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.
- As Lt. Anita Van Buren, Merkerson has done over 300 episodes and is the longest-running African-American character on television. Male or female.
- Before studying Acting, she majored in Dance at Wayne State University.
- Nominated for the 2008 NAACP Theatre Award (Best Lead Female) for her performance as Lola in a revival of "Come Back, Little Sheba." The other three nominees, 'Jeannette Bayardelle' (qv), 'Felicia Fields' (qv) and 'Michelle Williams (I)' (qv), were all nominated for the work in "The Color Purple".
- 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 parents are originally from the South, and came to Michigan (Merkerson's birthplace) in search of work.
- Is the youngest of five children.
- Has been nominated twice for the 'Helen Hayes (I)' (qv) Award, first in 1990 for "The Piano Lesson" (Outstanding Lead Actress-Nonresident Production) and in 1999 for "The Old Settler" (Outstanding Lead Actress-Resident Play), for which she won the award.
- Smoked for twenty years before quitting.