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Saginaw, Michigan, USA
Claim to Fame
Law & Order
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Profile Bio Text
S. Epatha Merkerson (born Sharon Epatha Merkerson on November 28, 1952) is an American Golden Globe-, Screen Actors Guild-, NAACP Image Award- and Emmy Award-winning actress. She has also received two Tony Award nominations. She is known for her roles as Reba the Mail Lady on Pee Wee`s Playhouse in the 1980s, and as the no-nonsense supervisor, Lt. Anita Van Buren (1993-present), on the long-running television crime drama Law & Order. She has appeared on the show longer than any other cast member and on May 14, 2008, she appeared in her 345th episode of Law & Order, surpassing Michele Lee`s record of 344 episodes on a single series (for Knots Landing). Merkerson, the youngest of five children, was born in Saginaw, Michigan, the daughter of Ann Merkerson, who at the time was the only female in the vehicles operation unit at the Detroit Post Office. Her father worked in a factory. Merkerson`s parents separated in 1957. Merkerson is often reticent about revealing what her first name really is — Sharon. On the June 11, 2005 episode of NPR`s Wait Wait... Don`t Tell Me!, she jokingly claimed that the initial "S," "stands for `Sweet` [because] so many people have difficulty with Epatha, which is what I prefer to be called." She has legally changed her first name to S. Merkerson graduated from Cooley High School in 1970. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Wayne State University and began her New York theater career in 1978.
She was formerly married to Toussaint L. Jones. She lives in the Harlem section of New York City. Has a brother, Barrie Merkerson, who currently works as an attorney for the city of Detroit. Merkerson is an outspoken advocate against smoking and for lung cancer research and awareness. When she guest-hosted on The View on March 2, 2007, she discussed her 23-year addiction to smoking, which ended in the early `90s after she woke up one morning unable to breathe. Until May 2007, she sat on the Board of Directors of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. For her role as Van Buren on Law & Order, she actually wears a wig. Her real hair is made up in short dreadlocks. Merkerson decided to wear a wig for the role to look more "professional".
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Full Name at Birth
Sharon Epatha Merkerson
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Sharon Epatha Merkerson (; born November 28, 1952), better known by her stage name S. Epatha Merkerson, is an American film, stage, and television actress. She has won a Golden Globe, an Emmy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, an Obie Award and four NAACP Image Awards. She has also received two Tony Award nominations. She is best known for her role as NYPD Lieutenant Anita Van Buren from 1993 to 2010 on the long-running NBC police procedural drama series Law & Order. She appeared in 391 episodes of the series—more than any other cast member.
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We are unable to find our family pictures. We would like to order our pictu...
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