The 23 awards and 18 nominations credited to Lacey Caroline on her IMDB page were not easily earned.
The actress, dancer, singer, reporter and one-time mascot has spent about eight years in the entertainment industry, half of which have been marred by a global pandemic and a national writer’s strike.
What’s more, both of those events occurred while Caroline, now 17 years old, was in her mid-teens, called the “dead zone” by some in the industry because of the studios’ preference to have young-looking 18-year-olds play teenagers.
Despite these hurdles, the nascent Charlotte performer has stayed busy.
Having graduated from home schooling at age 16, Caroline debuted the role of Addy in the world premiere workshop of Mecklenburg County Song and Dance Competition in 2023, and won best actress at LA Under the Stars Film Festival for her lead role as Ellie in the short film Worm Radio.
She is not slowing down in 2024, as she has already kicked off the new year with a lead role in A Chorus Line, put on by LAD Space and Davidson Community Players (DCP) in Mooresville from Jan. 5-7.
She will follow that up by playing the role of Elsa in DCP’s run of Disney’s Frozen JR. at Cain Center for the Arts in Cornelius from Jan. 25-27 — all six scheduled shows were already sold out at the time of this writing — and is currently in rehearsals for Metrolina Theatre Association’s presentation of Be More Chill, also scheduled for the Cain Center from Feb. 29-March 2.
On screen, Caroline landed her biggest role in 2020 as Mariah in A Christmas Love Story, starring alongside Kristen Chenowith, Scott Wolf and Kevin Quinn in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.
In 2023, she played Young Sam in Jessica Michael Davis’ debut feature film Escaping Ohio and early this year will begin filming a pilot teen drama with a musical element titled Rise to Fame.
It’s a fitting project, as Caroline appears poised to break out in the coming year. The hard-working thespian is focused on the job work, however, rather than the success that may be destined to follow.
When we caught up with her in the lead-up to her run as Val Clark in A Chorus Line, the modest Caroline wasn’t ready to claim credit for where her years of commitment to the craft have landed her.
“It’s just a really cool coincidence of a lot of good things happening for me,” she insisted.
Caroline’s dad, a former professional mascot who worked with the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina Panthers, Nippon Professional Baseball and Charlotte Bobcats, took his then-9-year-old daughter to the Ligue nationale de basket All Star Game in France where he was scheduled to perform.
She joined him on the court, performing as Little Hugo in front of 25,000 French fans, surprising her mother, Lyndsey Stogdill.
“I’m like ‘Okay, she’s got a whole side of her that I don’t even know what to do with,’” Stogdill told Queen City Nerve while we sat in on one of Caroline’s rehearsals for A Chorus Line.
Caroline added that, while her dad still inspires her to this day, her love for performing in front of a crowd quickly evolved past the mascot game, growing over years of competitive cheer and finding a true outlet in local theatre.
It was during one of her first plays, Tuck Everlasting, that a castmate’s mom referred Stogdill to a local agent.
At 11 years old, Caroline booked her the agent. Her fledgling career started rolling from there, Stogdill said.
After a few years in the local theatre scene, Caroline explored the logical next step: film and TV. She found it less stressful in that any forgotten lines or other mistakes wouldn’t be witnessed by a large audience.
“[Film] had the perks of theatre with the ability to have a second chance,” she said.
In 2019, Caroline bagged her role in A Christmas Love Story alongside Chenoweth, a bona fide Broadway star and role model to Caroline.
She remembers sitting next to the Wicked star in her makeup chair, silently freaking out.
“It was just this moment that I think back on with just such joy,” she told Queen City Nerve, the excitement still evident in her retelling.
Caroline got to live out another childhood fantasy after nailing a casting call and booking what she considers her biggest role yet: NASCAR on NBC’s kid reporter.
Despite the far-reaching platform, making her a fan favorite with each interview garnering tens of thousands of views on NASCAR’s YouTube and Facebook pages, Caroline said she struggled to keep up with the unscripted banter in real-time during filming.
“That’s why I decided to stick with acting where everything is scripted,” Caroline said.
From local theatre to the silver screen
Eventually aging out of the kid reporter role, Caroline refocused on booking film gigs. She planned to make the move to Hollywood; her parents even listed their house for sale in early 2020.
It was then that COVID-19 shut everything down, forcing them to reevaluate. With the future of film and TV such an uncertainty, the family took their house off the market.
Looking back, Caroline is glad she didn’t move.
“After COVID ended I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had,” she said. “And now I’m having that senior summer with a bunch of people but I feel like if I had moved I wouldn’t have met the people I’ve met.”
With no job opportunities available during the pandemic, Caroline attended countless workshops to hone her skills.
Through them, she found Avalon Artists Group, a talent agency that now represents her in New York and L.A.
