'Harriet the Spy,' Then and Now
Twenty years ago this week, Harriet the Spy arrived in theaters. Released in July 1996, the big-screen adaptation of Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel featured Michelle Trachtenberg, Rosie O’Donnell, and Eartha Kitt, among others. On the 20th anniversary of the flick, see its stars then and now, ahead.
While she made an uncredited appearance in 1995’s Melissa and popped up in episodes of All My Children, Law & Order, and The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Michelle Trachtenberg earned her first big-screen role as the title detective in 1996’s Harriet the Spy. After playing Harriet M. Welsch, the young star earned additional big-screen lines for Inspector Gadget (1999), EuroTrip (2004), Mysterious Skin (2004), Ice Princess (2005), Black Christmas (2006), 17 Again (2009), Cop Out (2010), and Take Me Home Tonight (2011). Trachtenberg also added to her TV résumé with turns in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Six Feet Under, Mercy, Weeds, and Gossip Girl.
Gregory Smith filled his résumé with small gigs before coming to Harriet the Spy as Sport, appearing in Andre (1994), Leapin’ Leprechauns! (1995), and Big Bully (1996). The child star went on to hit the big screen in Krippendorf’s Tribe (1998), Small Soldiers (1998), The Patriot (2000), and American Outlaws (2001) before playing Ephram Brown on Everwood for four years. The Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century alum earned additional credits for Boot Camp (2008), Hobo with a Shotgun (2011), and Dream House (2011), and recently wrapped a run as Rookie Blue‘s Dov Epstein.
Vanessa Lee Chester
After appearing in CB4, A Little Princess, and an episode of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, Vanessa Lee Chester joined Harriet the Spy as Janie Gibbs, one of Harriet’s best friends. Chester spent the 2000s earning credits for The Lost World: Jurassic Park, She’s All That, and 17 Again, as well as episodes of Crossing Jordan, Without a Trace, and Veronica Mars. In recent years, Chester popped up in episodes of Switched at Birth, How I Met Your Mother, and Scorpion.
Rosie O’Donnell found her spot in Harriet the Spy as Ole Golly, Harriet’s nanny and confidant. Already an established star when she came into the gig, O’Donnell went on to lead The Rosie O’Donnell Show for six years, took a seat on The View, and acted in projects like Queer as Folk, Nip/Tuck, Drop Dead Diva, and The Fosters.
J. Smith-Cameron took on the role of Mrs. Welsch, Harriet’s mom, after appearing in 84 Charing Cross Road (1987), The Equalizer, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Mighty Aphrodite (1995), and Sabrina (1995). In the years since Harriet hit theaters, Smith-Cameron landed roles in The First Wives Club (1996), In & Out (1997), You Can Count on Me (2000), True Blood, Margaret (2011), Man on a Ledge (2012), and Rectify.
Robert Joy appeared opposite J. Smith-Cameron as Harriet’s father, Mr. Welsch. The actor came into the gig with decades of work to his name, including credits for Ragtime (1981), Amityville 3-D (1983), Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), Radio Days (1987), Millennium (1989), Longtime Companion (1989), The Dark Half (1993), and Waterworld (1995). Since playing the father figure, Joy added to his résumé with appearances in Fallen (1998), Resurrection (1999), Sweet November (2001), The Shipping News (2001), Land of the Dead (2005), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), Superhero Movie (2008), and CSI: NY.
Charlotte Sullivan appeared as Marion Hawthorne in Harriet the Spy, the school’s resident mean girl. The gig was Sullivan’s first credited role, and led to appearances in episodes of Goosebumps, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and The Famous Jett Jackson. The actress went on to land roles in How to Deal (2003), Fever Pitch (2005), Citizen Gangster (2011), and The Colony (2013), and spent five years playing Gail Peck on Rookie Blue.
The famed “Santa Baby” singer brought her star power to Harriet the Spy as Agatha K. Plummer, an object of Harriet’s spy work. While Kitt was best known for her music and stage work, the performer also boasted a robust on-screen résumé, earning credits for St. Louis Blues (1958), I Spy (1965), Batman, Friday Foster (1975), Boomerang (1992), Fatal Instinct (1993), and The Emperor’s New Groove (2000). Kitt, who spent two years voicing Yzma in The Emperor’s New School in the late 2000s, died at the age of 81 in 2008.