Nov. 28th, 1952
Saginaw, Michigan, USA
S. Epatha Merkerson's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles2010 - Mother and Child
2009 - The Six Wives of Henry Lefay
2007 - Slipstream
2006 - Black Snake Moan
2004 - Jersey Girl
2003 - Radio
1999 - Random Hearts
1991 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day
1990 - Loose Cannons
1990 - Navy Seals
1990 - Jacob's Ladder
1986 - She's Gotta Have It
Guest TV Roles
Capt. Margaret Claghorn
Lt. Anita Van Buren
Lt. Anita Van Buren
Judge Melanie Ellis
Book Club Member #5
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.
- 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 _"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.
- Works with Justice Works Community, a group "advocating for humane policies towards women in prison, especially those with children."
- Along with 'Jerry Orbach' (qv) and 'Annie Parisse' (qv), 'Diane Neal' (qv), and 'Milena Govich' (qv) one of at least 5 _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) cast members to play a different character in an episode before joining the cast in a later season. ('Michael Imperioli' (qv) also played multiple roles, but was not a permanent addition to the cast as Det. Falco.).
- Her sister is a lung-cancer survivor.
- Nominated for the Drama League's Distinguished Performance Award for her work in "Fucking A" (2003), "Birdie Blue" (2006) and "Come Back, Little Sheba" (2008).
- 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.
- 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).