×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Transformation Of Jennifer Carpenter From Childhood To Dexter

The end of a good TV series is always hard to deal with, especially for fans who stick around for a show's entirety. Thankfully — or not, depending on who you are — revivals and reboots exist to give popular franchises another swing at success. Multiple revivals of popular series have already debuted this year, with "Gossip Girl" and "iCarly" proving to live up to their predecessors.

Another controversial revival on the horizon is Showtime's "Dexter," based on the titular serial killer. Though the show ended in 2013, a ninth season is slated to premiere this Fall, and fans are pretty much split. "Dexter" is known for its moments that went too far, including  when Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) foster sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) confesses her love for him. Carpenter's casting in the revival has also caused fans some concern since Deb died at the end of the last season, so it looks like we'll have to wait and see how they bring her back.

For now, let's take a look back in time at Carpenter's transformation, from childhood up until her starring role in "Dexter."

Jennifer Carpenter had a humble start

According to The Toronto Star, Carpenter was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and went to Catholic schools before joining the Walden Theater Conservatory. Her parents never pressured her into the arts — instead, she found her love of acting on her own. She told Richard Ouzounian of the Toronto Star, "I committed at a very young age to live an extraordinary life. To be aware of my choices, and my trajectory. And the folks in my home town all hoped and believed in me." She went on to describe Jon Jory, the founder of the Actor's Theatre of Louisville, as "a friend and one of the very first directors I ever worked with," which helped cement her life goals.

Carpenter went on to study theatre at Juilliard, the prestigious performing arts university. In an interview with Broadway Buzz, Carpenter discussed her time in the program, saying, "My first day at Juilliard, they said, 'If you have a backup plan, you should go execute it now,' and I didn't have one. When I got into Juilliard, my Dad said, 'Well if it doesn't work out, I can always get you on at Ford,' and that was actually really nice, a strange but comforting safety net. But I still don't have a plan B!"

Thankfully it doesn't look like she needed a backup plan as she's continued to be a working actor since the early 2000s.

She was in a Broadway show with big stars

Before she graduated from Juilliard, Carpenter landed a role in the 2002 Broadway revival of "The Crucible." Not only is it impressive to have a Broadway show on your résumé while still a student, but Carpenter got to rub shoulders with two of the biggest stars in Hollywood — Liam Neeson and Laura Linney. Carpenter played the role of Mary Warren, a servant to the Proctor family (whose matriarch and patriarch were played by Linney and Neeson, respectively).

"I loved working on that show so much I would show up every day for rehearsals, whether I was called or not," Carpenter confessed to The Toronto Star. "And on opening night, I stood there during the bows, holding Laura's hand on one side and Arthur [Miller]'s on the other. I really didn't think it could get any better than that."

Carpenter's early success is a perfect example of her natural talent, though it's clear she's also worked hard to hone her skills. After graduating from college, she took her talents to Los Angeles to try her hand at film and television and found success there as well.

She was in several early 2000s movies

Carpenter started her career in Hollywood with several small film roles. She was in the 2002 drama "People Are Dead" alongside Angela Bettis and Kristen Bell as well as another 9/11-centered drama entitled "Ash Tuesday." In 2004, Carpenter was in "D.E.B.S.," an action-comedy about college-aged women who are training to be spies at a secret paramilitary academy. Carpenter was credited with the role of Hysterical Student — not quite Oscar-worthy, but a fun project to have on her résumé.

Life in Los Angeles was hard for Carpenter at first, as her beginning roles were usually small and she had to hold up other jobs as she waited for her big break. She told Broadway Buzz, "I went out there with two suitcases and I lived on lawn furniture in the guest house of a friend of a friend who didn't know I was staying there. When he came to town, I would go sleep on someone's couch. It was pretty terrible."

Thankfully, Carpenter landed one of her biggest early roles in 2004, only a few years after her cross-country move.

She's known for her role in White Chicks

"White Chicks" is an underrated gem of the early aughts. The Wayans brothers comedy centers on Kevin (Shawn Wayans) and Marcus Anthony Copeland II (Marlon Wayans), two Black FBI agents who go undercover for an assignment. The twist is that they have to disguise themselves as two spoiled white women named Tiffany and Brittany Wilson and blend in with an upper-class socialite group to get to the bottom of a kidnapping case.

Carpenter played a friend to the real Wilson sisters. Carpenter's character, Lisa Anderson, is perhaps most famous for her meltdown scene in a dressing room with Brittany/Kevin. In the scene, Lisa snaps and goes on a tangent about her insecurities, both shocking Kevin and giving viewers some of the best one-liners of the film.

It turns out that Carpenter actually met the Wayans brothers before she was cast in their movie. "I waited tables," she told Broadway Buzz. "I actually waited on the Wayans brothers the day before I auditioned for White Chicks, and they didn't remember me at my audition but they gave me my first job out there. They taught me a lot about working in front of a camera. They're very patient and very ridiculous. And very good tippers."

She earned critical acclaim in The Exorcism of Emily Rose

In 2005, Carpenter starred in "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," a legal drama horror film inspired by the true story of Anneliese Michel, a young woman who died after undergoing several exorcisms. Carpenter herself played the lead role of Emily Rose, a college student who is believed to be possessed by demons. The horror narrative is intertwined with a courtroom storyline in which the priest who performed the exorcism (Tom Wilkinson) is on trial for Emily Rose's death.

Carpenter received overwhelming critical praise for her role, including the Scream Award for breakout performance, MTV Movie + TV Award for best frightened performance, and a Fangoria Chainsaw Award nomination for best supporting actress (per IMDb).

Life on set of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" was understandably upsetting at times — and Carpenter almost passed out during a pivotal scene. "During the exorcism in the barn — I wasn't sure if I was allergic to hay or not," she explained to Dread Central. "I took an antihistamine and I didn't know that they make your blood thin and your heart race. So I was spending all day screaming and I almost fainted once. Right before I fainted I came to and opened my eyes and I didn't know where I was or who anyone was so I took a breather and started up again. ... It was so scary for me how I was feeling that it scares me now."