Childhood & Early Life
Charisma Lee Carpenter was born on July 23, 1970, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her mother, Christine, was Spanish and worked at a bird sanctuary. Her father, Don Carpenter, was half-French and half-German and worked as a salesman.
Carpenter trained in classical ballet since she was 5. She was part of a performing arts group in the Las Vegas area since she was 9. She studied at the ‘Bishop Gorman High School’ until her family moved to Playas de Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico. She was 15 at the time. After a brief stay in Mexico, Carpenter joined the ‘Bonita Vista High School’ in San Diego, before transferring to the ‘Chula Vista School of the Creative and Performing Arts,’ in Chula Vista, California.
After graduating in 1988, Carpenter went on a Europe tour. Upon her return to San Diego, Carpenter worked as an attendant at a video store, as an aerobics instructor, and in the real-estate business. Given her training in classical ballet, Carpenter performed as a cheerleader for the ‘San Diego Chargers’ in 1991.
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In 1992, Carpenter decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue higher studies, with no perceivable plans of working in the entertainment industry at the time. She was noticed by a commercial agent at ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ where she waited tables to save for her college education. This was a pivotal moment in Carpenter’s life.
She featured in over 20 commercials and had a 2-year association with ‘Secret’ antiperspirants. During this time, Carpenter appeared in theater productions such as ‘No, No, Nanette’ and ‘Welcome Home, Soldier.’
She stepped into the world of TV with ‘Baywatch’ in 1994. Though she appeared in only one episode of ‘Baywatch,’ her work resulted in Aaron Spelling casting her as series lead ‘Ashley Green’ in the short-lived teen drama ‘Malibu Shores’ in 1996. Though the series lasted only for 10 episodes, it catapulted her to fame.
In 1996, while she was still shooting for ‘Malibu Shores,’ Carpenter auditioned for the titular role on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ However, Joss Whedon had a different plan for her. During her high-school days, Carpenter’s peers often mistook her for a high-headed girl. This perception might have prompted the creators of the show to cast her as the sharp-tongued, insolent ‘Cordelia Chase,’ instead of the main character. Although she was a little discouraged by the casting decision, initially, Carpenter is nothing but grateful to have played a character with multiple shades.
After playing ‘Cordelia’ for 2 years (1997–1999) on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ she was offered a bigger scope and was cast as ‘Angel,’ a spin-off of the original show. She dedicated 5 years (1999–2004) to this character, before leaving the show in its fourth season, in 2004. Carpenter returned on the show one last time, in the 100th episode, to give some “closure” to the viewers.
Carpenter made guest appearances on some of the most popular shows of the time, during and after ‘Angel.’ She played ‘Serena Lockner’ in four episodes of ‘Miss Match’ in 2003, joined the ‘Charmed’ cast as ‘Kyra’ for a three-episode stint in 2004, and acted in two telefilms: ‘See Jane Date’ (2003) and ‘Like Cats and Dogs’ (2004).
In 2005, she joined the cast of the noir mystery drama ‘Veronica Mars,’ as ‘Kendall Casablancas,’ a recurring character. After a run of 11 episodes, Carpenter left the show, since her character had become redundant. She acted in four telefilms in 2006, namely, ‘Flirting with Danger,’ ‘Voodoo Moon,’ ‘Cheaters' Club,’ and ‘Relative Chaos.’
For the next few years, Carpenter kept herself busy with one-episode roles in series such as ‘Back to You’ (2007), ‘Big Shots’ (2008), ‘CSI’ (2009), ‘Legend of the Seeker’ (2009), ‘Burn Notice’ (2011), and ‘Supernatural’ (2011). She had a three-episode stint in ‘Greek,’ between 2007 and 2009, and a guest appearance in 2011.
She also worked in a few telefilms, such as ‘House of Bones’ (2009), ‘Crash Site: A Family in Danger’ (2011), ‘Deadly Sibling Rivalry’ (2011), ‘A Trusted Man’ (2011), and ‘Haunted High’ (2012), before earning a leading role in the teen mystery ‘The Lying Game’ in 2012.
In 2013, Carpenter began hosting a reality show named ‘Surviving Evil’ on ‘Investigation Discovery.’ The contents of the pilot episode shocked her fans and the industry, as she herself appeared on it as a survivor. For the first time, Carpenter spoke about a horrific story from her personal life, which changed a lot of perceptions about her.
Carpenter continues to appear on TV, primarily in guest roles. Some of her recent TV projects are ‘Chicago P.D.’ (2016), ‘Lucifer’ (2016), ‘Criminal Minds’ (2017), and ‘9-1-1’ (2019).
She was the voice of ‘Simone’ in the series ‘Hey Arnold!’ She also provided voice to the character ‘Cordelia Chase’ in the video game based on ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’
She produced a few episodes of ‘Surviving Evil’ and the TV movie ‘Mommy's Secret.’
Family Life & Personal Life
Carpenter married Damian Hardy on October 5, 2002, in Las Vegas. She gave birth to her son, Donovan Charles Hardy, on March 24, 2003. However, after separating in 2007, the couple got divorced in July 2008.
In 1991, Carpenter and her two friends were attacked by 29-year-old police officer Henry Hubbard Jr. at Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego. Hubbard held Carpenter at gunpoint and instructed her to tie up both her friends. She bravely refused to follow his instructions, giving ample time for her friends to tackle Hubbard. Both her friends and Hubbard suffered superficial gun-shot wounds. Hubbard was later taken into custody. Carpenter saved a crucial piece of evidence, a police-issue flashlight, which helped in securing a 56-year prison sentence for the serial rapist.