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.
- Her parents are originally from the South, and came to Michigan (Merkerson's birthplace) in search of work.
- Won her second Village Voice Obie Award in 2006 for her work in "Birdie Blue."
- 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.
- When walking the streets of New York she is frequently approached by members of the NYPD, who jokingly ask how they can be transferred to her precinct.
- 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.
- 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.
- Smoked for twenty years before quitting.
- Owes much of her success to casting director 'Meg Simon' (qv).