From the world's biggest stages to the small screen on the hit television show, "Fame," Carol Mayo Jenkins has enjoyed quite an acting career. She began eyeing the spotlight at a very early age.
"I guess I always wanted to perform. And, I wanted to be a great actress," said Jenkins.
Her inspiration was fellow Knoxville native, the late Patricia Neal.
"I thought if she could do it maybe so could I."
At age 10, Jenkins not only watched Patricia Neal perform on Broadway, she got to meet her.
"I went back stage. I was terrified and she was so sweet to me," explained Jenkins.
Carol's big break came the Summer after high school.
"That was in the "Petrified Forest" with John Collum at the Carousel Theater. That was the first play I was ever in."
That Fall she went to Vanderbilt and then University of Tennessee briefly.
"Finally, I said, I want to go off to England to study to be an actress. And, my father not only allowed me to go, but paid for it."
After six years, she returned to the Big Apple and then San Francisco.
"The American Conservatory Theater was extraordinary. We did 16 plays the first season and the next season we did 22 plays in 40 weeks," said Jenkins.
She shared the stage with some of theater's greatest names.
"I guess the most important one is Henry Fonda."
In the early 80's, Jenkins made the jump to television as Elizabeth Sherwood, the English Teacher on Fame.
"It was like having a whole new career in the middle of my life.
Debbie Allen and I are dear friends and Valarie Landsburg. Those are probably the two I was closest to."
After a five year run, Jenkins returned to theater. She performed up and down the West Coast and started teaching acting and voice. In early 2000, she began thinking about East Tennessee.
"I felt that my mother really needed me at home. She was 86 and alone, so I said, it's time for me to go home."
One of her first stops home was the Clarence Brown Theater.
"I walked in, put down my resume and said, 'You need me.'"
So did University of Tennessee's Theater Department. Jenkins is now a faculty member.
"I love to teach, and I'm able to perform some. More some years than others, so it's kind of wonderful."
One of her greatest joys now is watching former students like actresses and sisters Emily Deschanel and Zooey Deschanel succeed.
"At that time nobody knew that she was going to be just as wonderful of an actress as her sister and she is."
Carol Mayo Jenkins, a brilliant actress on and off broadway.
Born in Knoxville, HomeGrown in Tennessee.
"I used to think it's so boring to be from Knoxville, Tennessee, but then, I lived in London, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and I realize that East Tennessee is one of the most rare and special places in the world. I'm now very proud to say that I'm from Tennessee."
You can see Carol Mayo Jenkins on stage in the Clarence Brown Theater's upcoming production of "Fuddy Meers."