In my career, I’ve interviewed a lot of interesting musicians and actors. But since many of the magazines and websites that originally published those stories aren’t around anymore, I’ve decided to pull some of the more interesting interviews out of my archive.
In light of recent news that she’ll be publishing an autobiography this October called Melissa Explains It All: Tales From My Abnormally Normal Life, I thought I’d be opportunistic and pull out the following interview, which was conducted in July of 1999, when she was doing Sabrina The Teenage Witch. It was used as the basis for the cover story I wrote about her the October issue of Bikini magazine. Which, along with the cover story Maxim ran on her the same month, wound up causing quite a stir. You’ll see why below.
So I used to live up in the hills.
Yeah, that area’s really nice, I like it there because it’s quiet. Kinda feels like you’re away from the city. But I love big cities, I don’t think I could ever live away from the big city, because I just love all the stuff that goes on. Even L.A. is hard for me because it’s not twenty-four hours. I grew up in New York, you know, having your teen years in New York City, where you get to go to a coffee shop at four in the morning if you have to.
Where in Manhattan did you grow up?
Like the West Village. Right on Sixth Avenue. That’s the reason I started going to NYU. And then the year I started going to NYU I moved to New Jersey.
So how’d you wind up out here?
The show, Sabrina. We sold the show when we were in New York, and then we came in here to cast it and we had to move. Clarissa had been done for maybe over two years, so there were a couple of years in there where I was going to school and doing like TV movies and stuff. So I was just kind of playing around with the business at that point, I was just doing what came my way and going to school whenever I could, or whenever wanted to.
Did you graduate from NYU?
No. But Christy Turlington just graduated, and she’s thirty, so I’ve got some time.
I wasn’t giving you grief about it, I was just asking.
I’m giving myself a four year plan. So in four years I have to graduate. God, I’ll be twenty-seven.
Excuse me, thirty-one year old guy over here, you can’t be bitching about how old you are.
It’s a big thing for me now, I don’t know.
When I was shooting Clarissa, I was fourteen, seventeen, in there, and all the guys were like twenty-three, so I always wanted to be twenty-three. So twenty-three was a good year. But twenty-two was the first year I had a depressing birthday. When I turned twenty-one, I was like woo hoo! Party! Got alcohol poisoning, the whole thing. But then twenty-two, I was like, What do I do now? I kind of got depressed, and like okay, that’s the end of the fun. I’m not a teenager, I’m over twenty-one, there’s nothing new coming my way, so I had a little BBQ for my birthday. Then this year I went big, we had a rollerskating disco party for my birthday, rented out a whole roller rink, out in the valley, had a hundred and fifty people, it was crazy.
For me, twenty-five was the hard one.
Because you’re quarter of a century…
Right. But thirty was cool.
See, twenty-seven will be cool, I think, because when I first started Clarissa, all the guys were twenty-three, and when I finished Clarissa, all the guys were twenty-seven, twenty-eight. So that’ll be good.
Well, Prince said that twenty-seven is the hardest year.
I can see that, because you’re like, you’re kind of too old to get away with a lot of shit at that point, you know, and you gotta start taking yourself too seriously, I think. Hopefully I’ll have things sorted out by then.
So let’s talk about this alcohol poisoning.
I just I got really sick. I mean I got kicked out of my party.
You got kicked out of your own party?
Well, we rented out a bar, and I just, I don’t know, I did a lot of shots, it was my twenty-first birthday, I was trying to match everybody, shot for shot, tequila. I probably did like eighteen shots of tequila in like two hours with no food in my stomach, ended up puking three times before I left the bar, and they were like, “Okay, it’s close enough to 2:00, you gotta get out now.”
For the next two days I was ill, randomly puking. It was terrible. And ever since then I get hangovers. Before that I never had hangovers.
Now wait a minute. Before that you weren’t a legal drinking age, therefore you didn’t drink…
That’s true, but I was living in New York City. Though I wasn’t a big drinker, just once in a while. I used to love drinking wine, but now I’m drinking gin and tonics. I love gin and tonics. Tanqueray. Has to be Tanqueray.
So do you have any other vices we should know about?
