World due to her connections to the other teen show: She appeared on an episode and had a brief relationship with host and series star Will Friedle as a teen. Additionally, Sabrina and Boy Meets World were both part of ABC's TGIF lineup.

On the podcast, Hart was asked to reminisce about a photo of herself posing with Spears at the Drive Me Crazy premiere in 1999.

"If you look at my eyes and how red they are, I had been crying all evening," the actor said. She explained that she had just broken up with someone she was seeing, had been "up since 4 a.m." doing press for the movie, and had to wait on the red carpet for an hour until Spears arrived so they could take photos together.

Then, instead of watching the movie with the rest of the premiere attendees, she was driven to the airport to start work on the horror parody Scary Movie in Vancouvr. En route, she received a call that her role had been cut. Unfortunately for Hart, this wasn't the last of the day's bad news.

She was told she'd be fired from Sabrina.

Britney Spears and Melissa Joan Hart at a Planet Hollywood party for "Drive Me Crazy"
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

After being let go from Scary Movie, Hart returned for the Drive Me Crazy premiere after-party. It was there that her lawyer approached her to talk about the repercussions of photos she had recently posed for.

"My lawyer shows up and goes, 'You did a photo shoot for Maxim magazine?'" the actor said. "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.'"

Hart then heard from her mom, Paula Hart, who was the show's executive producer. "So I get a phone call on my cell phone from my mother, my producer, who's like, 'What did you do?'" Hart said. "And I was like, 'I don't know, whatever my publicist told me to do at the photo shoot. I did a photo shoot for Maxim. It's Maxim, of course you're gonna be in your underwear!"

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She was told she was in breach of her contract.

Melissa Joan Hart on "Sabrina the Teenage Witch"

On her Maxim cover, Hart is wearing underwear and holding a sheet up to cover her chest. The headline on the cover reads, "Sabrina: Your Favorite Witch Without a Stitch!" The actor, who was 23 at the time, said that this phrasing is what caused the potential legal issue. She explained that her contract with Archie Comics, on which the Sabrina show was based, prohibited Hart from ever appearing as the character naked or scantily clad. Despite the headline, the teen idol wasn't "playing" Sabrina in the Maxim photos; she had posed as herself.

Hart went on to say on the podcast that "nothing came of it" and that Archie Comics "had no ground to stand on" in order to fire her. She did write an apology letter, but the company did not take the issue further. She remained on Sabrina until it ended in 2003 after seven seasons.

RELATED: Former Child Star Danielle Fishel Says Exec Told Her He Had a Photo of Her in His Bedroom.

She thinks Archie Comics should have sued Maxim instead.

Melissa Joan Hart at the 2019 HBO Post-Emmy Awards Reception
Eugene Powers / Shutterstock

Hart talked about the "huge scandal" that was her Maxim shoot in 2019 on People Now.

"I had a contract with Archie Comics to say that I would never play Sabrina in her underwear, I would never be sexy Sabrina. And Maxim magazine, for some reason, put 'Sabrina' in big letters across the bottom, instead of 'Melissa' … So they wrote, 'Sabrina, your favorite witch without a stitch.' And so that went against my contract." She added, "Honestly, they should've sued Maxim."

Hart said she thought her "career was over" at the time. She continued, "It was very scary. Now, looking back, the controversy was: Am I allowed to be sexy at 23 years old while promoting a movie? Nowadays, it's like who's not sexy promoting a movie at 12?"

She also admitted to partying before the shoot.

Melissa Joan Hart at the "It's a Wonderful Lifetime" event in 2018
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Hart has also opened up about the day of the Maxim photo shoot, which she admitted she attended after a night out partying.

"The night before I went to my very first Playboy Mansion party. It was the Midsummer Night's [Dream] party, where you're in underwear," Hart said in a 2014 E! News interview. "So I was feeling a little shy, so I actually ended up rolling with some friends, doing some ecstasy, and going in a limo to my first Playboy Mansion party."

The actor explained that she didn't leave the party until very late, which made for a rough next day. "I think I rolled right up to the Maxim photo shoot, walked in, and was like, 'OK, so we're going to do this thing and go home?' And they're like, 'Oh no, girl, you're here for, like, 10 hours.'" she recalled.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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