Nell Carter Biography

Nell CarterClaim to Fame: Actress (Gimme a Break!)
DOB: September 13, 1948
Date of Death: January 23, 2003
Diabetes Type: 2

Nell Carter, then Nell Ruth Hardy, was born September 13, 1948 in Birmingham Alabama. She was one of nine children and grew up at home with her mother and father. Her childhood was no fairy tale though. Her father was electrocuted and killed while Nell was still young, and then at the age of 16 she was raped at gunpoint. After this tragic incident, Nell became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter, Tracy.

Nells early passion for singing gave her a positive distraction and outlet. She performed in many youth groups, church choirs, on the gospel circuit, and on local radio.

At 19, Nell moved to New York and studied at Bill Russells School of Drama from 1970 to 1973. She made money by singing at the Rainbow Room, Sweeneys, cafes, and other venues. She finally made her Broadway debut in Soon a musical that included such faces as Peter Allen and Barry Bostwick. Nell also performed in Dude (1972), Miss Moffat (1974), Be Kind to People Week (1975), and Dont Bother Me, I Cant Cope (1976).

Nell caught her big break in 1978 when she was cast in Aint Misbehavin alongside many famous performers. It ran for nearly four years during which Nell collected many awards the Theatre World, Drama Desk, an Emmy, Obie, and Tony. In 1982, the show was taped for TV, and then in 1988 the show visited Broadway again with all five performers reunited.

With Nells success came some chaotic times. She attempted suicide in the early 1980s and then entered a drug rehabilitation center around 1985. She went through 2 divorces and 3 miscarriages. She declared bankruptcy once in 1995 and again in 2002.

Nell began appearing in many low-budget films and TV specials. She co-starred in Hangin with Mr. Cooper, was featured in the daytime soap Ryans Hope, and also appeared in The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. Her biggest break however came with the NBC sitcom Gimme a Break! (1981). She was cast as the straightforward, no funny business housekeeper of a white family. This role earned Nell two Emmy nominations for Best Actress in a Comedy. In the mid 1990s she was back at the top of her game and performing on Broadway again. This time she played Miss Hannigan in the revival of Annie.

Nell Carter survived much in her life, from her troubled early childhood and her drug afflicted years, to two brain aneurisms. However, on January 23, 2003 Nell died from heart disease complicated by diabetes. She left behind her partner Ann Kaser, and her three children.

Find more entertainers with diabetes.

Reviewed by dLife staff 12/13.

Last Modified Date: January 16, 2014

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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