Nov. 28th, 1952
Saginaw, Michigan, USA
S. Epatha Merkerson's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
A native of Michigan, S. Epatha Merkerson earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Wayne State University. In 1978, she moved to New York City to apply her craft on stage. Although best known since 1993 as the smart and shrewd Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the long-running TV crime drama "Law & Order" (1990), she has a long list of Broadway and off-Broadway credits and honors that include Drama Desk Award and Tony Award nominations for Best Actress for her performance in the August Wilson play The Piano Lesson (1995) (TV), a 1992 Obie Award for her performance in "I'm Not Stupid," and a 1998 Helen Hayes Award for her starring role in the Studio Theater production in Washington, DC, of the John Henry Redwood play "The Old Settler." Her first appearance on television was a guest-starring role on an episode of "The Cosby Show" (1984). Her earliest regular role in television, however, was that of Reba the Mail Woman on "Pee-wee's Playhouse" (1986). Merkerson remains a theatrical force on the stage and on the screen and has the distinction of having been nominated for an Image Award in the Outstanding-Lead-Actress-in-a-Drama category for "Law & Order" (1990) for three consecutive years by the NAACP.
- On a June 11, 2005, episode of the NPR show "Wait wait... Don't tell me!" she claimed that her first name was not Sharon, but rather was "Sweet." This may well have been a jest, but she repeatedly stuck with it.
- Her favorite _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) episode is the first season show "Mushrooms," in which she plays Denise Winters, a woman whose son is mistakenly killed by a boy who, unable to read, fires shots into the wrong apartment.
- Was nominated for Broadway's 1990 Tony Award as Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) for 'August Wilson' (qv)'s "The Piano Lesson."
- In 2002, she received the Regulus Award from the Cancer Care organization for her dedication to lung-cancer awareness and education. The award was presented by her _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) co-star, 'Jesse L. Martin' (qv).
- She wears a wig on _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) to cover up her "twist-locs", which have since been cut off and replaced by short-length hair.
- Her _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) character, Lt. Anita Van Buren, whom she has played since 1993, is the longest running African American character in an American television drama.
- In April 2006, co-star 'Jesse L. Martin' (qv) presented Merkerson with the Entertainer of the Year Award at the SunDeis Film Festival at Brandeis Universty.
- Was nominated for Broadway's 2008 Tony Award for Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play for "Come Back, Little Sheba".