Charismatic energy and infectious enthusiasm exude from Carter Redwood, 23, when he talks of being able to live in New York City as he pursues his acting career.
It’s with that same enthusiasm that the Hill District native discusses the significant accomplishments he made during his time at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama. When he entered CMU on a four-year scholarship in 2010, his first goal was to be the recipient of the university’s top senior acting award.
“I realized as I sat there watching that if this was the top acting award, I wanted it,” he said.
That is exactly what happened—at age 21, when Redwood attended that same award ceremony as a senior, his name was called as the winner.
Redwood had several goals for his college years.
“I wanted the top acting award, I wanted to graduate with honors, I wanted to keep doing community theater—and still be able to travel to New York for auditions, since by now I was an (Actors’ Equity Association) actor and had an agent,” he said. “I felt these were achievements I had to accomplish, not just for myself, but for my family and also for the ‘village’ that helped me get this far.”
Redwood reached his goals and beyond. He graduated cum laude from CMU in 2014, won the John Arthur Kennedy Senior Acting Award, was the speaker at the drama school commencement and was recognized in a leadership ceremony for seniors who have shown outstanding presence in the broader community. Most significant, he was named an Andrew Carnegie Scholar, a prestigious honor awarded to approximately 40 seniors out of his class of 650.
Redwood was raised in the Hill District by his parents, Carl and Tawnya Redwood. He attended Pittsburgh Public Schools—Madison Elementary, the former Frick International Studies Academy, Schenley and CAPA (Creative and Performing Arts) high schools.
All the while, as he was pursuing his theatrical endeavors, he made straight “As” through eighth grade, played sports and participated in youth programming at Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church, along with his brother, Maurice. Before turning 16, young Redwood was already a veteran actor, performing in more than 17 productions.
Wayne Walters, former principal of Frick, remembers Redwood well.
“The scope of Carter’s talent, along with the passion and commitment he brings to every project, are the components of excellence—he has a bright future,” Walters said.
At age 13, Redwood made his debut as a director with two-act plays for the Pittsburgh Playwrights Company and a one-act play for the Pittsburgh New Works Theater Company. As a sixth-grader, he won first place in the Pittsburgh Public Theater Shakespeare monologue competition for “Othello.” He would win this competition again between 2004 and 2009.
In 2009, he took his first trip out of the United States, traveling to Katowice, Poland, to participate in the Festival of Americas, where he performed in a stage production of “Angry Black Man Poetry.”
One might say that Redwood easily walked into many opportunities. The real story here, however, is his clear commitment to excellence, his early understanding of what it took to be successful and his willingness to execute.
Redwood’s parents were adamant with both their sons about what their options would be in terms of “hanging out.” There would be none. They understood, too, the importance of creating viable alternatives and building a village/network that supported their approach to parenting.
“Our system of structure was a huge and varied ‘village’ that included Grace Church; values-based community centers/professional organizations such as Hill House Association, Kingsley Association and 100 Black Men; schools that provided a solid education and safe social and recreation activities; and family and friends,” Tawnya Redwood said.
“Our sons were told early and regularly by their father, with support from me, that ‘hanging out’ was not an option for them. As parents, we understood that alternatives have to be in place to deter what is popular or promoted by society.”