What Happened to Lisa Nicole Carson?

by Craig JC

lisa16During the early part of this decade, sistergirl had the distinction of being the only African-American actress with enough steelo to star in two hit TV series — Ally McBeal and ER – simultaneously.

With elegant but bit parts in The Cosby Show and Law & Order, in the 1990s, the Brooklyn, New York-born brick house known as Lisa Nicole Carson became a princess of the small screen.

Her star rose higher as she was cast in feature-length films Love Jones, Jason’s Lyric, and Eve’s Bayou.

But what happened to Carson, the serious character actor with a star as bright and fiery as her male counterpart, Tupac Shakur?

The woman that played a then-rare-for-its-time steamy scene with Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress (“You hittin’ my spot!”) has reportedly taken time away from entertainment. The official line is that she is being “cared for by family,” due to mental health issues.

Hints of Carson’s illness first surfaced in 2000 after a fateful incident at the L’Ermitage Hotel in Los Angeles. The morning before the Grammys were set to begin, news reports indicated an inebriated Carson yelled obscenities while at the bar. She was charged with “interfering with a legal business establishment” and “not leaving the premises” before being released to the custody of some associates.

Reports differed on her apparel or if she visited the bar twice that morning, but some witnesses said she had on wrinkled jeans while others stated that she had on a bathrobe. In any event, she was arrested for disorderly conduct and whisked away by her family into a mental health facility. That incident followed an eight-day binge in a hotel where it was reported she drank alcohol and smoke weed. Soon she was admitted to a hospital for an “undisclosed medical condition.”

Star Magazine that year reportedly quoted Carson as saying she had “smoked a joint laced with PCP,” and that the actress was working to get it together. Indications were that that was her second stay that year in a mental institution. In July of 2001 it was reported that she had been in a restaurant “sitting alone, talking to herself, and then she locked herself in the bathroom for 45 minutes,” a restaurant employee told Rolling Stone Magazine in 2001.

Police led her away but the producers of ER killed her character off in a car accident without even bringing her in for a final taping. Carson was treated in the mental health unit at Manhattan’s famed Lenox Hill Hospital, where such stars as Barry Manilow, Elizabeth Taylor and Winston Churchill have also received care. Earlier this year, British actress Natasha Richardson, who sustained fatal injuries while skiing, died there.

But what exactly was it that ailed Carson?

Reports have surfaced that Carson suffered from either bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The two illnesses are similar but there are differences. Bipolar sufferers experience extremes in mood and temperament, capable of exhibiting a startling nonchalance one minute and a raging meltdown the next. A lot of people mistake schizophrenia for split personality disorder or dissociative identity disorder, but it is not the same.

One of the major hallmarks of schizophrenia patients is that they almost always suffer auditory and even visual hallucinations with ranging degrees of paranoia. Strange occurrences on the set of both “McBeal” and “ER” doomed her in the closed world of television.

But is that the end for Carson? Thankfully, no.

While traits of both bipolar and schizophrenia can be hereditary or genetic, recreational drugs tend to worsen the symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, sufferers of bipolar and schizophrenia can live normal lives, provided they stick to a regimen of medication for a certain time frame dependent on the individual. In other words, we just may see Lisa Nicole Carson on the small screen – or the big screen –again.

To learn more about bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or other mental health illnesses, contact NARSAD, the world’s leading charity dedicated to mental health research www.narsad.org.

  • http://seenbutnotheardnola.blogspot.com Denise

    I always liked her as an actress and loved that a black woman with such a voluptuous figure was such a rising star back then. I hope she’s able to make a comeback.

  • hidaya

    I loved her talent and charm! Black Hollywood needs Lisa Nicole Carson to return.

  • Shena

    She had the best one liners in Love Jones. Delivery was superb. “Darius is officially black history …”
    Love her. Wish her well. Didn’t she play opposite Treach in Jason’s Lyric too?

  • Dora

    Thank you for bringing light to mental illness and explaining the differences. So many people are often scared to talk about it which brings about a lack of treatment.

  • http://bettychambers.com Betty Chambers

    I miss her. She was one of the first to sport her natural beautiful hair and she seemed such a free spirit. I hope she gets better.

  • ayomide

    oh my, I loved her! I wanted to be as beautiful as she was when I was younger. I am sorry to hear about her mental illness and hope that she will get the help she needs. Thanks for the article and letting her fans know what happened with her.

  • http://nukynk.blogspot.com/ Natalie

    I just watched Love Jones a couple of days ago, I hope she gets well. She is an amazing talent!

  • lee

    great article! I hope that she makes a come back. i’ve always liked her in movies.

  • Liah

    She was so great in Love Jones.

