Nell Carter (born Nell Ruth Hardy; September 13, 1948 –
January 23, 2003) was an American singer and actress.
Beginning her career in 1970, Carter started in theater; singing and
later crossed over to television. Carter was perhaps best known for
her role as Nell Harper on the
Gimme a Break!
Gimme a Break! which
originally aired from 1981 to 1987. Carter received two Emmy and two
Golden Globe award nominations for her work on the series. Prior to
Gimme a Break!, Carter won a
Tony Award for Best Performance by a
Featured Actress in a Musical in 1978 for her performance in the
Broadway musical Ain't Misbehavin', as well as an Primetime Emmy Award
for her reprisal of the role on television in 1982.
1 Early life
3 Personal life
5 Stage credits
9 External links
Born Nell Ruth Hardy in Birmingham, Alabama, she was one of nine
children born to Horace and Edna Mae Hardy. When she was two years
old, her father was electrocuted when he stepped on a live power
As a child, she began singing on a local gospel radio show and was
also a member of the church choir. At the age of 15, she began
performing with the Renaissance Ensemble that played at area coffee
houses and gay bars. On July 5, 1965, Hardy, then 16 years old, was
raped at gunpoint by a man she knew who gave her a ride home from a
performance with the Renaissance Ensemble. Hardy became pregnant and
gave birth to a daughter, Tracey, the following year. Hardy attempted
to raise Tracey alone, but found it too difficult. She sent Tracey to
live with her elder sister Willie (Carter would later claim Tracey was
the product of a short lived marriage, but revealed the truth in an
interview in 1994).
At the age of 19, Hardy left Birmingham and moved to New York City
with The Renaissance Ensemble, changing her surname to Carter. While
living in New York City, Carter sang in coffee shops before landing
her first role on Broadway in 1971.
Carter made her Broadway debut in the 1971 rock opera Soon, which
closed after three performances. She was the Music Director for the
1974 Westbeth Playwrights Feminist Collective's production of "What
Time of Night It Is". Carter appeared alongside
Bette Davis in the
1974 stage musical Miss Moffat, based on Davis' earlier film The Corn
Is Green. The show closed before making it to Broadway. She broke into
stardom in the musical Ain't Misbehavin, for which she won a Tony
Award in 1978. She won an Emmy for the same role in a televised
performance in 1982.
Additional Broadway credits included Dude and Annie. In 1979, she had
a part in the Miloš Forman-directed musical film adaptation of Hair.
Her vocal talents are showcased throughout the motion picture
In 1978, Carter was cast as Effie White in the Broadway musical
Dreamgirls, but departed the production during development to take a
television role on the ABC soap opera,
Ryan's Hope in New York. When
Dreamgirls premiered in late 1981,
Jennifer Holliday had taken over
the lead. In 1981, Carter also took a role on television's The
Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, before landing the lead role of
Nell Harper on the sitcom Gimme a Break!.
The series was a ratings hit for
NBC and earned Carter a Golden Globe
Emmy Award nominations.
Gimme a Break!
Gimme a Break! aired from 1981 to 1987. In
August 1987, after the cancellation of Gimme a Break!, Carter returned
to the nightclub circuit with a five-month national tour with comedian
Joan Rivers. In 1989, she shot a pilot for
NBC entitled Morton's
By the Bay, which aired as a one-time special in May of that year. In
this, Carter played the assistant to the owner of a banquet hall, and
the focus was on her and her mad-cap staff.
Alan Ruck and Jann Karam
NBC passed on the series development. In October of that
same year, she performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to Game 4 of
the 1989 World Series, played at
Candlestick Park in San Francisco,
The following year, Carter starred in the CBS comedy You Take the
Kids. The series, which was perceived as being the black answer to
Roseanne due to its portrayal of a working-class African-American
family, featured Carter as a crass, no-nonsense mother and wife.
You Take the Kids faced poor ratings and reviews, and had a month's
run from December 1990 to January 1991. During the early 1990s,
Carter appeared in low-budget films, TV specials, and on game shows
Match Game '90 and To Tell the Truth. She co-starred in
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper from 1993 to 1995.
In the mid-1990s, Carter appeared on Broadway in a revival of Annie as
Miss Hannigan. She was upset when commercials promoting the show used
a different actress, Marcia Lewis, a white actress, as Miss Hannigan.
The producers stated that the commercials, which were made during an
earlier production, were too costly to reshoot. Carter said racism
played a part in the decision. "Maybe they don't want audiences to
Nell Carter is black", she told the New York Post. "It hurts
a lot", Carter told the Post, "I've asked them nicely to stop
it—it's insulting to me as a black woman." Carter was later
replaced by Sally Struthers.
