D’Arcy Carden was born Darcy Beth Erokan on January 4, 1980, and she was surrounded by actors from a young age. Her father, Dennis Erokan, was an actor in community theater, and Carden recalls watching him perform in a local rendition of “Our Town” at their Pleasant Hill, California theater (via the Mercury News). In that moment, at the tender age of 9, Carden knew she wanted to be an actress. “I sat there thinking, ‘Oh, wow. I’ve got to get up there on that stage,'” she told the Mercury News in a 2016 interview.
Though many of today’s biggest stars started their acting careers at very young ages, Carden’s parents didn’t want her in the business too early, as she explained during a 2018 appearance on NPR’s “It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders” podcast. They knew many kids struggled with maintaining their confidence and wellbeing in the cutthroat entertainment industry, so they told Carden she could act in community theater until she was 18, when she would be able to go out on auditions for television series and movies.
In her adolescent years, Carden got her kicks giving speeches for student government at school, getting involved in debate, and doing community theater. When Carden was around 12 years old, she changed the spelling of her first name from Darcy to D’Arcy, à la the original Smashing Pumpkins bassist D’arcy Wretzky-Brown. “She was, like, my ideal person. So didn’t even think about it, I just started adding the apostrophe. It wasn’t like a big life choice … it just sort of stuck, and after a couple of years I never went back,” Carden explained to Vulture in 2017.
As a freshman in high school, she took a drama class, and it meant a lot when her teacher spotted her talent. “He saw the spark in my eye and really guided me,” Carden told Diablo Magazine in 2019. “Some of the acting techniques he taught me I absolutely still use today. Putting in the time, at that age, was already rewarding. If you do the work, good things will be rewarded, even if it takes a minute.”