Though Charisma Carpenter refers to her first name as an “absolute curse” (it was derived from an ill-conceived Avon perfume line), it certainly hasn’t proved detrimental to her career. Born in Las Vegas, NV, Carpenter had exhibited an interest in the performing arts by the age of five, when she began studying classical ballet. Though her family moved to Mexico in 1985, the fast-paced, entertainment-laden Las Vegas atmosphere had already had a profound effect on a then 15-year-old Charisma — so much so that she embarked on an hour-long, daily commute to San Diego, where she attended the prestigious School of the Performing Arts.
Carpenter had somewhat drastically changed her career plans after her graduation, when she moved to San Diego and took on a series of odd jobs, ranging from a video clerk to a member of the San Diego Chargers’ cheerleading squad, in hopes of funding a college education. The non-aspiring actress was hoping to become an English teacher. To the eventual delight of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans nationwide, however, this wasn’t to be. While waiting tables on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, Carpenter was discovered by a commercial agent who promptly recommended she continue attending acting school. Her penchant for show business piqued once again, Carpenter decided to test her chops at the reputable Playhouse West, where she spent 18 months honing her skills. While there, Carpenter appeared in series of commercials, though her first true television role wouldn’t occur until much later, in 1995, when she made a guest appearance on Baywatch.
Seven long years after dedicating herself to acting, Carpenter managed to land a starring role on prime-time soap guru Aaron Spelling’s Malibu Shores opposite Keri Russell. The show, however, was short-lived, and Carpenter was once again left with no solid job of which to speak, despite sporadic appearances on Boy Meets World and Pacific Blue. In 1997, Carpenter’s agent found the then very much aspiring actress two separate auditions for a role the same show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a teen-oriented horror comedy series based on 1992’s much less successful movie of the same name. One of the auditions was for Buffy, the intrepid vampire slayer, while the other was for Cordelia Chase, snooty high school student extraordinaire. As fate would have it, Sarah Michelle Gellar would win the part of Buffy, while Carpenter would ignite many an Internet fan site as Cordelia. So popular was her role that in 1999, when the Buffy spin-off Angel was launched, Carpenter was able to continue and expand the role.
Though the series couldn’t last forever, Carpenter continued to act after its cancellation. In 2004, she starred in What Boys Like, a sex comedy directed by Lawrence Gay, and played a reoccurring role in NBC’s short-lived Alicia Silverstone vehicle Miss Match. When not acting, Carpenter enjoys a variety of outdoor activities — rock climbing, horseback riding, biking, and rollerblading, to name a few — and spending time with her son.