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‘Buffy’ Star Charisma Carpenter Says You Can’t Take the Vegas Out of a Vegas Girl

See the actress over the years, including her roles in 'Angel' and 'Veronica Mars'


It was a fortuitous guest spot in a swimsuit on Baywatch that caught the eye of legendary producer Aaron Spelling. As a result, Charisma Carpenter was soon cast on the prime time teen soap opera Malibu Shores in 1996, but her big break was yet to come.

Being cast as Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed the trajectory of the young actress’ life. For three seasons, Carpenter played alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy to help fight against the supernatural forces that plagued Sunnydale High’s students and town residents. 

Cordelia then became a series regular during the first four seasons of Angel, a spin-off of Buffy. In total, Charisma Carpenter portrayed Cordelia in 140 episodes across both shows. 

MUST READ: Catch Up With the Cast of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ — See the Stars Then and Now!

The early life of Charisma Carpenter

Charisma Carpenter in 1998
Charisma Carpenter in 1998Getty Images / Handout/Getty

Born in Las Vegas, Nevada — and named after an Avon perfume — Charisma Carpenter was part of a song and dance troupe that performed in the Las Vegas Valley when she was nine years old. At age 15, she moved with her family to Rosarito Beach in Baja California, Mexico and then to San Diego. 

To keep up with her dance studies, Carpenter commuted between Mexico and San Diego to take lessons at the Creative and Performing Arts School and,  upon graduation, packed her bags, traveled throughout Europe and eventually ended up back in San Diego. There she worked odd jobs followed by a stint as a cheerleader for the San Diego Chargers in 1991. 

That same year, she was attacked by serial rapist and San Diego police officer Henry Hubbard, Jr. In response, Carpenter relocated to Los Angeles to begin the next chapter in her life.

It was while waiting tables to save money for college that she was discovered by a commercial agent, who secured her more than 20 spots and that appearance on Baywatch.

MUST READ: Original ‘Baywatch’ Cast: See the Stars of the Iconic ’90s TV Show Then and Now

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer era

The actress in 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (1998)
Charisma Carpenter in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ (1998) WB

Her audition in 1996 for the title role of Buffy didn’t work out, but fate stepped in and she was cast as snobby yet popular high school student Cordelia Chase. Initially characterized as shallow, vain and self-centered, the character evolved as she gradually redeemed herself. This led to an even more prominent role for Cordelia alongside David Boreanaz in the spinoff, Angel. Although her character left that series in the fourth season, Carpenter returned for the 100th episode in the fifth and final year, the invitation coming after Gellar turned down the offer. 

MUST READ: From ‘Buffy’ to ‘Angel’ to ‘Bones’ Here Are David Boreanaz’s Best Movies and TV Shows

Life after Buffy

Charisma Carpenter in 'Charmed' (2004)
Charisma Carpenter in Charmed (2004) WB

The supernatural followed Carpenter when she made a guest appearance in the drama series Charmed, playing a psychic demon in three episodes. Other recurring appearances followed, most notably in 11 episodes of Veronica Mars.

Not surprisingly, Buffy The Vampire Slayer is never too far behind. In 2008, Paley Fest hosted a Buffy reunion which she attended alongside series creator Joss Whedon, producers and other alumni, including Gellar, James Marsters, Emma Caulfield, Seth Green and others. More recently she and other cast members reprised their roles in the 2023 Audible drama Slayers: A Buffyverse Story.

MUST READ: The Original ‘Charmed’ Cast Then & Now: Revisit the Magical Drama of the Halliwell Sisters

The actress in in 'Veronica Mars' (2005)
Charisma Carpenter in ‘Veronica Mars’ (2005) CW

Between 2006 and today, there have been many television guest star appearances, TV movies, theatrical films (including two installments of Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables) and a main role in the television series The Lying Game (2012 to 2013).

MUST READ: Sylvester Stallone Movies: His Biggest and Best Knockout Films Through The Years

Charisma Carpenter (2023) "Slayers: A Buffyverse Story" Stars And Creators Celebrate New Audible Original Series At NYCC With Panel And Visit To “The Slayers Society
Charisma Carpenter (2023) Ilya S. Savenok / Stringer/Getty

And while Carpenter says, “You can take the girl out of Vegas, but you can’t take the Vegas out of the girl”, the same goes for supernatural projects. She appeared in the seventh season of Supernatural alongside Buffy co-star James Marsters, and, in 2013, became host and producer of Investigation Discovery’s Surviving Evil.

In the premiere episode, she was also featured as the crime survivor, revisiting the horrible attack she and two friends suffered at the hands of Hubbard at Torrey Pines State Beach. 

The personal life of Charisma Carpenter

Charisma Carpenter and her son Donovan Carpenter (2024)
Charisma Carpenter and her son Donovan Carpenter (2024) Charisma Carpenter/Instagram

Away from the cameras, and besides being mom to son Donovan, Carpenter loves outdoor activities and appreciates being healthy and fit. She rollerblades, hikes and has occasionally gone sky diving. Additionally, she works closely with the Thirst Project, an international water charity bringing safe and clean drinking water to locations around the world; and donates her time to social justice programs while completing a course on administrative justice.

Carpenter does note that her years as Cordelia have managed to rub off on her persona in some way. “With seven years of Cordelia, I can’t help but think that she’s imprinted on me and that acerbic tongue is just a part of who I am now.” 

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