Besides gin and tonic? Yeah, but I’m not giving them up [laughs]. My one guilty pleasure is Britany Spears. That’s terrible, that’s terrible. I can’t believe I even just gave up that information.
What other music do you listen to?
I listen to all kinds. I listen to like Violent Femmes, Tribe Called Quest, Smashing Pumpkins, Fat Boy Slim, I love Fat Boy Slim right now, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, they’re like one of my all time favorites. Though nine inch nails is my ultimate favorite. So not all different kinds, a little more alternative, I guess.
One of things that I noticed when I was doing research for this interviews is that you have this public persona that’s nice, sweet, goody-goody, but it’s largely because of the roles you played. But when you do interviews, it seems like you wish that people wouldn’t only think of you that way.
Yeah, but I think that’s true for any actor, you know. I think that you always want to have a range, you want to show that you can be really diverse in your roles. But it’s hard, especially when you look a certain way. I mean I look really All-American, sweet, girl-next-door, so naturally those are the parts that are going to come easiest to me, you know. I have to chase after the other ones.
But I’m not trying to change my image or anything. I’ve got a big audience, and I’m trying to stay true to that audience. That’s the business right there, that’s the politics of it. And it’s also the fact that I have little sisters and a brother, and I wouldn’t want to make any movie that they’d be embarrassed to go see. That’s a big thing for me right now. It’s not always going to be that way. I’ll take a role if it’s a good role in a movie, even if the movie is bad, if it’s a good role, I’ll take it.
What I was wondering, though, is besides going through that professionally, are you going through that on a personal level as well? There was one interview where you said that getting your belly button pierced was the most rebellious thing you’ve ever done.
That must have been an old article.
Obviously, that was before you threw up all over yourself in a bar.
Even when I was doing Clarissa, I wanted to hang out with all the big boys, the big girls. I wanted to be an adult, because all my friends were adults. So on one level, I felt like I was already there; I could relate with adults better than I could relate to people my own age. But on the other hand, if we were at a party and I asked someone to go up to the bar and grab me a drink, they wouldn’t do it. You know, they were checking up on me, big brother, big sister kind of thing.
As far as things go now, in my personal life, I am struggling a little bit right now because I just recently started to feel my age. When I was younger, I always felt like I was forty. I always had so much responsibility, mainly with Clarissa, because I was doing school and the show. And I’ve got my family and I’ve got a lot of pressure from my audience and my agents, la-la-la to be a “good girl.” Plus, I’m in the public eye. If I mess up, it’s going to be all over the place and that’s how people are going to judge me. Shannen Doherty got a reputation for being a bitch, but I don’t know if that’s legitimate or if one incident caused that whole thing. I don’t want to have one incident that changes everything for me, so I try to be careful.
So what is the most rebellious thing you’ve ever done?
[laughs] I can’t say.
I don’t want to keep harping on the piercing thing, but in that same interview you also something like, “I wanted to pierce other stuff, but I didn’t.” What else were you thinking about piercing?
I thought about everything. I wanted to do my eyebrow, I thought about piercing my nipple. I mean, obviously, I really couldn’t do my eyebrow because of my career, but I just thought it was so sexy.
And now I’m into tattoos. Maybe the most rebellious thing now is my tattoo.
Where is it?
The back of my neck.
Oh, this little ornate cross.
Yeah, Catholic girl.
What was it that the Chili Peppers said, “Catholic School girls rule.”
One rebellious thing you haven’t done is nudity.
Though I’m not against it. It would have to be completely warranted in the movie. Actually, all my friends call me Teensy, because of the book Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Teensy is the character that’s always naked and running around.
Is this something you like to do?
I like to be as naked as possible [laughs]. When the press isn’t around.
Dammit. Like when you’re lying around the house by yourself and stuff?
Or on a set, I have no problem changing my clothes on set, if I have to do a quick change or something.
So why aren’t there naked pictures of you on the Internet then?
I don’t know. Because nobody knows that I’m always running around my house naked.
I know guys my age or younger who, when you were on Clarissa, would make comments like, “I know she’s underage, but she’s really hot.” Was it weird for you to be underage but still have older guys hitting on you?
