Hunt began working as a child actress in the 1970s. Her early roles included an appearance as Murray Slaughter's daughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, alongside Lindsay Wagner in an episode of The Bionic Woman, an appearance in an episode of Ark II called "Omega", and a regular role in the television series The Swiss Family Robinson. She appeared as a marijuana-smoking classmate on an episode of The Facts of Life. Hunt also played a young woman who, while on PCP, jumps out of a second-story window, in a 1982 TV movie called Desperate Lives (a scene which she mocked during a Saturday Night Live monologue in 1994). That same year, Hunt was cast on the ABC sitcom It Takes Two, which lasted a single season. She played Jennie in the 1983 television movie Bill: On His Own, co-starring Mickey Rooney and, later that year, was cast in the lead role of Tami Maida in the fact-based TV movie Quarterback Princess. In the mid-1980s, she had a recurring role on St. Elsewhere as Clancy Williams, the girlfriend of Dr. Jack "Boomer" Morrison, and had a notable guest appearance as a cancer-stricken mother-to-be in a two-part episode of Highway to Heaven. Feature film roles around this time included Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985) with Sarah Jessica Parker and Shannen Doherty, Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) as Kathleen Turner's daughter, Project X (1987) with Matthew Broderick, and Stealing Home (1988) as Hope Wyatt, the sister of Billy Wyatt, played by Mark Harmon and a cast featuring Jodie Foster and Harold Ramis, and Next of Kin (1989) with Patrick Swayze and Liam Neeson.
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