S. Epatha Merkerson

S. Epatha Merkerson

Birth name: S. Epatha Merkerson
Born: November 28, 1952
Age: 65
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan
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Biography

S. Epatha Merkerson is a celebrated American film, stage, and television actor. She has received numerous high profile accolades for her work, including an Emmy Award, two Tony Award nominations, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, 2 Obie Awards and four NAACP Image Awards. Ms. Merkerson is also the recipient of 4 honorary doctorate degrees. She is best known for her award-winning portrayal of Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the NBC police procedural drama series Law & Order, a role she played from 1993 to 2010. She appeared in 395 episodes of the series—more than any other cast member.

In 2012, Merkerson became the host of Find Our Missing, a reality-reenactment series on TV One which profiles missing people of color.

In 2015, she was cast as Sharon Goodwin, Chief of Medical Services of the fictional Gaffney Chicago Medical Center Hospital on the NBC medical drama Chicago Med.

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Early life

Merkerson has four siblings and is a native of Detroit, Michigan. Her mother, Anna was a trailblazer in the United States Postal Service as the only female in the Detroit vehicles operation unit.

During a segment on the January 31, 2012, episode of The Wendy Williams Show, when questioned about the origin of her name, Merkerson shared that "Epatha" was the name of "a grade-school teacher who was influential in keeping in school." She further went on to clarify that she prefers to be addressed as "Epatha" as opposed to "S. Epatha.".

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 City theater career in 1978. She was conferred an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Wayne State University in May 2009, and received the same distinction from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2012; Montclair State University in 2013 and University of Pittsburgh in 2017.

Career

Merkerson made her television debut as Reba the Mail Lady on Pee-wee's Playhouse. Merkerson has also appeared on The Cosby Show, among other series.

She first appeared in the NBC police procedural drama Law & Order in season 1: episode 17 titled "Mushrooms", as the grief-stricken mother of an 11-month-old boy who is shot accidentally. Her performance impressed the producers enough to select Merkerson to replace Dann Florek as detective squad chief in the series' fourth season, making her one of the few actors to secure a recurring role after an initial single appearance on the show.

Merkerson's star began to rise after she assumed the lead role in the one-woman play, Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill. That was followed by a Tony Award nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance as Berniece in August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Piano Lesson. Merkerson won an Obie Award in 1992 for her work in I'm Not Stupid. Her screen credits include Jacob's Ladder, Loose Cannons, She's Gotta Have It, James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day; and "Navy Seals". In 2006, she won a Golden Globe Award, an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild award for her performance in the HBO film Lackawanna Blues. In 2007, she starred as Lola Delaney in the Los Angeles stage production of William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba, playing the role made famous by Shirley Booth. In January 2008 the production opened a successful run on Broadway and earned Merkerson her second Tony nomination.

On April 1, 2010, it was confirmed that after 17 seasons, Merkerson would leave Law & Order at the end of the show's twentieth season. Her departure from Law & Order, which aired on May 24, 2010, was also the show's final episode. In total, Merkerson appeared on the series for 17 consecutive seasons - 395 episodes — which was more than any other actor associated with the program.

In 2012, Merkerson became the host of the show Find Our Missing which highlights the search for missing people of color. It is designed to put names and faces to people of color who have disappeared without a trace. Each episode tells the story of the missing person or persons, beginning with the day they vanished, the frantic searches by loved ones and the investigations into their disappearances. Find Our Missing provides insight into these victims’ lives: their hopes and dreams, what makes them tick and how they have touched those around them — from the people who knew them best.

Merkerson also appeared in Steven Spielberg's 2012 film Lincoln as Lydia Hamilton Smith, housekeeper to Tommy Lee Jones's character, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens.

In 2014, Merkerson appeared in the Primary Stages production of While I Yet Live, which was written by Tony Award winner Billy Porter.

In 2015 Merkerson joined the cast of NBC medical drama Chicago Med as Sharon Goodwin, Chief of Medical Services. The series was conceived and written by Law and Order creator Dick Wolf, along with Matt Olmstead, Derek Haas and Michael Brandt.

In 2014 Merkerson became a spokesperson for Merck America’s Diabetes Challenge, to increase type 2 diabetes awareness among African Americans.