You know, actually the way I saw it was the opposite. I had all these older guys around me that wouldn’t hit on me, and I was trying, I was trying. I had crushes on all these older guys on the show, all the grips, the electricians, you know. And I couldn’t get an older guy.
I actually go for dorky guys. Guys that are sweet good-looking, but in a dorky sort of way. I end up dating dorks.
You mean like guys who wait in line to see Star Wars?
Yeah, sometimes. Just in general. Usually really tall, skinny dorks. I don’t know why. [pauses] I think because it might be a security issue. If I think he’s cute, but not everybody else thinks he’s cute…like, if you date a model, you’re going to have problems, there’s going to be jealousies, you’re going to be watching every move they make.
Do you tend to get jealous?
Yeah, I’m a pretty jealous person when it comes to guys.
Have you ever had a reason to be?
Oh, I’ve been cheated on. A couple times.
Have you ever had a problem where you met a guy and he bought into the public persona and because of that, he didn’t try anything or reciprocate anything?
Yeah, there’s been plenty of times where you want to kiss someone and they just won’t because they think you don’t want to.
I’m not talking about that, everybody goes through that. Have you ever had the situation where you had to grab a guy and be like, “I’m not a nun. Kiss me, you fool?”
No, it’s the total opposite. It’s more like, “OK, I’m going to see how far I can get with this one and be able to tell my friends that I got Sabrina.”
Have you gotten pretty good at figuring out when a guy only wants to go out with you because you’re that girl on the TV show?
Yeah, I can kinda tell. There are certain signs.
Like he calls you Clarissa.
Accidentally. In bed.
Please tell me that’s never happened to you.
No, [laughs]. That would be terrible. Bad enough I once threw water on Oscar De La Hoya because he called me Sabrina. Surprised he didn’t punch me.
We were hanging out — a group of my friends, a group of his friends — and I was pretty drunk. He was buying me shots all night. And his bodyguard bought me this huge bottle of water because I was so drunk and I needed to sober up. So Oscar gives me the bottle of water and says, “Blah blah blah, right Sabrina?” And I said, “That’s not my name!” and I threw this bottle of water in his face. And he laughed, Oscar laughed about it, but I guess later on he wasn’t so happy about it. But what do I care? When am I going to see him again?
So let me ask you this: What’s the worst thing someone could say about you that’s actually true. Besides the fact that you’re a raving alcoholic, of course.
I’m short. No, I’m a tease.
You haven’t been that much of a tease to me. I don’t know if I should be insulted or not.
I guess that’s just what my friends say would say. I don’t know, that’s a really tough question.
Ever had a casting couch experience?
No. I’ve had old men, like studio people, producers, kind of flirt in strange and mean ways, but that’s about it.
What do you mean by “flirt in strange and mean ways?”
Like they think they’re being funny, but they’re being rude.
They talk about your boobs or something?
Something like that. Just random, bizarre…they’ll use certain words in front of you to shock you or they’ll just say stuff about oral sex or something.
Can you give me an example?
There was something said about oral sex once, I believe. It was a movie I really wanted to do and I went and met with a producer and he was just like this…he was funny in a way, and I just kept laughing at him because I couldn’t take him too seriously. He was just like way off-beat. Really loud, wouldn’t shut up, just kept talking, and said something about oral sex in front of me and almost in a way it’s like “Okay, are you saying that because you’re trying to get a reaction out of me?” Because most of the time, people around me will be very careful. People are afraid to curse around me because everyone thinks I’m about sixteen. They’ll be like “Shit. Oh sorry.” I always get that. So for an older man to talk about oral sex in front of me and it’s like, “You’re either trying to get some, or you’re trying to shock the hell out of me and scare me.”
Have you been offered Playboy?
I don’t know. I don’t think they’d tell me if I was, because they’d probably know I’d do it [laughs]
No, you wouldn’t.
Sure I would. If they promised it wasn’t camera between my knees kind of shot, I would do it.
So you would do topless stuff?
Yeah, I would do topless. I’d do naked if it wasn’t gynecological shots.
But you were saying earlier that you wouldn’t want to do anything that would annoy your friends.
If it was done tastefully. It’s Playboy. It’s classy. It’s not like some of those other trashy magazines.
No, Bikini’s all class.