Gwendolyn Anne Carver was born on October 13, 1999, in Charleston, South Carolina. Her father, Dr. Cooper Carver, is a respected dentist of twenty-three years with an office in downtown Charleston. Her mother does charity work with the South Carolina Literacy Program and the South Carolina Blood Bank.
Gwen is the second of three daughters. Her older sister, Angelique, is in law school at The University of Virginia. Her younger sister, Beatrice Lynn who everyone calls Belle, is a 17-year-old senior at a private school in Charleston and plans to attend dental school like her father. Gwen is a junior theatre major at The University of Mississippi with a 3.4 GPA and was hand-picked by Dalton Kimbrough to play the lead female role in his film.
Members of the theatre department student association say that Kimbrough approached Carver one day in December after open rehearsals for the play Macbeth at Fulton Chapel, the school's theatre auditorium. Carver had the plum role of Lady Macbeth, and the show was sold out for three consecutive nights on December 6–8, in part due to her strong performance.
Witnesses say that Kimbrough complimented Carver on her spirit and awareness on the stage and proposed that she take the lead role in his new production, entitled Death to the Revelers. She eagerly accepted and began immersing herself in Kimbrough's group of actors and crew. Her friends described it as "a bad situation" involving Kimbrough, Teddy Zeboe, and other local people on the fringe of the Yoknapatawpha County theatre world who were spending up to twelve hours a day together in preparation for Kimbrough's film.
Witnesses say that Kimbrough was very demanding of Carver and insisted that she talk to no outsiders about the project. As a result, her social life greatly diminished, and her friends began worrying about her personal health and safety. She dismissed them, telling them that she was excited about this project and that it could most certainly be her big break into movies.