Brooklyn-born, African-American actress Lisa Nicole Carson rose to prominence as the former girlfriend of Eriq La Salle on the hit NBC series “ER” (1996-2001), from which she was handed an Image nomination. The multifaceted player gained even more recognition and popularity for playing Calista Flockhart's pal in the successful Fox show “Ally McBeal” (1997-2002). For her efforts, she netted three Image nominations, a Q nomination and a Screen Actors Guild Award, an honor she shared with costars Calista Flockhart, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Lucy Liu and others. On the big screen, Carson has had roles in “Jason's Lyric” (1994), “Devil in a Blue Dress” (1995), “Love Jones” (1997), “Eve's Bayou” (1997) and “Life” (1999). Outside of acting, Carson is a singer.
Discharged from “ER” and “Ally McBeal” because of her “unpleasant attitude,” Carson made headlines in 2000 with her arrest after screaming in the L'Ermitage Hotel, where she was charged with “purposely interfering with a legitimate business establishment.”
Childhood and Family:
Lisa Nicole Carson was born on July 12, 1969, in Brooklyn, New York. As a teenager, she moved to Gainesville, Florida, and attended F. W. Buchholz High School. Upon graduating in June 1987, she returned to New York to live with her grandmother and try her hand at acting. She attended Hunter College of the City University of New York (CUNY) in Manhattan. 17-year-old Lisa represented Florida at the 1986 America's Junior Miss scholarship/talent pageant and was placed runner-up, thanks largely to her singing talent.
After spending her adolescence in Florida, Lisa Nicole Carson launched her acting career in New York City and found employment at the Negro Ensemble Company and the Young Playwrights Festival. Her theater credits include “Hey Little Walter,” “Tar Beach Incidentals,” “Club 12,” “Work It” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” She first appeared on television in 1991 when she landed a guest spot in the series “Law & Order.” She then scored a regular gig the following year in “The Apollo Comedy Hour,” a syndicated sketch comedy show set at New York City's Apollo Theater.
In 1993, Carson made her big screen debut in “Let's Get Bizzee,” opposite Doug E. Fresh. She followed it up with supporting parts in “Jason's Lyric” (1994), which was directed by Doug McHenry and starred Allen Payne and Jada Pinkett Smith, and the Denzel Washington vehicle “Devil in a Blue Dress” (1995), in which she portrayed a singer named Coretta James. Also in 1995, she had a costarring role on the Fox pilot “Divas,” playing Jewel.
Carson's big breakthrough arrived in 1996 when she won the recurring role of Carla Reece on the hit medical series “ER.” As the one-time lover of Dr. Peter Benton (played by Eriq La Salle), she was nominated for an Image Award in 1998 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, but the producers and writers did not renew her contract when it ended in 2001 because of her “blistering attitude.”
The next year, Carson was hired as a regular on the David E. Kelley created series “Ally McBeal,” starring Calista Flockhart. The show went on to become a hit and Carson, who played Renee Radnick, the roommate of Ally, earned three Image nominations (1999, 2000 and 2002) and a Q nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Quality Comedy Series (1998) for her performance. She also co-won a 1999 Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. The same year she was released from “ER,” Carson was also fired from “Ally McBeal.”
In between the television series, Carson appeared with Julie Warner, Larry Gilliard Jr, Terry Kinney, Rosanna Arquette and Harvey Fierstein in the comedy “White Lies” (1996), acted in director/writer Theodore Witcher's “Love Jones” (1997) and was memorable as the femme fatale in the drama “Eve's Bayou” (1997), with Samuel L Jackson. She returned to the wide screen two years later to portray the girlfriend of Martin Lawrence in Ted Demme's “Life” (1999). On the small screen, she guest starred in the shows “Damon” and “Getting Personal” (both 1998) and costarred with Tom Skerritt, Sharon Lawrence and Charles S. Dutton in the television film “Aftershock: Earthquake in New York” (1999).
After almost a year, Carson was invited back to “Ally McBeal” to reprise her role in a 2002 episode called “Bygones.” Since then, she has withdrawn from the public eye and put acting on the backburner. Some sources report she suffers from mental illness and is being cared for by her family.
Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, “Ally McBeal,” 1999