Birthday: September 13, 1948
Died At Age: 54
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: Nell Ruth Carter, Nell Ruth Hardy
Born in: Birmingham, Alabama
Famous as: Singer
Height: 4'11" (150 cm), 4'11" Females
Spouse/Ex-: George Krynicki (m. 1982 – div. 1992), Roger Larocque (m. 1992 – div. 1993)
father: Horace Hardy
mother: Edna Mae Hardy
children: Daniel Carter, Joshua Carter, Tracy Carter
Partner: Ann Kaser (?–2003)
Died on: January 23, 2003
place of death: Beverly Hills, California
U.S. State: Alabama, African-American From Alabama
education: A. H. Parker High School
Who was Nell Carter?
Nell Ruth Hardy, better known as Nell Carter, was an American actress and singer who garnered fame for portraying Nell Harper in the NBC sitcom ‘Gimme a Break!’ Her other important TV roles include Ethel Green in ‘Ryan’s Hope’, Sgt. Hildy Jones in ‘The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo’, and P.J. Moore in ‘Hangin' with Mr. Cooper’. An Alabama native, Hardy was part of her church choir and performed on a gospel radio show as a child. When she was 19 years old, she relocated to New York and performed at various coffee shops before landing her first Broadway role in 1971. In the ensuing seven years, she established herself on stage both as a singer and actor. In 1978, she made her transition to television with the telefilm ‘Cindy’. Carter made her big screen debut in 1979 in the musical comedy ‘Hair’, performing the tracks ‘Ain't Got No’ and ‘White Boys’. Over the course of her three-decade-long career, she had appeared in films like ‘The Proprietor, ‘Perfect Fit’, and ‘Back by Midnight’. The last film was released posthumously, about two years after her death.
Childhood & Early Life
Hardy was born on September 13, 1948, in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, to Horace and Edna Mae Hardy. She had eight siblings, including a brother named Bernard and a sister named Willie. At the age of two, she lost her father after he put his foot on a live power line.
Hardy sang in her church choir when she was a child. She also started performing on a local gospel radio show. At 15, she became associated with Renaissance Ensemble, a musical group that performed at local coffee houses and gay bars. On July 5, 1965, a man, whom she knew well, raped her on gunpoint. Hardy later found out that she was pregnant. Her daughter, Tracey, was born in 1966. Although she initially tried to take care of the child by herself, she eventually let Willie raise her.
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Career & Later Life
At 19, Hardy accompanied Renaissance Ensemble to New York City, where she changed her last name to Carter. She performed at coffee shops to support herself. In 1971, she made her debut appearance on Broadway as a member of the cast of rock opera ‘Soon’. She then worked with Bette Davis in the 1974 stage musical ‘Miss Moffat’. However, the show was shut down before it was introduced on Broadway. Some of her other Broadway credits were ‘Dude’ and ‘Annie’.
After making her TV debut in ‘Cindy’ in 1978, she portrayed Ethel Green in 11 episodes of the ABC soap opera ‘Ryan's Hope’ between 1978 and 1979. In her big-screen debut, Miloš Forman’s 1979 cinematic adaptation of ‘Hair’, she got the chance to demonstrate her incredible vocal talents. She sang two songs in the film, Ain't Got No’ and ‘White Boys’.
In 1980, she started playing Sgt. Hildy Jones in NBC’s action-adventure sitcom ‘The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo’. The spin-off of another NBC series, ‘B. J. and the Bear’, the show was cancelled after two seasons. In the ABC sitcom ‘Hangin' with Mr. Cooper’, Carter portrayed Pamela Jane "P.J." Moore, the principal of Oakbridge High School, in seasons two and three.
She shared screen space with Jeanne Moreau, Sean Young, and Sam Waterston in Ismail Merchant’s 1996 drama film ‘The Proprietor’. She was cast as Mrs Gordy in the 2001 comedy thriller ‘Perfect Fit’. Her final project was the comedy-drama ‘Back by Midnight’ (2005).
Carter won a Theatre World Award, a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, and a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in ‘Ain't Misbehavin'’ in 1978. In 1982, she received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement – Special Class for the televised version of the musical.
Carter essayed the role of the series protagonist Nellie Ruth "Nell" Harper in the NBC sitcom ‘Gimme a Break!’ (1981-87). Nell is a former singer who becomes the housekeeper for the Kanisky family. For her performance, Carter received two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations.
Family & Personal Life
Carter considered herself to be a Pentecostal. At the height of her career, when she had started playing Nell Harper in ‘Gimme a Break’, her personal life was in complete disarray. In the early 1980s, she tried to commit suicide. She had been addicted to cocaine for a long while and self-admitted to a drug detoxification facility around 1985. In 1989, she lost her brother Bernard to AIDS. She had to file for bankruptcy twice, once in 1995 and again in 2002.
Her first husband was mathematician and lumber executive George Krynicki, to whom she was married from May 16, 1982, to September 1, 1989. Besides Tracey, she was the mother of Joshua and Daniel, both of whom were adopted. She exchanged wedding vows with her second husband, musician and composer Roger Larocque, on May 14, 1992, only to divorce him a year later. Carter endured three miscarriages in her life.
Carter never spoke about her bisexuality publicly. In the later years of her life, she was living with a woman named Ann Kaser. On January 23, 2003, Carter passed away at her Beverly Hills home.