Denise Nickerson is an American former child actress best known for her roles as the gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and Amy Jennings in the soap opera Dark Shadows.
Born in New York City, Nickerson made appearances in the late 1960s on such shows as The Doctors, and opposite Bill Bixby in an unsold television pilot called Rome Sweet Rome. Nickerson's big break came in 1968 when she joined the cast of ABC-TV's Dark Shadows, appearing as recurring character Amy Jennings from 1968-1970. Upon leaving Dark Shadows, she appeared in the television movie The Neon Ceiling.
In 1971, Nickerson was cast as the nymphet Lolita in the 1971 ill-fated musical, Lolita, My Love during its run on Boston, and closed on the road. Also at this time, Nickerson landed her signature role as gum-chewing Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.. From 1972-1973, Nickerson joined the cast of The Electric Company as Allison, a member of the Short Circus music group. Producers saw the potential in the fresh-faced Nickerson and often had her singing lead on several songs, including The Sweet Sweet Sway. She also guest starred as Pamela, a girlfriend of Peter Brady on one of the final The Brady Bunch episodes, Two Petes in a Pod.
Nickerson was considered for the role of Regan MacNeil, the demon-possessed girl in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist, but her parents pulled her out at the last minute due to conflicts with the story's subject matter. The role was eventually made famous by Linda Blair.
Nickerson's career was temporarily put on hold in November 1976 when she was struck by a car while crossing the street. The injury landed her in a full leg cast for eight months. Afterwards, she appeared in the film Zero to Sixty and TV movie Child of Glass.