In the late 1990s, Lisa Nicole Carson was on two of the most popular shows on television, playing Renée on Ally McBeal and Carla on ER. And that was in addition to the many movies that she starred in during the decade. But at the beginning of the 2000s, Carson took a step back from her acting career to focus on her mental health. Now 52, Carson has started acting again in recent years and has been very open about her experience with being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Read on to find out more about her life today.
In addition to playing Ally’s roommate Renée Raddick on Ally McBeal and Peter Benton’s (Eriq La Salle) girlfriend Carla Reese on ER, Carson also appeared in a number of movies throughout the ’90s. She was in Jason’s Lyric, Devil in a Blue Dress, Love Jones, and Eve’s Bayou, among others.
In an interview with People in 2015, Carson shared that she had her first psychotic breakdown in 1997 and went on to have “too many breakdowns to count.” In 2000, she made headlines after she suffered an episode at a hotel in New York City and was hospitalized. It was after this that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She returned to Ally McBeal afterward, but then her contract wasn’t renewed for the following season.
“From the time I stepped away from show business [in 2001] until now, I’ve been on a long, very complicated and challenging journey,” she told People. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it out.”
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In 2015, Carson opened up about her mental health in an article for Essence. She explained, “After the incident at the hotel, I was in utter shock.” She said that she didn’t stick with the medication she was prescribed at first. In an interview with OWN’s Where Are They Now? in 2016, she said, “I want people to understand that, not only did I hit rock bottom, I hit rock bottom, like, 20 times. Somehow I just fought my way back.”
Eventually, Carson moved back home and began focusing completely on her health. “Ally McBeal was my last Hollywood gig,” she told Essence. “After that I moved back to my hometown of New York City and stayed there for more than a decade. During that time I worked with many doctors to get as much control of my life as I could and experimented with various treatments including mood stabilizers and antipsychotic medications.”
In 2012, Carson returned to acting when she reprised her Ally McBeal character Renée on the show Harry’s Law, which was also created by David E. Kelley. Then, in 2017, she appeared in the miniseries The New Edition Story.
Carson talked to Essence about one of the positives that came from pausing her career and shared her hopes of getting it going again.
“The best thing about taking a step back was spending time with my mother,” Carson said. “She passed in 2011. What brought me through has been medicine, prayer, music and my dog, Josephine. I see a psychiatrist and a psychologist regularly and now just take anti-anxiety medication. I’ve returned to L.A. to give my career another try. I’m going on auditions and handling rejection better than I did in the past.
She also mentioned the Ally McBeal reunion that happened the TV Land Awards in 2015. “It was wonderful getting dressed up and seeing everyone,” Carson remembered.
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