Carlson was born in Detroit, Michigan on August 25, 1999, the only child of Eric and Sherri Carlson. She started performing in an annual family play at the age of two years with her two cousins and her grandmother Pauline Ettore, a councilwoman for the City of Taylor. Her parents owned Michigan Crafty & Motion Picture Catering which sparked her interest in the industry.
Carlson began her acting career in 2010 with a supporting role in Machine Gun Preacher alongside Gerard Butler, Michael Shannon, and Michelle Monaghan. She continued to do local projects in Detroit, including the period piece, Mary's Buttons (2012), which was based off a true story and Naked Angel (2014) with James Duval and Debra Wilson. She co-starred on an episode of CSI: NY with Jadin Gould, Olivia Stuck and Emily Robinson, as teenagers who were victims of a senseless shooting. She was in a skit on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2012.
She is an outspoken Activist against bullying, coming from the perspective of "living in that moment" during elementary and middle school. The bullying by schoolmates in grades 4-6 lead her parents to choose home schooling for Mandalynn, allowing her to work at an accelerated pace as well as provided time in her schedule for training and acting. In 2013-14, Mandalynn was a guest speaker on the TBTG Music Is My Language Tour around Southern California schools, bringing a positive message about acceptance and advocating against bullying.
Carlson worked with the same Producer of Mary's Buttons on another film, Small Town Santa (2014) with Dean Cain and Christine Lakin. Her father is played by Cain, a small town sheriff who is angry at the world because he is away from his daughter on Christmas Eve. Carlson worked with Cain again on her next film, A Horse for Summer (2015), where she played the lead role of Summer Dean, a troubled teen who bounces from foster home to foster home while her mother is in jail. She is eventually sent to live with her uncle whom she has never met. Trouble follows her there as well and she forces Cain to make a hard choice on whether to let her stay or send her back to the city. This film was Nancy Criss's directorial feature debut. Christopher Atkins and Lee Meriwether also star in the film.
Homeschooled since the 6th grade, Carlson started her first year of college at the age of 15 years. As a college sophomore at 16 years old, she was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa with a 4.0 gpa.
She finished filming Fishes 'N Loaves: Heaven Sent where Patrick Muldoon plays her father in a feature film for the second time. Carlson's mother is played by Dina Meyer and her brother is Brandon Tyler Russell. The film is a faith based film about a pastor that moves his family from the big city to a small town and the shocking change between the two and is set to be released in 2016.
In 2017, Carlson stepped behind the camera to direct an episode of CREEPY CHRONICLES. THE KEEPER, was episode 102 in the series which debuted on Amazon Prime. Carlson was also executive Producer on episode 2 and episode 3 called POOL PARTY, under her production company SMASH THE GLASS PICTURES.
ROADSIDE STARS paired Mandalynn with acting legend and academy award nominee Candy Clark from American Graffiti, Gene Loveland and Boti Bliss OF CSI:Miami fame. Carlson plays SAM LAMBERT in this edgy series. Wannabe rock star JACK LAMBERT, whose never-was career got sidelined by women, booze and blow, finds himself as the sole caretaker to his estranged, teenage daughter SAM after her mother loses the battle with cancer. Sam’s grandmother is suspicious of Jack’s intentions, but has to contend with the realization that she may be suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s time for Peter Pan to grow up, but Jack may not be ready for his new burden of responsibility, and Sam may not be ready to accept his help after years of taking care of the family on her own.