101 Stories: Rocky Carroll

By The Children's Theatre

Celebrate TCT’s 101st season as it comes to a close as we applaud and appreciate those who contributed to the organization’s magic throughout our century-long journey.  During 10 weeks of recognition, we honor individuals who have been instrumental in the success of TCT, and who have not only helped TCT grow in mission, but also thrive, thanks to their passion.  It is these people and their moments in our history that shaped TCT to become what it is today. We encourage you to consider giving a gift in their honor to ensure the sustainability of TCT’s mission for the next 100+ years. 

Rocky Carroll

In 2001, The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati had an extraordinary guest director for its Young Adult Series production of August Wilson’s THE PIANO LESSON:  Mr. Rocky Carroll.  

Just years earlier, Mr. Carroll earned a Tony and Drama Desk nomination for his role in the Broadway production of Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. It was an incredible honor to have him both helm and star in the TCT production of this critically acclaimed story. 

Mr. Carroll was born Roscoe Carroll in Cincinnati. His acting career is rooted in the theater. In 1981, Carroll graduated from Cincinnati’s School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA). Jack and Susie Louiso (TCT’s former Artistic and Managing Directors) taught and mentored Mr. Carroll at SCPA. They extended the invitation to their former student to return to Cincinnati for the production. Mr. Carroll also served as a TCT Board member (2011 to 2016)

Upon hearing about TCT’s 101 Season, Mr. Carroll sent this message: 

“Congratulations  to The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. I must say… to be 101, you look amazing! I thank The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati for giving me my start as a director. Happy anniversary, may you continue to inspire and thrive!” 

Mr. Carroll attended The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University in St. Louis, where he graduated with a B.F.A. degree. Carroll would later receive an honorary degree from his alma mater in 2009. 

After graduating, Carroll decided to test the waters by moving to New York City, the heart of the theater community. There, he introduced many young children to the works of William Shakespeare by participating in Joe Papp’s ”Shakespeare on Broadway” series. 

As part of Joe Papp’s acclaimed New York Shakespeare Festival, Carroll helped to open doors for actors of color by taking on non-traditional roles rarely portrayed by Black actors in Shakespeare dramas. In 1987, Carroll was introduced to the works of August Wilson. 

Mr. Carroll is known for his roles as Joey Emerson on the FOX comedy-drama  Roc (1991–94) as Dr. Keith Wilkes on the CBS medical drama Chicago Hope, and as NCIS Director Leon Vance on the CBS drama NCIS and its spinoffs Los Angeles and New Orleans. He also played a supporting role in the 1995 thriller film Crimson Tide

Mr. Carroll has guest-starred in several other TV programs, including The Agency, Boston Legal, Family Law, The West Wing,Law & Order,The Game, ER, and Grey’s Anatomy. Mr. Carroll has had roles in many Hollywood films such as Born on the Fourth of July, The Ladies Man, Crimson Tide, The Great White Hype, Prelude to a Kiss, The Chase, Best Laid Plans, and Yes Man

In the fifth season of the CBS drama NCIS, Carroll was featured in a recurring role as Assistant Director Leon Vance. In doing so, he had been reunited with his Chicago Hope  castmates, Mark Harmon and Lauren Holly. After the death of NCIS Director Jenny Shepard (played by Holly), his character became the new Director of NCIS and replaced Holly in the main cast. He also has guest-starred as Vance in the NCIS spinoffs Los Angeles and New Orleans. In addition to being a series regular on NCIS, Carroll has also directed seven NCIS episodes, making his directorial debut with the Season 12 episode, “We Build, We Fight.” 

Would you honor Rocky Carroll with a gift to recognize the impact made on TCT?