Alum spotlight: Michelle N. Carter (BFA ’93)

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Michelle N. Carter, BFA in Performance, 1993           

Michelle remembers watching her mother on Richmond stages in Purlie and The Amen Corner, which clarified her commitment to acting at an early age. “One time, I faked being sick to stay home and watch a TV special on how to get your kid into acting.”

She wanted to go to VCU because her cousin from Brooklyn was there and his roommate was Jason Butler Harner (also profiled this month!) “I met Jason before VCU and he was so sweet. When I went on a field trip to VCU to see The Importance of Being Earnest, Jason was on crew and he came out and gave me a big hug!” They remain close, “He’s getting ready to help me prepare for audition.”

fellow alum Jason Butler Harner with Michelle and her daughter Hailey in 2017.

After graduating, she waited tables and then got a job as a bank teller. Turns out it was Dr. James Parker’s bank (he was one of her professors at VCU and played Lady Bracknell in Earnest). Dr. Parker marched over to the manager and said, “You better take care of this one.” As it happened, it didn’t matter because she soon got hired by Theatre IV.

Michelle and Charlynn Walker in Richmond

She and her actor/husband, Cliff Todd, met on stage during Theatre IV’s production of The Music Man. (They actually attended the same middle school, but didn’t know each other.) They were married in 2003 and had their daughter Hailey in 2016. She’s named for Hailey, Idaho, which was the hometown for Company of Fools, where she and Cliff have worked on several shows.

Cliff Todd, Michelle, and Rodney Hobbs in The Music Man at Theatre IV

Michelle was out of the game in 2005 for surgery, but her first role back in 2007 was in Grey’s Anatomy. Since then, she’s been in a number of TV shows, including Chuck, Castle and Venice, The Series—a web series written by Kim Turrisi, who created the character of Michelle King for her (the show won a daytime Emmy).

Michelle in an episode of Castle, 2010.

Cliff now works in HR for Providence Health System, as Michelle commented, “someone needs to pay the mortgage.” He’s also still prepping his one-man tribute to Bobby Darin, which was supposed to premiere in July 2020, but was postponed for COVID.

Michelle on set of The Upshaws, October 2020.

When Michelle is on set, she still hears Gary Hopper. “I remember working one scene with Ben Hersey (BFA ’93) for Fences, and Gary made us go deeper and think about, ‘who are these people and why do I want the audience to care?’ It was the hardest work I’d ever done.”

Michelle in the Singleton Center in 2019

In January 2020, Michelle starred in Sister President, a web series about two sisters running our country. She was most recently in the movie Mass, which premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. It was partially filmed in Hailey, so “I was thrilled to work on it. I never thought I’d work with these people and I can’t wait to see where my career goes from here.” Mass is scheduled to open in October. Here’s an article about it in Variety.

Filming Mass in November 2019.

Header image (clockwise from left): Michelle’s first headshot taken by Eric Dobbs; Michelle on the set of S.W.A.T. in August 2020; Michelle and her daughter Hailey in Hailey, Idaho in 2019; Michelle with her husband Cliff and daughter Hailey as a baby.

Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the July 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.