The now-47-year-old actor, who led the seven-season hit sitcom throughout its entire 1996 to 2003 run, graced the October 1999 issue of the men’s magazine in only her underwear and a white bedsheet.
Hart’s picture was accompanied by the headline: “Sabrina your favorite witch without a stitch.”
Although her magazine appearance was supposed to be in promotion of her comedy-romance Drive Me Crazy, the magazine’s use of her Sabrina character name was allegedly in breach of her contract, Hart explained on the Monday (21 August) episode of the Pod Meets World podcast.
Hart claimed that her contract stipulated that she must “never play the character naked”.
At the time, Hart was at the New York premiere of the movie when she remembers being approached by her lawyer, who questioned her about the Maxim photoshoot.
She recalled her lawyer informing her: “Well, you’re getting fired and sued from your show. So don’t talk to the press, don’t do anything.”
She then said she received a call from her mother and producer, Paula Hart, asking her what she had done, to which Hart responded: “I don’t know, whatever my publicist told me to do at the photoshoot. Like I did a photoshoot with Maxim. It’s Maxim, like, of course, you’re going to be in your underwear.”
Asked by podcast hosts Danielle Fishel, Rider Strong and Will Friedle if the show had actually taken any legal action, Hart said: “No, nothing came of it. They had no ground to stand on.”
The Independent has contacted ABC for comment.
The Melissa and Joey star remembered assuring the producers that the cover was not “supposed to be a character” and that she had “no control over what they wrote on the cover”.
“So I wrote an apology letter and it was all gone,” Hart added.
Hart said that in the weeks following the photoshoot, the top news being discussed by chat show hosts Regis and Kathie Lee [Gifford] and Jay Leno was: “Can Melissa be sexy? She’s 23, is she allowed to be sexy?
“It made for Drive Me Crazy to come out and be a huge success,” Hart said.