    For the longest time I had no idea that was her acting alongside Jada in “Jason’s Lyric”… talk about a total change and creating a memorable character.

  • http://www.glennishathewriter.com Glennisha Morgan

    Wow. I was actually wondering what happened to her as well. Mental Illness is something that I think so many people suffer from and sometimes we just don’t know it. She’s also not the only “star” that suffers. Baatin from Slum Village who recently passed away also suffered from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. I know sometimes people often joke about these disorders but, they are very much real. Seeing someone like Baatin pass away and reading this article about Nicole just really makes me have more compassion.

  • J.G.

    Mental Illness is one thing, taking drugs is something that shouldn’t be excused, there are many women who would have given a limb to take her place. Sad indeed.

  • Fatimah

    I’m glad Clutch is speaking about mental illness. My PhD research is concerned with the varying and differing mental health needs of black people (with a Canadian focus), and it’s a huge but oftentimes hushed issue in our communities. Good work!

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  • Ashley

    Are traditional shamans in the western world mentally ill? We need holistic (which include spirituality) ways of balancing people of colour, mind, body and spirit.

  • ceecee

    Wow, I didn’t know, this is so sad. I’m not sure it’s something you completely recover from but I do hope she gets to a place where it can be managed.

  • wildflowernoris

    I agree with Dora, mental illness is not talked about alot in the black community and this needs to change immediately. And there is nothing to be ashamed about it also.

  • http://usweetpea.wordpress.com Chai

    this was a great article! It gave me hope that one day we will see her back on the big screen doing amazing things and continuing to inspire all females to rock hard. She always carried a fierce presence no matter the role…I truly hope she finds her way back to her own kind of happiness

  • http://www.twitter.com/littleoneent LittleOne

    it’s great that you wrote this article, firstly for high lighting the issue of mental illness as it’s an area a lot of people wish to ignore or would chose not to address.

    And secondly to remind us about Lisa who I must say is a beautiful, and talented actress, I look forward to and wait to see her back on the big screen again.

  • Willie P.

    Thank You for that update, I’ve been wondering about sister-girl and I truly hope to see her on screen again.
    God bless.

  • joshua

    My prayers are with her. She is really great talent & extremely beautiful.I am a big fan & really miss her on the screen. I recently watched “LOVE JONES” and really what great talent. Hope to see her soon.

  • CLC

    I often wondered what happened to her. I loved her She was beautiful and talented. I recently thought of her watching an old episode of ER. I would lo to see her.

  • Cc

    She was wonderful on ER. I heard that she had some type of mental breakdown and they had to write her off ER and Ally McBeal. I missed her on ER. Hope she gets well soon, also, Maia Campbell is suffering from Biplar. Her mom wrote a book called 72 Hour Hold which curtails the disease. Mental Illness is something that needs to be talked about more.

  • J Dub

    Thank you for this article. It is very well written and informative. Lisa Nicole Carson is a uniquely talented woman with so much fire that comes through the screen, no matter what role she’s playing. I will pray that she is healed and that Hollywood will open its arms to her once more.

  • g-net

    i just watched the movie devil in blue dress which made me wonder what happened to ms carson. it’s a shame she is so sick because she is such a talented actress. i hope she is being well cared for and makes a comeback one day.

  • OA

    I loved her rack. Please make a comeback.

    - European whiteboy-

  • http://yahoo.com ursula t spaulding

    we will pray that lisa nicole carson gets better soon and comes back to the acting world she is a great talent and is missed……….

  • Bob

    Very sad. She was a really nice person. I graduated high school with her in 1987 from BHS. I recall she was in drama and was away oftern during our senior year. Little did I know she would become a famous actress. Praying for the best for her. And Hollywood, leave her alone. She is a nice, regular person.

  • Maartje

    So sad to hear about her illness. I understand what one of the other posters said about drugs, but so often people with mental health issues try to self-medicate, so perhaps one shouldn’t judge. Hopefully she now has the help she needs.

  • Miss Jae

    Great article! I always wonder what happened to the sassy black girl from Ally McBeal!

  • pan

    I hope she is getting the support she needs; not just medication.

  • Simone

    Sending blessings to you and your family. Get better/well soon! we want to see you back on the screen. stay encouraged.

  • Lavish

    Forgot about her until now. Hope all is well and she come back to the craft she loves.

  • Queen504

    A very beautiful woman,I;ve always loved her and everything she did.Hope to see her back in great health!

  • Kendra

    I wish this beautiful sister nothing less than the very best. I miss seeing her face and being enchanted with her charisma and sass. Hopefully someone does a full hour interview with her. HELLO OPRAH!!!!

