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S Epatha Merkerson

S Epatha Merkerson

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Also Known As: Epatha Merkerson, Sharon Epatha Merkerson Died:
Born: November 28, 1952 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Saginaw, Michigan, USA Profession: actor, singer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

As an acclaimed performer with gritty but approachable style, actress S. Epatha Merkerson began her career on the stage both on and off-Broadway before moving to television, where she played the longest-running character on the seemingly eternal "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010). Prior to her run on the procedural, Merkerson was perhaps best known for her small, but memorable role as a screaming wife in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991) while continuing her onstage success with an OBIE Award for her performance in "I'm Not Stupid" (1992). But in 1993, Merkerson went from virtual unknown to household regular who, over the next 17 years, was seen portraying the tough, but determined Lt. Anita Van Buren on "Law & Order," a role she reprised in episodes of the spin-off series and a made-for-television movie. She had arguably her greatest critical success with her leading performance as the spirited "Nanny" Crosby in the acclaimed television movie "Lackawanna Blues" (HBO, 2005), a role that won the actress both a Golden Globe and Emmy Award. Because of her longevity on "Law & Order" and the praise received for "Lackawanna Blues," Merkerson emerged as a highly desirable character actress capable of...

As an acclaimed performer with gritty but approachable style, actress S. Epatha Merkerson began her career on the stage both on and off-Broadway before moving to television, where she played the longest-running character on the seemingly eternal "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010). Prior to her run on the procedural, Merkerson was perhaps best known for her small, but memorable role as a screaming wife in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" (1991) while continuing her onstage success with an OBIE Award for her performance in "I'm Not Stupid" (1992). But in 1993, Merkerson went from virtual unknown to household regular who, over the next 17 years, was seen portraying the tough, but determined Lt. Anita Van Buren on "Law & Order," a role she reprised in episodes of the spin-off series and a made-for-television movie. She had arguably her greatest critical success with her leading performance as the spirited "Nanny" Crosby in the acclaimed television movie "Lackawanna Blues" (HBO, 2005), a role that won the actress both a Golden Globe and Emmy Award. Because of her longevity on "Law & Order" and the praise received for "Lackawanna Blues," Merkerson emerged as a highly desirable character actress capable of delivering consistent quality performances.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Lincoln (2012)
2.
 Mother and Child (2009)
3.
 Black Snake Moan (2007)
4.
 Slipstream (2007)
5.
 Girl, Positive (2007)
6.
 Lackawanna Blues (2005) Cast
7.
 Jersey Girl (2004) Doctor #1
8.
 Radio (2003) Maggie
9.
10.
 Random Hearts (1999) Nea
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Detroit, Michigan
:
Worked in children's theater in Albany, New York after graduating from college
1976:
Moved to NYC to pursue acting career
1978:
Had featured role in the national tour of "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf..."
1984:
Appeared at the famed Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam (Connecticut) to play a prominent role in a staging of the musical, "The Dream Team"
1986:
Cast in first TV role, as Reba, "the mail lady" on the children's comedy and variety series, "Pee-wee's Playhouse"
1987:
Replaced Lonette McKee in the role of Billie Holliday in the Off-Broadway biographical musical drama, "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill"
1987:
Acted Off-Off-Broadway at the Hudson Guild Theater in the play, "Moms"
:
Reprised the role of Reba from "Pee-wee's Playhouse" on several primetime CBS specials
1989:
Made feature film debut in a small role in "Loose Cannons"
1990:
Acted the leading role of Berniece in out-of-town tryouts, on tour and on Broadway in director Lloyd Richards's staging of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, "The Piano Lesson"; nominated for a Tony Award
1992:
Returned to the Off-Broadway stage in "I'm Not Stupid"
1993:
First TV-movie, "It's Nothing Personal"
1993:
Made debut as a series regular on NBC's police and courtroom drama, "Law & Order" as Lt. Anita Van Buren; left the series at the end of the 2009-2010 season
2005:
Won an Emmy for her role as Nanny, the owner of a boarding house in Lackawanna, New York in the HBO original movie "Lackawanna Blues"; also earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Actress
2007:
Cast opposite Samuel L. Jackson in "Black Snake Moan"
2007:
Returned to the stage as the aging, disillusioned Lola of William Inge's "Come Back, Little Sheba"; earned a Tony award nomination for Best Actress in a Play
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Thomas M. Cooley High School: Detroit , Michigan - 1970
Wayne State University: Detroit , Michigan - 1976

Notes

The actress will not reveal what the "S" in her name stands for. Her middle name is pronounced e-PAY-tha.

"I'm s-o-o-o-o not Van Buren. I like to argue. I have respect for Van Buren. She reminds me of my mother. These are women who choose a profession that is basically white-male oriented but keep a sense of who they are and always demand and get respect." --S. Epatha Merkerson quoted in Parade Magazine, July 16, 2000.

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Toussaint L Jones. Social worker, therapist. Met in Albany, New York in the late 1970s; married in 1994.

Family close complete family listing

mother:
Ann Merkerson. Postal employee, seamstress. Separated from Merkerson's father c. 1957; was only female in the vehicles operation unit of the Detroit post office at the time.

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