Well-rounded African-American character actress Nell Carter has found success on stage, television, in nightclubs, and in feature films. Carter started out as a nightclub/cabaret performer, but first gained national attention after winning a Tony for her performance in the Broadway musical Ain't Misbehavin', and has appeared in several more. For her stage work, Carter has also received an Outer Circle Critics Award, an Obie, and the Drama Desk Award. Carter started appearing on television in the mid-'70s when she had recurring roles in such series as the soap opera Ryan's Hope and the prime time series The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo (1979-1981), where she played police sergeant Hildy Jones. Carter is best remembered for playing the strong-willed but soft-hearted Nell on the sitcom Gimme a Break (1981-1987). In addition to series work, Carter has appeared in television movies and guested many times on The Tonight Show. In 1986, she hosted her own television special, Never Too Old to Dream; during the 65th Annual Academy Awards (for 1992), she performed a show-stopping version of "Never Had a Friend Like Me" from the Disney-animated musical Aladdin. Carter made her feature-film debut in Milos Forman's adaptation of the controversial hit musical Hair and continued to find steady work in such films as The Grass Harp (1995) and The Proprietor (1997).
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Got start on a local radio show in Birmingham, AL.
- Made Broadway debut was in the 1970 musical Soon. Also included in the production were Peter Allen, Barry Bostwick and Richard Gere.
- Made small-screen debut in the ABC daytime series Ryan's Hope in 1975.
- Won Obie and Tony Awards in 1978 for her performance in the musical Ain't Misbehavin! A few years later she reprised her stage role in a television production and won an Emmy.
- First cinematic appearance was in the 1979 musical Hair.
- Starred in the 1980s NBC sitcom Gimme a Break! Took part in a live telecast of the show in 1985, a first for a sitcom in nearly three decades.