In 1997, Carpenter auditioned for the title role of Buffy Summers in the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but instead was cast as Cordelia Chase, a snobby and popular high school student.
She has a large scar on her belly from a childhood accident. While five years old, and playing around a swimming pool that was still under construction, she fell onto a piece of rebar. The scar was incorporated into "Lovers Walk" when her character fell onto an exposed piece of rebar as well.
After three seasons on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Carpenter was offered an even larger role as the same character on the spin-off series Angel along with David Boreanaz (Angel), playing her Cordelia Chase character for four seasons on Angel. Although her character leaves the series during the fourth season of Angel, Carpenter returned for the 100th episode "You're Welcome" in the fifth and final season, because she felt that Cordelia's fans deserved closure after the controversy of her unexplained removal from the show.
On March 20, 2008, PaleyFest hosted a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reunion. Carpenter attended the event alongside creator Joss Whedon, producers Marti Noxon and David Greenwalt, and other alumni including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, James Marsters, Emma Caulfield, Amber Benson, Seth Green, and Michelle Trachtenberg.
Carpenter also starred as Kyra in Charmed (2004), Kendall Casablancas in Veronica Mars (2005–2006), Rebecca Sewell in The Lying Game (2012–2013), and Lacy in The Expendables film series (2010–2012).
She is one of the only cast members from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel who refuses to charge for her autograph at fan conventions.
Carpenter was a regular in the first three seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, appearing in 54 episodes of the series. She was then a regular for the first four seasons of Angel then made a final "Special Guest Star" appearance in the 100th episode, appearing in 86 episodes of the series.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 1 (Credited but does not appear in "The Pack" and "I Robot, You Jane")
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 2
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 3
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 7
- "Him" (Uncredited archive)
- Angel season 1
- Angel season 2
- Angel season 3 (Credited but does not appear in "Loyalty", "Sleep Tight", and "Forgiving")
- Angel season 4
- Angel season 5
Behind the scenes for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.
- Charisma Carpenter on Wikipedia
- Tufayel Ahmed, "'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' Turns 20: Charisma Carpenter on the Show's Legacy and Playing Cordelia Chase". Newsweek, March 10, 2017.
- Charisma Carpenter, "Hey Kiddo, late 2 this tweet but I want U 2 know I get scar shame. I have a thick wide scar about 4” on my belly. I was 5 when I was impaled by a rebar. My scar is a part of my story but it's not who I am. It doesn't define me. It makes me unique. Just like urs makes U unique". Twitter, January 21, 2019.
- Charisma Carpenter, "My truth. #IStandWithRayFisher". Twitter, February 10, 2021.