Thomas Carter (director)

Thomas Carter
Born Thomas Colbert Carter
(1953-07-17) July 17, 1953
Austin, Texas, U.S.[1]
Occupation Actor, director, producer
Years active 1975–present

Thomas Colbert Carter (born July 17,[1] 1953)[2] is an American film and television director known for Swing Kids, Save the Last Dance with Julia Stiles, and Coach Carter with Samuel L. Jackson.

As an actor, Carter is probably best known for his work on the television series The White Shadow, playing James "Hollywood" Heyward

Personal life

Thomas Carter was born July 17, 1953 in Austin, Texas. After high school graduation Carter would enroll and attend Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre in 1974. Following his educational career, in 1992 Carter was presented with the “Distinguished Alumnus Award” from Texas State University.


Television Career (as actor)

Carter first began his film career as an actor. His first roles included working in television shows/movies such as: M*A*S*H, Lou Grant, What's Happening!!, The Secret of Isis, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, The Blue Knight, Good Times, and Hill Street Blues. He was a regular on the short-lived sitcom Szysznyk (1977), starring Ned Beatty. However, Carter is most known for his appearance on the series The White Shadow between the years 1978 through 1980.

The White Shadow, which ran three seasons from 1978 to 1981, starred actor Ken Howard, who played a Caucasian professional Chicago Bulls National Basketball Association (NBA) player who retires after a number of knee surgeries and takes a coaching position at a predominately African American and Hispanic urban high school located in South Central Los Angeles, Carver High. Carter played James Hayward, a troubled teenager with an extremely negative attitude who has to take care of his mom, Roberta, along with his younger brother, Jackie. Hayward has one of the highest IQs among his fellow players. After having an outstanding freshman year in basketball at Carver, Hayward had an opportunity to attend college, and later a chance for a summer job at a law firm. This drama series was one of the first to have a cast that was mainly African-American.

Producer/Director Career

Carter directed four episodes of The White Shadow, which led him to pursue directing as a career. He went on to produce and/or direct the television series pilots for Miami Vice (1984), St. Elsewhere (1982), Heart of the City (1986), and Equal Justice (1990), which he co-created and executive-produced. The series had a multi-ethnic cast; Carter later noted to Mark Gunther that, “I look in television and I don’t see myself,”[3] in reference to the lack of diverse roles for African-American actors.

Carter went on to produce the series about an American family, Under One Roof (1995), starring James Earl Jones, Joe Morton, and Vanessa Bell Calloway. The drama dealt with the real life complications, stress, and dilemmas of a multi-generational African American family residing in Seattle, Washington. As a mid-season replacement, the series did not last long – only six episodes – but Carter received a lot of attention for it. He stated, “No African American family with this kind of breadth and complexity has even been shown on a weekly drama. Never has there been one with the amount of talent and experience that has gone into this show."[4]

In addition, Carter directed episodes of Fame, Remington Steele, The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and 9 episodes of the police drama Hill Street Blues, among others. He also produced a number of series, including serving as executive producer for the 2002-04 crime series Hack, about a former police officer who operates a taxi.

Film career

Over time, Carter has come to be part of eleven movies, including Swing Kids starring Christian Bale; the 1997 Eddie Murphy vehicle Metro; the well known Paramount/MTV production of Save the Last Dance, about an interracial couple; the famous true story of Ken Carter in Coach Carter, starring Samuel L. Jackson; and the TV-movies Divas (1995) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (2009). Coincidentally, there is a four-year gap between each of his films.


Carter has won a number of awards in the realm of television, film production, and directing. Carter has been the recipient of the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Dramatic Shows for directing Hill Street Blues in 1981, winning three Emmy Awards (while being nominated six times) – two for Outstanding Directing for the series Equal Justice in 1990 and 1991, and the other was for Producing, Outstanding Made for Television Movie- Don King: Only in America in 1998. Carter would also win a Peabody Award and a Broadcast Film Critics Award for his work on Don King: Only in America.


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As director


  1. 1 2 "Thomas Carter Biography ((?)-)". Retrieved 2011-12-21.
  2. Archived from the original on June 24, 2009. Retrieved November 7, 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. Mark Gunther (March 5, 1995). "The Color Barrier: Why Can't Black Oriented Dramas Find a Place on Television!". Chicago Tribune.
  4. Greg Braxton (March 12, 1995). "Drama of a Different Color". Los Angeles Times.
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