Before 'Espresso' Got Hot: Take a Look Back at Sabrina Carpenter's Early Days as a Disney Star

From 'Law & Order: SVU' to Disney's 'Girl Meets World,' Carpenter has been brewing it up since her days as a teen actor

<p>Bruce Birmelin/DISNEY CHANNEL via Getty </p> Sabrina Carpenter in

Bruce Birmelin/DISNEY CHANNEL via Getty

Sabrina Carpenter in 'Girl Meets World' in 2016

Is it that sweet for Sabrina Carpenter? To quote her hit song, “Espresso,” I guess so!

The 25-year-old singer and actress is well on her way to having a strong contender for this year’s “Song of the Summer” with the single, her first to enter the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, and she recently made several stunning debuts.

In April, she played Coachella for the first time, followed in early May by her first-ever appearance at the Met Gala (with her equally buzzy boyfriend Barry Keoghan). On May 18, she made her Saturday Night Live debut as the musical guest on the show’s season finale. Oh, and she spent parts of 2023 and 2024 opening for Taylor Swift on the mammoth “Eras Tour."

To put it mildly, Carpenter is having a moment, and it’s one that’s been over 10 years in the making, beginning with her earliest days as a child actor.

Carpenter made her small-screen debut — not counting the YouTube video she posted of herself covering pop songs as a kid — in a 2011 episode of NBC’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit when she was just 11 years old, playing a young victim of abuse in a scene opposite Christopher Meloni’s Detective Elliot Stabler.

<p>NBC</p> Sabrina Carpenter in 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit' in 2011


Sabrina Carpenter in 'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit' in 2011

In March 2012, the then-12-year-old Carpenter was cast in several projects. “It's official!!!” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I booked a new ABC pilot called The Unprofessional and a Fox pilot called Goodwin Games as a co-star.”

“I’m so excited to work on this!” she added. “LA won’t be getting rid of me just yet!!”

Related: Sabrina Carpenter Channels Y2K Pop Star Style in an Orange Roberto Cavalli Minidress

She also landed a role in TV movie Gulliver Quinn and voiced a character on two episodes of the beloved Disney Channel animated series Phineas and Ferb.

The short-lived Goodwin Games aired on Fox in 2013, with Carpenter playing the younger version of series lead Becki Newton’s character in flashbacks to her time as a child math whiz. That same year, Carpenter made a guest appearance on an episode of Netflix’s prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black, had a small role in the Daniel Radcliffe-led indie horror flick Horns and continued to work in animation, voicing Princess Vivian in Disney Junior’s Sofia the First, a role she would return to over the show’s four-season run, ending in 2018.

<p>Ron Tom/Disney Channel via Getty</p> Sabrina Carpenter and Rowan Blanchard in 'Girl Meets World' in 2016

Ron Tom/Disney Channel via Getty

Sabrina Carpenter and Rowan Blanchard in 'Girl Meets World' in 2016

But her big break came in late 2013, when she was cast in a lead role in Girl Meets World. For three seasons, from June 2014 to January 2017, Carpenter played Maya Hart, the best friend of Rowan Blanchard’s Riley Matthews in the Disney Channel’s Boy Meets World reboot.

Related: Danielle Fishel Celebrates Former Girl Meets World Costar Sabrina Carpenter's Billboard Hit Success: 'I'm Crying'

“That was my world and that was my everything and I was so proud to be a part of it and everything that it stood for,” Carpenter told Teen Vogue of the series in 2020. “I definitely would have done some things different had I been doing it now, but I think the beauty of the show was that we really were at the age that we were playing and we were coming into ourselves as we were playing characters that were coming into themselves.”

<p>Ed Araquel/Disney Channel via Getty</p> Sabrina Carpenter in 'Adventures in Babysitting' in 2016

Ed Araquel/Disney Channel via Getty

Sabrina Carpenter in 'Adventures in Babysitting' in 2016

With Girl Meets World firmly cementing her as a Disney Channel star, Carpenter landed her first lead role in a film, starring opposite Sofia Carson in the network’s remake of 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting in 2016. She also joined the main voice cast of Disney’s animated series Milo Murphy’s Law opposite "Weird" Al Yankovic.

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Since Girl Meets World ended in 2017, Carpenter has moved into more serious roles in 2018’s The Hate U Give and 2019’s The Short History of the Long Road, as well as teen rom-coms like Tall Girl and Disney’s Clouds. She’s also focused on her music, releasing five album since 2015 and touring extensively, headlining her own shows as well as opening for Ariana Grande and, of course, Taylor Swift.

All of which has led Carpenter to her current moment in the spotlight — which just keeps heating up as “Song of Summer” season really gets going. On Tuesday, “Espresso” remained in the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Global Excl. US chart for the third week in a row.

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