S. Epatha Merkerson is an American actress best known for her starring role as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the police procedural television series Law & Order, from 1993-2010.
An Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award winner, Merkerson has won critical acclaim for her work in theatre, television and film.
Merkerson received a 2006 NAACP Image Award for her portrayal of Van Buren, and this season marks her 14th year as a series regular.
Merkerson also garnered a 2006 NAACP Image Award, Emmy Award, Golden Globe Award, SAG Award, Gracie Allen Award and an IFP Spirit nomination for her portrayal of Rachel Nanny Crosby in the HBO film Lackawanna Blues.
Other film credits include The Rising Place, Radio (Cammie Award), Jersey Girl, Random Hearts, Terminator II: Judgment Day, Jacob's Ladder, Navy Seals and Loose Cannons.
She appeared in the feature film Black Snake Moan with Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci and Justin Timberlake, in 2007.
She also appeared in the independent film Slipstream, written and directed by Anthony Hopkins.
Merkerson has co-starred in numerous television movies, including A Mother's Prayer with Linda Hamilton, An Unexpected Life and A Girl Thing with Stockard Channing, and A Place for Annie with Mary-Louise Parker and Sissy Spacek.
In 1998, she reprised her role as Lt. Anita Van Buren for the NBC movie Exiled: A Law & Order Movie with Chris Noth.
Prior to Law & Order, Merkerson was a series regular on Pee-wee's Playhouse (where she played Reba the Mail Lady), Dick Wolf's Mann and Machine, and the Cosby spin-off Here and Now with Malcolm-Jamal Warner.
She also filmed the pilots Moe's World, Elysian Fields and Equal Justice, and made guest appearances on The Cosby Show and Frasier.
On stage, Merkerson has performed on and off-Broadway in productions including Suzan Lori-Parks' F**king A (Lucille Lortel nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress); August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Piano Lesson (Tony, Drama Desk and Helen Hayes nominations for Best Actress); the Young Playwrights Festival's production of I'm Not Stupid (Obie Award) and The Old Settler (Helen Hayes Award).
She also performed in Cheryl West's play Birdie Blue (Obie Award, Lucille Lortel nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress and Drama League Distinguished Performance Award) at Second Stage Theatre in New York City.
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.
A native of Detroit, Michigan, Merkerson received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Wayne State University. She lives in New York City.
In 2015 she began a starring role as Sharon Goodwin, the Chief Administrator of Clinical Operations of Chicago Med who expects the very best from her people as she balances the tremendous pressures of running the city's largest hospital, and always with a sense of humanity that allows her doctors to provide the very best care possible, on the medical drama television series Chicago Med.