  • summersun

    I have just been catching up on “Ally McBeal” on the REELZ channel and remember how much I loved this show…Lisa Nicole’s Renee was a great character and she, as a person, had the most beautiful smile. I remember that there was something going on in her personal life where she had to leave the show, and “ER,” too at just about the same time. So sorry for her personal issues and wish Lisa Nicole all the best – it would be great to see her back on television and in the movies again!

  • Antonio

    I think this article was well-written and did a much better job of focusing on Lisa as a whole person and not just the giant pair of boobs that 99% of viewers saw her as. If I tried to write the article, I would’ve succumbed to that line of thinking too. I would have written “LISA NICOLE CARSON HAS GIANT GAZONGAS YOU GUYS OH MY GOSH LOOK AT THOSE BOOBS!”, so kudos on your restraint and your professionalism! P.S. – She does have some sweet tittays though!

  • johnny m

    i loved her character RENEE on ALLY MCBEAL. i loved that her character is the opposite of CALISTA FLOCKHART’s. i loved the way she delivered her lines. so seductive! i wish her well and would love to see her acting again.

  • Pema

    I totally forgot about her! Thanks for the reminder.

  • teri651

    I remember Lisa Nicole Carson as a very talented,beautiful and sexy Black actress. Every role she had was well acted. And yes she did have the best rack. I hope her family takes care of her. Her role in Jason’ Lyric was her coming out party to me. I hope to see her pretty smile soon again.

  • Shae

    This is so sad but not the end. I’m glad she’s getting help and hopefully she will continue on her path to master her skill. My mother is a paranoid schizophrenic and I’ve seen her struggle since I can remember.

    I’m praying for you Lisa Nicole Carson!!

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  • KikiMama


  • Danny

    When I was 15, I had the pleasure of knowing lisa while performing with the CityKids repertory. And let me just say that she has a heart of gold. I was insecure those days, but lisa had a way of making everyone feel special and valuable. I even asked her for her autograph and she asked why (this was before she had commercial success) and I said to her, “because you are going to be a big star someday.” I was so happy for her every time I saw her in a movie or t.v.

  • http://facebook Dana williams

    I will be Praying for Lisa and I know with God’s Help and Her Family she will Recover and Be Better and Stronger.

  • Nate Hinton

    Beautiful and talented sister. Praying that she finds a healing that would allow her to get back on screen. Also hoping that she leads the illegal drugs alone that can affect her disorder. We miss LNC.

  • http://crazydaysandnights.net none
  • shaft

    I understand her disorder but I believe that she can recover and I believe in her.I also know that the sister have a beautiful voice. MY prayers are with her and I hope she find her way to the right medication for a co-occurring disorder and to the rooms of NA for her chemical disorder. We be there waiting with open arms.
    We miss her on screen.

  • shaft

    I’m sorry to read about Lisa misfortune but I believe that she can recover because I believe in her. I also know that this sister have slamming voice. I’m praying that she get the right help for her co-occurring disorder and I hope find’s the rooms of NA for her chemical disorder. We’ll be there waiting with open arms. We do recover come on baby we got you. ((((((hugs))))))

  • http://Yahoo.com Sheila Johnson

    Lisa, have loved you since Ally McBeal and ER. I, too suffer from Bipolar disorder. I used to take medication, but it made me like a zombie. I have found peace with my prayers to God. I still sometimes have minor problems, but with God all things are possible. Love you still.

  • gina

    Misfortune?? What happened to her. Luv’d her!

  • M

    Saw a Denzel movie today and I was reminded of her ‘you hittin’ my spot’ scene with him. Sad to learn that such a beautiful woman is facing such a difficult road.

  • Karyl

    Wow! Please get well sista! I’ve been looking everywhere for you! Miss u in the light!

  • Dale

    God bless you sweaty!!! Just keep looking to the hill where your help comes from…

  • miss1young

    I always wondered what happened to the talented actress, hope she gets better soon and return to the big or little screen, she is truly missed talent!!!

  • Caramel96

    I am watching Jason’s Lyric and I saw you on the screen and I was wondering what you were up to these days. Whatever you are suffering from it can be managed. I have family members past and present that have dealt with mental issues. My auntie is in a facility where she is being taken care of and she still has an outgoing and bubbly personality and still makes me laugh til this day. Don’t give up. I am praying for you Girl

  • Ballur Blu

    Get well soon. Stay sweet, Sweetheart.

  • Kevin S.

    i remember Lisa from Apollo Comedy Hour originally i used to watch it from 1992-95 as well as the movie Jason’s Lyric which im watching right now . and also on Ally McBeal i thought that she was so fine

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