Personal life

Merkerson is an outspoken advocate against smoking and for lung cancer research and awareness.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1986 She's Gotta Have It Doctor Jamison
1990 Loose Cannons Rachel
1990 Jacob's Ladder Elsa
1990 Navy Seals Jolena
1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day Tarissa Dyson
1999 Random Hearts Nea
2001 The Rising Place Lessie Watson
2003 Radio Maggie
2004 Jersey Girl Doctor
2006 Black Snake Moan Angela
2007 Slipstream Bonnie
2009 The Six Wives of Henry Lefay Effa
2009 Mother and Child Ada
2012 Find Our Missing Herself
2012 Lincoln Lydia Smith
2013 Tyler Perry Presents Peeples Daphne Peeples
2016 Year by the Sea Liz

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1986-1989 Pee-wee's Playhouse Reba the Mail Woman 16 episodes
1988 The Cosby Show Book Club Member #5 Episode: "Bookworm"
1989 CBS Summer Playhouse Jimmie Episode: "Elysian Fields"
1990 Equal Justice Mrs. Walters Episode: "Pilot"
1991 Law & Order Denise Winters Episode: "Mushrooms"
1992 Mann & Machine Capt. Margaret Claghorn 9 episodes
1992-1993 Here and Now Ms. St. Marth 12 episodes
1993-2010 Law & Order Anita Van Buren 388 episodes
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
1994 A Place for Annie Alice Television movie
1995 A Mother's Prayer Ruby Television movie
1998 Exiled Anita Van Buren Television movie
2000 Frasier Dr. McCaskill Episode: "Dark Side of the Moon"
2001 Art:21 Herself Episode: "Spirituality"
2001 A Girl Thing Lani Television movie
2002 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Anita Van Buren Episode: "Badge"
2005 Law & Order: Trial by Jury Anita Van Buren Episode: "Skeleton"
2005 Lackawanna Blues Rachel "Nanny" Crosby Television movie
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film
Gracie Allen Award for Outstanding Female Lead in a Miniseries
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie
Prism Award for Performance in a Television Movie or Miniseries
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actress - Miniseries or Television Film
2007 The Closer Dr. Rebecca Dioli 3 episodes
2007 Girl, Positive Ariel Winters Television movie
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
2012 Drop Dead Diva Judge Hiller Episode: "Lady Parts"
2013 The Good Wife Judge Melanie Ellis Episode: "Going for the Gold"
2013 Deception Beverly 3 episodes
2014 The Gabby Douglas Story Miss Caroline Television movie
2015 Being Mary Jane Mark's mother Episode: "Freedom"
2015-Present Chicago Fire Sharon Goodwin Episode: "I Am the Apocalypse"
Chicago Med Main
2016-Present Chicago P.D. 3 episodes

Awards and nominations

Awards
  • 1992 Obie Award Outstanding Performance (I'm Not Stupid)
  • 1999 Helen Hayes Award Outstanding Lead Actress-Resident Play (The Old Settler)
  • 2002 Regulus Award For her dedication to lung cancer awareness and education
  • 2005 Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2006 SunDeis Film Festival at Brandeis University Entertainer of the Year Award
  • 2006 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2006 PRISM Award Performance in a TV-Movie or Miniseries (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2006 Obie Award Outstanding Performance (Birdie Blue)
  • 2006 NAACP Image Award Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Law & Order)
  • 2006 NAACP Image Award Best Actress in a Made for TV Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2006 Gracie Allen Award Outstanding Female Lead - Miniseries (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2006 Black Reel Award Best Actress in a Made for TV Movie or Miniseries (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2010 NAACP Image Award Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Law & Order)
  • 2011 NAACP Image Award Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Law & Order)
  • 2013 Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters, Montclair State University
Nominations
  • 1990 Helen Hayes Award Best Actress, Non-Resident Play (The Piano Lesson)
  • 1990 Drama Desk Award Best Actress, Lead Role-Play (The Piano Lesson)
  • 1990 Tony Award Best Actress, Featured Role-Play (The Piano Lesson)
  • 1997 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Law & Order)
  • 1998 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Law & Order)
  • 1999 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Law & Order)
  • 2001 NAACP Image Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Law & Order)
  • 2003 Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Lead Actress (Fucking A)
  • 2003 Drama League Award Distinguished Performance (Fucking A)
  • 2005 Satellite Award Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2006 Vision Award Best Dramatic Performance (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2006 Lucille Lortel Award Best Actress (Birdie Blue)
  • 2006 Independent Spirit Award Best Female Lead (Lackawanna Blues)
  • 2006 Drama League Award Distinguished Performance (Birdie Blue)
  • 2007 NAACP Image Award Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Law & Order)
  • 2008 NAACP Image Award Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Law & Order)
  • 2008 NAACP Image Award Best Actress in a Made for TV Movie, Miniseries or Dramatic Special (Girl, Positive)
  • 2008 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play (Come Back, Little Sheba)
  • 2008 NAACP Theatre Award Best Lead Female - Equity (Come Back, Little Sheba)
Charities

S. Epatha Merkerson supports the following charitable causes: Cancer, Smoking & Smoking-Related Illnesses.

[ Source: Wikipedia ]