In 1981, Carroll graduated from the famed School for Creative and Performing Arts (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in Cincinnati Ohio, in the Cincinnati Public School District. Determined to further his knowledge of acting, he attended The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University in Saint Louis, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
He is best known for his roles as Joey Emerson on the FOX comedy-drama Roc (1991-1994) as Doctor Keith Wilkes on the Columbia Broadcasting System medical drama Chicago Hope, and as NCIS Director Leon Vance on the Columbia Broadcasting System drama NCIS and its spinoffs Los Angeles and New Orleans. He also played a supporting role in the 1995 thriller film Crimson Tide. His acting career is rooted in the theater.
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. Carroll married Gabrielle Bullock in 1996.
They have one daughter, Elissa. 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 that were rarely portrayed by Black actors in Shakespeare dramas.
In 1987, Carroll was introduced to the works of August Wilson.
The up-and-coming and talented young actor was allowed to recreate his role for the Broadway production of Wilson"s critically acclaimed story The Piano Lesson. The play not only earned a, but Carroll earned a Tony and Drama Desk nomination. He is known for portraying ne"er-do-well musician Joey Emerson on the FOX comedy-drama Roc.
He also had a starring role as Doctor Keith Wilkes in the television series Chicago Hope.
Carroll has guest starred in several other television programs including The Agency, Boston Legal, Family Law, The West Wing, Law & Order, The Game, Emergency and Grey"s Anatomy. Carroll has had roles in many Hollywood films such as Born on the Fourth of July, The Ladies Manitoba, Crimson Tide, The Great White Hype, A Prelude to a Kiss, The Chase, Best Laid Plans and Yes Manitoba
In the fifth season of the Columbia Broadcasting System drama NCIS, Carroll was featured in a recurring role as Assistant Director Leon Vance. In doing so, he has been reunited with his Chicago Hope castmates Mark Harmon and Lauren Holly.
After the death of NCIS director Jenny Shepard, his character became the new director of NCIS, and replaced Holly in the main cast.
He has also guest-starred as Vance in the NCIS spin-offs Los Angeles and New Orleans. He shares his birthday with NCIS co-star Michael Weatherly. In addition to being a series regular on NCIS, Carroll has also directed three episodes of NCIS, making his directorial debut with the Season 12 episode, "We Build, We Fight".