By Summer Aborashid and Rachel Shatto
[Jennifer Carpenter is one bad-ass diabolical dame. In fact we love her so much that Summer and I had to write this piece together. Plus, she is one of Summer’s favorite women we are profiling this month!]
When we started researching Carpenter for this post, we were surprised to find there was very little about the actor online, just your basics: a resume, who she’s married to, what she wore to which award ceremony and a few misinformed entries about her being the daughter of iconic master of horror John Carpenter (for the record, she’s not). So, as you can imagine that made our job more challenging and at first we found it frustrating. But then we realized just how refreshing this lack of readily available personal information really is.
In an age of frenzied paparazzi, nipple slip-dedicated websites and blind items-aggedon, for nearly everything online about an attractive a high-profile actor to be based on their body of work is a testament to Carpenter and her incredible talent and that’s pretty exciting.
Carpenter begun studying acting during high school, at the Walden Theater and then went on to go to college at Julliard School in New York City. She made her Broadway debut in The Crucible alongside Laura Linney and Liam Neeson. She followed this up with a series of small parts in films like D.E.B.S., White Chicks and Lethal Eviction.
In 2005 Carpenter had a breakthrough performance in The Exorcism of Emily Rose.
A film loosely based on the real life story and subsequent court case of Anneliese Michel a German woman who when medical and psychiatric care for her diagnosed schizophrenia and epilepsy failed appealed to the Catholic church for an exorcism and ultimately died of malnutrition and dehydration while under their care.
This is when we first saw Carpenter and we were instant fans. She rocks in this movie she did such a good job appearing possessed particularly with her grotesque body contortions—which she did almost completely without CGI. There are plenty of possession movies and usually the actors are cheesy and the movie is painful (Linda Blair is an obvious exception). But, we were so terrified throughout the whole film, and after it was over Summer was scared for months—no joke—months!
And she wasn’t alone, while the movie itself only garnered mixed reviews, Carpenter for her role as Emily Rose won a MTV Movie Award for Best Frightened Performance, a Hollywood Life Breakthrough Award and at the 2006 Scream Awards was named “Breakout Performer.”
But she didn’t stop there. Next Carpenter moved to the small screen in 2006 in Showtime’s original series Dexter. She plays the role Detective Debra Morgan, sister of the series’ title character serial killer and blood analyst Dexter Morgan (played by her real-life husband Michael C. Hall).
If you haven’t seen Dexter you should be ashamed of yourself, it’s a must see, put it on your Netflix queue now… go ahead… we’ll wait.
In her role as Debra, Carpenter has created one of the most captivating complex and likable characters on TV and earned her a SAG nod and Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her mixture of bravado and vulnerability make her fascinating and watching her come into her own and grow into a seriously skilled detective has been thrilling to watch, both as a fan of the series and as female consumer of pop-culture.
In 2008 she returned to the big screen in the [REC] remake, Quarantine. Although we weren’t a huge fans of the movie (Terrorists? Rabies? Seriously?) we are a huge fans of Carpenter’s work in the film. Let’s face it, she made that movie! Her acting of course was awesome and her ability to combine girl next door approachability and a gift for pulling off melodrama in a way that it’s both honest and aching makes it impossible for you not to go the ride with her whenever she is on screen.
Carpenter is a scream queen, yes, but one in keeping with founder of Women in Horror Month Hannah Neurotica’s new definition of the word, “‘Scream Queens” who scream out with our artistic and creative abilities; qualities other then how we look.” That’s not to say that Carpenter isn’t stunning, because she is. It’s just that her appearance comes second to her skill as an artist, and that’s pretty freakin’ cool.