Saturday, May 17, 2014

Whatever Happened To: The Cast of Clarissa Explains It All

Running for five seasons between 1991 and 1994, Clarissa Explains It All is one of those shows that anyone who watched Nickelodeon back in the day will be familiar with. Following the lives of the Darling family, who managed to be completely bizarre and yet somehow lead a relatively traditional life, the neon clothing and DOS-style computer games practically make it a time capsule of the early 90s. It included some guest stars who went on to be fairly well-known actors, including James Van Der Beek, Wayne Brady, and Michelle Trachtenberg. You might recognize Suzanne Collins, writer of two episodes, as the woman who went on to write the Hunger Games trilogy.

So what happened to the main cast of this show?

Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Darling)

Clarissa deals with the typical issues facing a teenage girl as well as a number of atypical problems, often breaking the fourth wall to confide in the audience. She tends to blow her problems out of proportion, creating computer games and other unique methods to try to help her through them. Clarissa is also a big fan of a number of alternative rock bands.

Melissa Joan Hart's work on Clarissa Explains It All was enough to net her a starring role in another children's/young adult show, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. Starting in 1996, two years after the end of Clarissa, the series went on until 2003 and included a TV movie and spin-off animated series. Hart, now 38, apparently limited herself to smaller roles after Sabrina, since she married Course of Nature musician Mark Wilkerson after the series ended and had three children; she also opened up a short-lived candy store in California called SweetHarts. Hart has since returned to ABC on the show Melissa & Joey, which premiered in 2010.

Jason Zimbler (Ferguson Darling)

Ferguson, Clarissa's nerdy younger brother, is usually bent on annoying his sister. He's also a Young Republican and wannabe entrepreneur, trying out a few unsuccessful schemes to bring in money. Clarissa and Ferguson occasionally work together, and Clarissa also defends him from bullies at times.

Zimbler never had another broadcast role after graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1998, though he got a degree in theater directing as well as business administration. He's stayed active in theater performances, directing a few performances in New York City and co-founding The Re-Theatre Instrument in Portland, Oregon. Zimbler, now 36, also works as a software designer for HBO.

Joe O'Connor (Marshall Darling)

A quirky architect who tends to model his buildings after everyday objects, Clarissa's father seems to have as much of a zany streak as his daughter. Marshall usually calls Clarissa by the nickname "sport" and is happy to give her advice, though he sometimes struggles to provide practical help.

O'Connor, whose age is unavailable, has continued to appear in a number of small television and movie roles since the end of Clarissa Explains It All. These include Tom Vogel in Mad Men as well as roles on popular shows like How I Met Your MotherNCISThe West Wing, and ER.

Elizabeth Hess (Janet Darling)

Marshall and Clarissa's mother are both former hippies, though Janet has retained more of these characteristics in the type of advice she gives to her daughter. She works at a museum and is a prominent environmentalist. She is also an enthusiast for organic and healthy meals, a taste not shared by the rest of the Darling family.

Hess, now 60, has generally stayed away from other television or movie roles; she had a few bit parts on Law and Order and was last credited in the 2009 movie Handsome Harry. However, Hess has been very active in theater productions. She also teaches acting through an organization known as the Hess Collective and holds instructing positions at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and New York Theater Intensives.

Sean O'Neal (Sam Anders)

Sam is Clarissa's best friend and usually visits her by climbing a ladder to her bedroom. He is more of a voice of reason to Clarissa's stress, enjoys skateboarding, and lives with his father (who is a bit of an odd fellow, sleeping while standing up in a closet).

O'Neal, now 38, did not act again after Clarissa Explains It All until lending his voice to the English versions of the anime series Noir and RahXephon. He also appeared as a protester in the series Development Hell and has a role in a forthcoming film called Penumbra. According to his partially completed website, O'Neal turned down the chance to be the lead singer in a boy band; his "present day" bio is still under construction.