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 sister is a lung-cancer survivor.
- Was nominated for Broadway's 2008 Tony Award for Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play for "Come Back, Little Sheba".
- 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.
- 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.
- With 'Jerry Orbach' (qv)'s departure from _"Law & Order" (1990)_ (qv) in 2004 after playing the role of Detective Lennie Briscoe for twelve years, she is now the longest-running cast member. She joined the series as Lt. Anita Van Buren in 1993 at the beginning of the show's fourth season.
- Nominated for the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for her performance in "Come Back, Little Sheba".
- Smoked for twenty years before quitting.
- Was nominated for Broadway's 1990 Tony Award as Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) for 'August Wilson' (qv)'s "The Piano Lesson."