Lt. Anita Van Buren (S. Epatha Merkerson)
as Lt. Anita Van Buren
Tony Award nominee S. Epatha Merkerson begins her 10th season as Lt. Anita Van Buren on “Law & Order.”
Merkerson is a native of Detroit, Michigan, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Wayne State University.
She has performed on and off-Broadway in productions including the 1990 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Piano Lesson,” for which she received a Tony and Drama Desk nomination for Best Actress. She received a 1991 Obie Award for her work in the Young Playwrights Festival’s production of “I’m Not Stupid” and a 1999 Helen Hayes Award for her role “The Old Settler” in Washington, D.C.
Merkerson’s feature-film credits include roles in “Random Hearts” (with Harrison Ford), “Terminator II: Judgment Day,” “Jacob’s Ladder,” “Navy SEALS” and “Loose Cannons” (with Gene Hackman).
Prior to “Law & Order,” Merkerson was a series regular on “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” where she played Reba the Mail Lady. She also starred in “Mann & Machine” (produced by “Law & Order” producer Dick Wolf) and the Bill Cosby-produced comedy “Here & Now” with Malcolm Jamal Warner. Additionally, she made guest appearances on “The Cosby Show,” “Equal Justice,” and recently on NBC’s “Frasier” as the psychiatrist for Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves).
Merkerson has co-starred in numerous television movies, including “A Mother’s Prayer” with Linda Hamilton, “A Place for Annie” with Sissy Spacek, “Breaking Free” with JoBeth Williams, and “An Unexpected Life” and “It’s a Girl Thing,” both with Stockard Channing. In 1998, she reprised her role as Lieutenant Van Buren in the NBC movie “Exiled” with Chris Noth.
An outspoken advocate against smoking and for lung-cancer research and awareness, Merkerson was honored this year by the organization Cancercare in a ceremony at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. She received the Regulus Award, which was presented to her by co-star Jesse L. Martin, for her work to broaden awareness and to save lives. She also spearheaded the creation of a quilt by the “Law & Order” cast and crew, which was auctioned to benefit the Campaign for Smoke-free Kids.
Merkerson and her husband divide their time between New York City and Maryland. Her birthday is November 28.