In 2001, she appeared as a special guest star on the pilot episode of
the new WB show Reba and continued with the show, making three
appearances in season one. The following year, Carter made two
appearances on Ally McBeal.
The following year had her rehearsing for a production of Raisin, a
stage musical of
A Raisin in the Sun
A Raisin in the Sun in Long Beach, California, and
filming a movie, Swing. Carter's final onscreen appearance was in the
comedy film Back by Midnight. It was released in 2005, two years after
Carter self-identified as a bisexual. After
Gimme a Break!
Gimme a Break! began,
Carter's life took a turbulent turn. She attempted suicide in the
early 1980s, and entered a drug detoxification facility around 1985.
Her brother, Bernard, died of complications due to
AIDS in 1989.
Carter married mathematician and lumber executive George Krynicki, and
converted to Judaism in 1982 (she had been born into a Roman Catholic
family and raised Presbyterian).
Carter filed for divorce from Krynicki in 1989; which was finalized in
1992. Carter had three children: two daughters Tracey and Tiffany son
Daniel. She adopted both Tiffany and Daniel as newborns over a
four-month period. She attempted to adopt twice more but both
adoptions fell through. In her first attempt, she allowed a young
pregnant woman to move into her home with the plan that she would
adopt the child, but the mother decided to keep her baby. In 1992,
Carter had surgery to repair two aneurysms and married Roger Larocque
in June of that year, later divorcing Larocque the next year.
Carter declared bankruptcy in 1995 and again in 2002. She also endured
On January 23, 2003, Carter collapsed and died at her home in Beverly
Hills. Her body was discovered by her son, Joshua. Per a
provision in Carter's will, no autopsy was performed. Using blood
tests, X-rays and a physical examination, the Los Angeles County ruled
that Carter's death was the result of "probable arteriosclerotic heart
disease, with diabetes a contributing condition." She is survived
by her three children. Carter is buried at Hillside Memorial
Park Cemetery, Los Angeles.
Soon (1971) (Broadway)
The Wedding of
Iphigenia (1971) (Off-Broadway)
Dude (1972) (Broadway)
Miss Moffat (1974) (closed on the road)
Be Kind to People Week (1975) (Off-Broadway)
Tom Eyen's Dirtiest Musical (1975) (Off-Broadway)
Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope (1976) (San Francisco)
Ain't Misbehavin' (1978) (Manhattan Theatre Club, Broadway and US
One Night Only (1979) (workshop)
Black Broadway (1979) (Avery Fisher Hall)
Black Broadway (1980) (The Town Hall)
Ain't Misbehavin' (1988) (Broadway)
Hello, Dolly! (1991) (Long Beach Civic Light Opera)
Annie (1997) (Broadway and US national tour)
South Pacific (2001) (Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera)
The Vagina Monologues
The Vagina Monologues (2001) (Madison Square Garden)
Ain't Got No/White Boys
The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo
Sgt. Hildy Jones
Alternative title: Love with a Sinner
Gimme a Break!
Nellie Ruth 'Nell' Harper
Billy Crystal Comedy Hour
Episode: "The Courtship of Bess Richards"
Episode: "Take My Diva... Please"
You Take the Kids
Maid for Each Other
Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story
Jake and the Fatman
Ethel Mae Haven
Episode: "Ain't Misbehavin'"
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper
The Grass Harp
Spider-Man: The Animated Series
Can't Hurry Love
Episode: "The Rent Strike"
The Blues Brothers Animated Series
Betty Smythe (Voice)
Episode: "Strange Death of Betty Smythe"
Episode: "Paging Nell"
Episode: "Hoop Schemes"
Fakin' da Funk
Herself, regular panelist
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Mrs. Claus (Voice)
Follow Your Heart
Sealed with a Kiss
Touched by an Angel
Episode: "Live: From Death Row"
Dr. Susan Peters
Back by Midnight
Title of work
Drama Desk Award
Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Theatre World Award
Best Featured Actress in a Musical
Primetime Emmy Awards
Outstanding Individual Achievement -
^ Venus, Volumes 8-9 -
Nell Carter (1948-2003) - 2002
^ Encyclopedia of Alabama - Nell Carter
^ BlackPast.ORG - Nell Carter
^ CNN - Actress-singer
Nell Carter dies - January 23, 2003
^ Chronicles of Old Los Angeles: Exploring the Devilish History of the
City of ... - Hillside Memorial Park
^ Hollywood Death and Scandal Sites: Seventeen Driving Tours with
Directions - Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery
^ JET Magazine -
Nell Carter Marries Man Who Rescued Her From
Emotional Crisis - May 31, 1982
^ JET Magazine -
Nell Carter Take Charge Of Life, Love And Career -
September 25, 1989
^ The Show Must Go On: How the Deaths of Lead Actors Have Affected
Television ... - Nell Carter
^ InterFaith Family - Obituary of Nell Carter
^ Contemporary theatre, film, and television - Nell Carter
^ Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins,
5th ed. - Nell Carter
^ Historical Dictionary of African American Television - Nell Carter
^ McCann, Bob (2010). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in
Film and Television. McFarland. p. 74.
