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S. Epatha Merkerson Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (34)  | Personal Quotes (2)

Overview (3)

Born in Saginaw, Michigan, USA
Birth NameSharon Epatha Merkerson
Height 5' 6" (1.68 m)

Mini Bio (1)

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), 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.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Eljay_Allen

Spouse (1)

Toussaint Louverture Jones Jr. (20 March 1994 - 14 February 2006) ( divorced)

Trivia (34)

She wears a wig on Law & Order (1990) to cover up her "twist-locs", which have since been cut off and replaced by short-length hair.
With Jerry Orbach's departure from Law & Order (1990) 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.
Was nominated for Broadway's 1990 Tony Award as Best Actress (Featured Role - Play) for August Wilson'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) co-star, Jesse L. Martin.
Has been nominated twice for the Helen Hayes 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) character, Lt. Anita Van Buren, whom she has played since 1993, is the longest running African American character in an American television drama.
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.
Smoked for twenty years before quitting.
Before studying Acting, she majored in Dance at Wayne State University.
Works with Justice Works Community, a group "advocating for humane policies towards women in prison, especially those with children."
Her sister is a lung-cancer survivor.
Owes much of her success to casting director Meg Simon.
Her favorite Law & Order (1990) 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 parents are originally from the South, and came to Michigan (Merkerson's birthplace) in search of work.
Is the youngest of five children.
In April 2006, co-star Jesse L. Martin presented Merkerson with the Entertainer of the Year Award at the SunDeis Film Festival at Brandeis Universty.
Won her second Village Voice Obie Award in 2006 for her work in "Birdie Blue."
Along with Jerry Orbach and Annie Parisse, Diane Neal, Milena Govich, and Jeremy Sisto one of at least 6 Law & Order (1990) cast members to play a different character in an episode before joining the cast in a later season. (Michael Imperioli also played multiple roles, but was not a permanent addition to the cast as Det. Falco.).
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.
As Lt. Anita Van Buren, Merkerson has done over 300 episodes and is the longest-running African-American character on television. Male or female.
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).
Nominated for the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play for her performance in "Come Back, Little Sheba".
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, Felicia Fields and Michelle Williams, were all nominated for the work in "The Color Purple".
Was nominated for Broadway's 2008 Tony Award for Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play for "Come Back, Little Sheba".
She has played the same character (Lt. Anita Van Buren) in three different television series: Law & Order (1990), Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2001) and Law & Order: Trial by Jury (2005).
She appeared in 391 episodes of Law & Order (1990), more than anyone else. Consequently, Lt. Anita Van Buren is the most prolific female character in the history of US primetime television.
Performing the lead role in "Birdie Bues" in New York City. [July 2005]
Playing "Lola Delaney" in "Come Back Little Sheba" by William Inge at the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway for a limited run. [January 2008]
Appeared in a commercial for Coricidin. [2009]
She was nominated for a 1990 Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for "The Piano Lesson" on Broadway in New York City.
She was nominated for a 2007 Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance Award for "Come Back, Little Sheba," was performed in a Manhattan Theatre Club presentation of a Center Theatre Group production on Broadway in New York City.
She was nominated for a 2008 Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for "Come Back, Little Sheba," was performed in a Manhattan Theatre Club presentation of a Center Theatre Group production on Broadway in New York City.
She was nominated for a 2007-2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Actress in a Play for "Come Back, Little Sheba," was performed in a Manhattan Theatre Club presentation of a Center Theatre Group production on Broadway in New York City.
She has played the same character (Sharon Goodwin) in three different series: Chicago Fire (2012), Chicago P.D. (2014) and Chicago Med (2015).

Personal Quotes (2)

My dad said he had a teacher named Epatha who was influential in keeping him in school. But my mother said it was an old girlfriend of his. So that's why she stuck in the Sharon Epatha. That's what the "S" stands for. Everyone knows now because some numbskull I went to high school with decided to put it on the Internet.
On playing Lola in "Come Back Little Sheba": I'm usually typecast as strong, authoritative, so to find that kind of vulnerability is a real challenge. But Lola is not so far from me, either. I was married, and I understand how to be lonely in a marriage. I believe she's in menopause. And that alone, hormonally, can send a woman into a tailspin. Add in her alcoholic husband, and (you've got) a decent person who's just, um ... stuck. In the past. But she's muuuch stronger than she thinks.

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