Birth Date: November 29, 1952 / Age: 60
Birth Place: Saginaw, Michigan
Biography: Sharon Epatha Merkerson (usually credited as S. Epatha Merkerson), born 28 November 1952 in Saginaw, Michigan, is a Tony Award nominated American actress. She is best known as "Lieutenant Anita Van Buren" (1993-present) on the long-running TV crime drama Law & Order. She is currently the series' longest cast member. When it reaches its 367th episode in the 16th season, she will become the first actor to appear in 300 episodes.
Raised in Detroit as the youngest of five children, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Wayne State University and began her New York theater career in 1978. Merkerson was nominated for a Tony award for Best Actress for her performance as Berniece in The Piano Lesson and won an Obie award in 1992 for her work in I'm Not Stupid. Her screen credits include Jacob's Ladder and Loose Cannons and her role as Joe Morton's terrified wife in James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Merkerson made her television debut as Reba the Mail Lady on Pee Wee's Playhouse, and has appeared on The Cosby Show, among other series, but her most important single television appearance may have been in the first season Law and Order episode "Mushrooms," in which she portrayed the grief-stricken mother of an 11-month-old boy who is shot accidentally. Her work was not only memorable to the audience during that key first season, but also to the producers, who later picked Merkerson for the role of the new detective squad chief in the series' fourth season.
She is an outspoken advocate against smoking and for lung cancer research and awareness.