^ Crowther, Linnea (2012-01-23). "The Highs and Lows of Nell Carter".
legacy.com. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
^ a b c Gold, Todd (February 28, 1994). "Oh, the Troubles She's Seen".
People. people.com. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
^ "Stage, Television Star
Nell Carter Dies at 54". 103 (7). Johnson
Publishing Company. 2003-02-10: 49. ISSN 0021-5996.
Nell Carter Joins 'Lobo' Series, And Ratings Go Up". Jet. Johnson
Publishing Company. 60 (10): 54. May 21, 1981. ISSN 0021-5996.
Retrieved May 7, 2017.
Nell Carter Returns To Nightclubs After TV Show". Jet. Johnson
Publishing Company. 72 (21): 29. August 17, 1987. ISSN 0021-5996.
Retrieved May 7, 2017.
^ Tucker, Ken (December 14, 1990). "You Take The Kids". Entertainment
Weekly. ew.com. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
^ "'You Take The Kids' Put On Hiatus By CBS". Jet. Johnson Publishing
Company. 79 (15): 62. January 28, 1991. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved
May 7, 2017.
^ a b c
Nell Carter on IMDb
^ Nell Carter, Ain't Misbehavin' Star, Dead at 54 - Playbill Archived
2009-01-26 at the Wayback Machine.
Nell Carter Speaks Out on Annie Commercials". Playbill.
playbill.com. May 22, 1997. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
Sally Struthers Takes Over as Miss Hannigan in Annie Tour Jan. 5".
Playbill. playbill.com. January 5, 1998. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
^ Redefining Diva: Life Lessons from the Original Dreamgirl By Sheryl
Lee Ralph p.87
^ a b c Pfefferman, Naomi (2009-01-31). "'Pop-soul belter' Nell
Carter, 54, devoted convert to Judaism, dies". jweekly.com. Retrieved
December 2, 2012.
Nell Carter Dies at 54". Fox News. January 23, 2003.
^ JET Magazine - Nell Carter's Wedding - June 22, 1992
^ Holden, Stephen (January 23, 2003). "Sitcom star collapses at home,
dies at 54 - Gimme a Break!, Ain't Misbehavin -- brought her fame".
SFGate. sfgate.com. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
^ Boehm, Mike (March 5, 2003). "Ruling In Nell Carter's Death". Los
Angeles Times. latimes.com. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
^ "Carter's death natural". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 2003-05-07.
p. 12B. Retrieved December 2, 2012.
^ Wilson, Scott; Mank, Gregory William (2016). Resting Places: The
Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons (3 ed.). McFarland.
p. 122. ISBN 1-476-62599-9.
