Carel Struyken was born in the Hague, The Netherlands. When he was four years old his family moved to Curacao, an island in the Caribbean. At age sixteen, he returned to his country, where he finished high school. He graduated from the directing program at the film school in Amsterdam, following which he did a year at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.
After school, he collaborated on a number of projects of writer/director Rene Daalder. He was "discovered" as an actor at the corner of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles by a lady who had abandoned her car in the middle of the street, calling after him, "We need you for a movie!". The movie was Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978). The turning point in his acting career however was Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985), a George Lucas film. In addition to cinema, he has also appeared on TV, notably as the recurring character, valet Mr. Homn, on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987).