Even with her best representation yet, however, as she neared 14 years old, Caroline was about to enter the ‘dead zone.’
Veterans in the industry warned her that actors her age are often overlooked for roles in favor of older performers who can play adolescent characters.
Caroline gave the example of the hit show Riverdale, in which 15-year-old characters are played by early to mid-20-year-old actors.
“A lot of time people cast over [the 14-17 age range] because they don’t have to school on set [or] … worry about labor laws,” Caroline said. “There’s nothing going on for 14-to-17-year-olds unless you booked a recurring character when you were younger.”
One way around the dead zone is to earn your GED. In the eyes of the entertainment industry, an actor is more hirable after they have graduated high school because they do not have to receive on-set schooling.
After attending Northwest School of the Arts for middle school, Caroline decided there was little point in getting bogged down with miscellaneous schoolwork that didn’t apply to her career.
She started home-schooling and was able to graduate in May 2022 at 16 years old.
“[Now] I can work long hours and they don’t have to school me so that makes them want to hire me a little bit more,” she said.
The pandemic and age weren’t the only obstacles in Caroline’s way.
After COVID’s major restrictions were lifted, the American actor’s union SAG-AFTRA went on strike, causing another pause in Caroline’s ability to find work.
Her optimism never wavered, though.
“I just stuck with it past where I thought I would and I’m proud of myself for doing so,” Caroline said. “But it’s just been some crazy circumstances.”
Through it all, Stogdill said Caroline has been studying the industry as deeply as she can. Rather than carry a naive optimism about Hollywood, the teen stays hyper-aware of the risks that success can sometimes bring for those who are unprepared for success at a young age.
One of Caroline’s upcoming films, Sugarcane, for which she’s currently doing reshoots, focuses on the dangers the dark web presents to young people. Stogdill said Caroline agreed to work on the film with the specific goal of increasing awareness and educating viewers on the risks that young women face in the online era.
“She’s so hard on herself because she wants it so bad. She’s always said she doesn’t want the fame … the fortune wouldn’t be so bad, but not the fame,” Stogdill said. “She just wants to do what [she loves].”
While Caroline said she’s relieved that she and her family didn’t move forward with a premature move to Hollywood back in 2020, she acknowledged that living in Charlotte does presents its own obstacles in terms of job opportunities.
While Charlotte is consistently and continuously growing, the Queen City hasn’t reached the level of cities like New York, Los Angeles or even Atlanta in terms of showbiz opportunities.
There is some progress being made on that front. The NC House Caucus on Economic Development and Foreign Trade in December named Rep. John Autry, a former Charlotte City Council member, as co-chair of the newly formed Film Committee.
According to a Dec. 6 release, Autry will work to bring back the film industry jobs that were lost to Georgia since 2015, when the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) allowed the NC Film Incentive Program to sunset. After the NCGA ended their support, North Carolina lost thousands of high-quality, well-paying jobs, from actresses like Caroline to caterers and lumber retailers.
“Before the film program was allowed to sunset in 2015 there were 4,200 North Carolinians directly employed in the film industry,” Autry said in the release. “Then consider all those who indirectly benefited from film in NC — bakeries, dry cleaners, hardware stores, rental cars, home, and office furnishings and so on,” said Autry.
The committee is set to convene in January and will immediately begin work on legislation to clarify building codes for set construction, unemployment and other matters, aiming in the long-term to make North Carolina a more film-friendly state.
However, Lacey Caroline’s momentum is in full swing now, so she has made the decision to make the move to Hollywood in the coming year.
For now, however, she’s booked and busy for at least the first quarter of the year here in Mecklenburg County.
Her transition from playing A Chorus Line’s Val Clark, a woman who sings about her breast and butt enlargements to gain job opportunities in New York, to kid-favorite Elsa in Frozen JR. within a few weeks of each other might have become an inside joke with her castmates — six of whom are playing parts in both shows — but it also speaks to her range.
Her ability to jump between genres is apparent in her web shorts, from the popular comedic short Spelling Bee, which aired on UglyStikTV, to the sci-fi short film Worm Radio, showing on YouTube’s DUST channel.
Caroline plans to make her move to California in September, after her 18th birthday, with the hopes of gaining some independence and learning the ropes with one of her co-stars from A Chorus Line.
Having officially left the so-called dead zone, Caroline hopes to star in a period piece and be part of a long-running TV series — or perhaps do both at once.
The long-term goal, she said, is directing. Her years of paying close attention on set and learning from past directors have given her the opportunity to co-direct a few projects already.
“That little spark of doing a little something just made me want it more,” she said. “I love learning from people if I can because I’m the type of person where I always have to be improving otherwise I feel like I’m in a rut or like I’m not necessarily good enough. I always have to be getting better and, with acting and directing, I really take that to heart.”
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