African American portal
Nell Carter at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
Nell Carter on IMDb
Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a
Variety or Music Program
Perry Como /
Dinah Shore (1959)
Harry Belafonte (1960)
Fred Astaire (1961)
Carol Burnett (1962)
Carol Burnett (1963)
Danny Kaye (1964)
Art Carney (1967)
Art Carney /
Pat Paulsen (1968)
Arte Johnson /
Harvey Korman (1969)
Harvey Korman (1971)
Harvey Korman (1972)
Tim Conway (1973)
Harvey Korman /
Brenda Vaccaro (1974)
Jack Albertson /
Cloris Leachman (1975)
Chevy Chase /
Vicki Lawrence (1976)
Tim Conway /
Rita Moreno (1977)
Tim Conway /
Gilda Radner (1978)
Sarah Vaughan (1981)
Nell Carter /
André De Shields
André De Shields (1982)
Leontyne Price (1983)
Cloris Leachman (1984)
George Hearn (1985)
Whitney Houston (1986)
Robin Williams (1987)
Robin Williams (1988)
Linda Ronstadt (1989)
Tracey Ullman (1990)
Billy Crystal (1991)
Bette Midler (1992)
Dana Carvey (1993)
Tracey Ullman (1994)
Barbra Streisand (1995)
Tony Bennett (1996)
Bette Midler (1997)
Billy Crystal (1998)
John Leguizamo (1999)
Eddie Izzard (2000)
Barbra Streisand (2001)
Wayne Brady (2003)
Elaine Stritch (2004)
Hugh Jackman (2005)
Barry Manilow (2006)
Tony Bennett (2007)
Don Rickles (2008)
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
Imelda de Martin (1964)
no award (1965-1968)
Dorothy Loudon /
Bernadette Peters (1969)
Lauren Bacall /
Sandy Duncan /
Ethel Merman (1970)
Helen Gallagher /
Alexis Smith (1971)
Jonelle Allen (1972)
Glynis Johns /
Michele Lee (1973)
Ruby Lynn Reyner (1974)
Angela Lansbury (1975)
Donna McKechnie (1976)
Clamma Dale (1977)
Nell Carter (1978)
Angela Lansbury (1979)
Patti LuPone (1980)
Lena Horne (1981)
Jennifer Holliday (1982)
Natalia Makarova (1983)
Chita Rivera (1984)
No award (1985)
Bernadette Peters (1986)
Teresa Stratas (1987)
Patti LuPone (1988)
Toni DiBuono (1989)
Tyne Daly (1990)
Lea Salonga (1991)
Faith Prince (1992)
Chita Rivera (1993)
Donna Murphy (1994)
Glenn Close (1995)
Julie Andrews (1996)
Bebe Neuwirth (1997)
Natasha Richardson (1998)
Carolee Carmello /
Bernadette Peters (1999)
Heather Headley (2000)
Marla Schaffel (2001)
Sutton Foster (2002)
Marissa Jaret Winokur
Marissa Jaret Winokur (2003)
Donna Murphy (2004)
Victoria Clark (2005)
Christine Ebersole (2006)
Audra McDonald /
Donna Murphy (2007)
Patti LuPone (2008)
Allison Janney (2009)
Catherine Zeta-Jones /
Montego Glover (2010)
Sutton Foster (2011)
Audra McDonald (2012)
Laura Osnes (2013)
Jessie Mueller (2014)
Kristin Chenoweth (2015)
Cynthia Erivo (2016)
Bette Midler (2017)
Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Juanita Hall (1950)
Isabel Bigley (1951)
Helen Gallagher (1952)
Sheila Bond (1953)
Gwen Verdon (1954)
Carol Haney (1955)
Lotte Lenya (1956)
Edie Adams (1957)
Barbara Cook (1958)
Pat Stanley (1959)
Patricia Neway (1960)
Tammy Grimes (1961)
Phyllis Newman (1962)
Anna Quayle (1963)
Tessie O'Shea (1964)
Maria Karnilova (1965)
Beatrice Arthur (1966)
Peg Murray (1967)
Lillian Hayman (1968)
Marian Mercer (1969)
Melba Moore (1970)
Patsy Kelly (1971)
Linda Hopkins (1972)
Patricia Elliott (1973)
Janie Sell (1974)
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater (1975)
Kelly Bishop (1976)
Delores Hall (1977)
Nell Carter (1978)
Carlin Glynn (1979)
Priscilla Lopez (1980)
Marilyn Cooper (1981)
Liliane Montevecchi (1982)
Betty Buckley (1983)
Lila Kedrova (1984)
Leilani Jones (1985)
Bebe Neuwirth (1986)
Frances Ruffelle (1987)
Judy Kaye (1988)
Debbie Shapiro (1989)
Randy Graff (1990)
Daisy Eagan (1991)
Tonya Pinkins (1992)
Andrea Martin (1993)
Audra McDonald (1994)
Gretha Boston (1995)
Ann Duquesnay (1996)
Lillias White (1997)
Audra McDonald (1998)
Kristin Chenoweth (1999)
Karen Ziemba (2000)
Cady Huffman (2001)
Harriet Sansom Harris (2002)
Jane Krakowski (2003)
Anika Noni Rose
Anika Noni Rose (2004)
Sara Ramirez (2005)
Beth Leavel (2006)
Mary Louise Wilson (2007)
Laura Benanti (2008)
Karen Olivo (2009)
Katie Finneran (2010)
Nikki M. James
Nikki M. James (2011)
Judy Kaye (2012)
Andrea Martin (2013)
Lena Hall (2014)
Ruthie Ann Miles (2015)
Renée Elise Goldsberry
Renée Elise Goldsberry (2016)
Rachel Bay Jones
Rachel Bay Jones (2017)
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