S. Epatha Merkerson

Celebrity

Biography

  • Birth Name: Sharon Epatha Merkerson
  • Birth Place: Saginaw, MI
  • Date of Birth / Zodiac Sign: 11/28/1952, Sagittarius
  • Profession: Actor
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Distinctive in both her talent and down-to-earth appearance, Merkerson started out on stage, appearing off-off-Broadway and in regional theater. In the 1980s, she landed her first series-regular TV role, as Reba the mail lady on Pee-wee's Playhouse, and essayed a handful of guest spots. Merkerson seemed destined to become one of the legions of working no-name actors, until everything changed for her in the 1990s. After being nominated for a 1991 Tony for her searing turn in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Piano Lesson, Merkerson gave a devastating performance as a grieving mother on an episode of Law & Order. The next year, she again worked with L&O creator Dick Wolf on the short-lived sci-fi/crime series Mann & Machine, on which she played a cop. So when L&O introduced no-nonsense police lieutenant Anita Van Buren in Season 4, Merkerson was a shoo-in for the part. In addition to her most high-profile gig, she's taken on a variety of small roles in features and TV movies, and regularly returned to her theatrical roots. But in 2005, a different small-screen project brought Merkerson her greatest accolades to date: the TV movie Lackawanna Blues, for which her turn as the lively head of a boardinghouse earned Merkerson an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a SAG Award and an NAACP Image Award. In 2010, she announced that L&O's 20th season would be her last, after 17 years playing Anita Van Buren---the longest-appearing black character on a prime-time drama in TV history.S. Epatha Merkerson Fast Facts:
  • The youngest of five children raised by a single mother in Detroit.
  • Made her big-screen debut in director Spike Lee's first feature, 1986 romantic comedy She's Gotta Have It.
  • Theater honors include an Obie Award in 1991 for I'm Not Stupid and a Helen Hayes Award in 1999 for The Old Settler.
  • Covered her unprocessed hair with a wig to play New York police lieutenant Anita Van Buren on Law & Order.
  • A former smoker who quit cold turkey after losing a close friend to lung cancer, she has become a spokesperson for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
  • First name is really Sharon, but she jokes that the "S" stands for "Sweet."
  • S. Epatha Merkerson Relationships:
  • Ann Merkerson - Mother
  • Toussaint L. Jones - Ex-husband
  • S. Epatha Merkerson Awards:
  • 2003 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series - Nominee
  • 2005 Emmy: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie - Winner
  • 2000 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series - Nominee
  • 1990 Tony: Actress (Featured Role--Play) - Nominee
  • 1994 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series - Nominee
  • 1996 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series - Nominee
  • 2006 Golden Globe: Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television - Winner
  • 2001 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series - Nominee
  • 2005 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries - Winner
  • 1995 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series - Nominee
  • 1997 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series - Nominee
  • 2008 Tony: Actress (Play) - Nominee
  • College:
  • Wayne State University, Detroit, MI (BFA in Theatre, 1976)

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