Karen Carlson made her debut in Hollywood on The Bob Hope Comedy Special for NBC, one week after arriving in Los Angeles from her home state of Louisiana. She appeared with Bob Hope, James Garner, and a cow. She went on that year to do variety shows like The Red Skeleton Show, Phyllis Diller Specials, The Hollywood Palace, and Laugh-In. Sensing that the variety show era was coming to an end, Carlson was advised to study in New York. Later returning to Los Angeles, she was able to bridge the span between television and film by doing both, not an easy task at that time.
Carlson has a long line of work both as a leading lady and supporting actress from films like The Candidate, In Love with An Older Woman, and The Octagon, to television series like American Dream, Two Marriages, and In The Heat of the Night. After a long career in acting, Carlson has begun to produce, write, and direct movies.
Born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Karen Elizabeth Carlson is a veteran N.Y./L.A. trained, film and television actress. Before moving to Los Angeles, Carlson attended the University of Arkansas, where she studied political science. After a year and a half, Carlson left to fulfill her dream in film.
Constantly honing her acting skills through study with the masters of technique—Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, Sanford Meisner, Jack Waltzer, and David Craig in New York—Carlson maintained her career while starting a marriage and family.
After 32 active years in the business, Carlson left the business for personal reasons, having just completed the role of cigar-smoking, poker-playing Judge Christine Holliday in the series Orleans (starring Larry Hagman) when it ended in 1997. In February 2007, she re-entered the world of independent features, this time in the state of Tennessee where she currently resides, beginning with grass roots production A Father’s Rights as both actress (replacing Dixie Carter, who’s father was ill) and co-producer.
Since attending The Film School for writers in Seattle, Washington in 2009, Carlson has been writing several of her own projects. In February, 2013, Carlson directed actor and long time friend, Tom Skerritt, and her son, Kelsey Phillip Payne, in a SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild) short film she wrote called “Two(2)Eggs.” The experience reinforced her passion and desire to write and direct, a long time goal of hers realized only after moving to Tennessee.
Having been appointed in December 2012-2013, to the SAG-AFTRA National Committee for Seniors, Carlson worked to bring more recognition to regional senior SAG-AFTRA members and their needs. Since 1971, Carlson has been a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, an honor she is quite proud to hold.
New to her agenda includes the world of audio books. My Dream of Heaven, written by Rebecca Ruter Springer in the 19th century, was recorded by Miss Carlson and her long-time friend Ed Bruce, and it was produced through a company formed with other long-time friends from L.A., Steve and Kathy Knox. Their company, 3CanMedia, recently finished production of another audio book, Into the Snow (now available on www.audible.com) from the novel by author John Erwin. Using local talent for the different characters, Carlson directed the readers. She and Steve also added foley and sound to the audio. The result is “like listening to old time radio shows’ ’theatre of the mind,’ I believe it’s called,” says Carlson.
Currently, Carlson is adapting Erwin’s book to screenplay with plans to shoot and direct in Colorado, co-producing with partners Susan Harlan and Susie Johnson. Residing in rural Primm Springs, Tennessee, Carlson, when not writing, teaching, or filming, can be found with her hands in the dirt. She is a master gardener, passionate about organically growing her own food and living as self-sustainably as possible.
“Outside, among all of God’s creatures and treasures, is my sanctuary. And I feel it is our responsibility to care for this planet and leave as little personal imprint as possible. To live in the city again would suffocate my soul. I can truly appreciate that where I live, Nature rules.” It is easy to understand, for that reason, her desire that Into the Snow be a green production.