S. Epatha Merkerson

S. Epatha Merkerson


Saginaw, Michigan, USA

Birth Name

Sharon Epatha Merkerson



Also Known As

Epatha Merkinson, Epatha Merkerson, S. Epatha Merkerson
out of 10
User Rating
65 votes



The youngest of five children. Grew up in Michigan. Attended Wayne State University in Detroit. S. Epatha made her Broadway debut as the understudy for Lynne Thigpen in the musical Tintypes. It was ten years later she created the role of Bernice, the no nonsense wife, in August…more


Trivia and Quotes

  • Trivia

    • In 2005, Epatha won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie playing Rachel Crosby on Lackawanna Blues.

    • Both of her Broadway shows were original produced by the Centre Theatre Group and had their pre Broadway productions in Los Angeles. The Piano Lesson at the Dolittle Theatre (produced as part of The Ahmanson season at the Dolittle) and Come Back Little Sheba premiered at The Kirk Douglas Theatre.

    • While starring in Law and Order, Epatha appeared in 6 public service announcements for NBC's The More You Know. Her topics were anti-prejudice, gun violence, breast cancer, smoking, family communication, and emergency planning.

    • Epatha won a 2006 Golden Globe Award, Emmy Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, NAACP Image Award, Gracie Allen Awards for the Best Performance by an Actress In A Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television for her role in Lackawanna Blues. And received an Independant Spirit Award nomination.

    • Epatha studied Dance before she switched her major to drama..

    • Epatha smoked cigarettes for twenty years before quitting and joining the campaign to get people to quit.

    • As Lt. Anita Van Buren on Law & Order, Epatha now holds the honor of being the longest running African American character in an American television series.

    • Epatha has been nominated twice for the Helen Hayes Award first for August Wilson's The Piano Lesson (nominee) and then winning for The Old Settler.

    • Epatha was awarded the Regulus Award for the Cancer Care organization on her work on Lung Cancer awareness and education.

    • Epatha was also nominated for the Tony Award for her role in the play August Wilson's The Piano Lesson.

    • Epatha is now the longest running cast member on Law & Order after the death of her cast member who held that status, Jerry Orbach.

    • Epatha is left handed which sometimes is a struggle when she has to play certain roles.

    • Epatha wears a wig when she plays her character on Law & Order to cover up her corn braids.

    • Epatha married Toussaint L Jones in March of 1994 and they divorced in February 2006.

    • Epatha was nominated for the Best Actress in a Play Drama Desk Award.

    • Epatha did many Broadway and off Broadway hits in her acting career.

    • Epatha moved to New York City in 1978 to give acting a shot.

    • Epatha earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree when she attended Wayne State University.

    • Epatha was born Sharon Epatha Merkerson but dropped her first name and decided on just using her initial for screen purposes.

    • In the TV series The More You Know which premiered in 1989, Epatha played herself on the show.

    • Epatha was at the 5th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 1999.

    • Epatha played herself on the TV show Inside TV Land: Cops on Camera in 2002.

    • Epatha got the role of Lt. Anita Van Buren on the TV series Law & Order in 1993 and continues the role today.

    • Epatha acted in a made for TV mini series titled A Girl Thing in 2001.

    • Epatha did the voice of Lieutenant Anita Van Buren in Law & Order Double or Nothing in 2003.

    • In 2005 Epatha played Rachel Nanny Crosby in the movie titled Lackawanna Blues.

    • Epatha has a movie in post production titled Black Snake Moan where she will be playing the character of Angela. The movie should be released in 2006.

    • Epatha is also credited for her work under 2 other names. They are Epatha Merkerson and Epatha Merkinson.

    • Epatha was born on November 28, 1952 in Saginaw, Michigan.

    • Epatha was nominated for the Best Featured Actress in a Play Tony Award for The Piano Lesson.

  • Quotes

  • Sharon, really

    I am thinking it must be a family name Epatha, not sure how you say it. But my thoughts would be Sharon is the way to go. Love your Law and Order Character....Lt. Van Buren and every role ever played .Great talent great lady!
  • Underrated Actress

    I think S. Epatha Merkerson is a very underratted and gifted actress. She is the reason I watch Law & Order. I think that she should be used more in the show instead of always in the office or behind her desk. I think she did a extraordinary in the movie Lackawanna Blues. I love the way she plays her character Lt. Anita Van Buren on Law & Order. I just hope they do more with her character on Law & Order instead of having her behind her desk all the time or out of the office on very rare occasions.moreless