Singer and actress Nell Carter is remembered by most for her roll in the 1980s sitcom Gimme a Break. In that role she received Emmy and Golden Globe award nominations. But before television she won a Tony Award for her performance in Ain’t Misbehavin’ and later won an Emmy Award for reprising that role on television.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Carter was one of nine children. She overcame personal adversity to find her way into show business.
Adversity returned to Carter’s life after Gimme a Break. In the early 1980s, she attempted suicide and enter a drug detoxification program in 1985. In 1992, she had surgery to repair two aneurysms. She declared bankruptcy in 1995 and again in 2002 and endured three miscarriages.
During a particularly turbulent time in her life, Carter said she went to a Liza Minelli concert. Minelli saw Carter in the audience and realized she was in distress. She sent her sister Lorna Luft to go take Carter backstage. Minelli and Luft helped Carter get into a rehab program where she successfully conquered her cocaine problem.
Carter died on January 23, 2003 from heart disease and complications from diabetes. She was 54.
Carter was also a great gospel singer, and frequently sang on “Gimme a Break.”