S. Epatha Merkerson

S Epatha Merkerson is known as a television, film, and theatre actress. She is most famous for her role on the popular court drama show, Law and Order.


Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Merkerson completed her primary graduation from Cooley High School in the year 1970. Later, she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the college known as Wayne State University. From Montclair State University, she holds an Honorary Degree that she got in 2013.

The actress celebrates her birthday on November 28, 1952. S. Epatha Merkerson is the name she legally adopted later in her life, and by which is she is popularly known. She is the youngest of five children in her family tree However, her mother and father got a divorce in 1957. Epatha witnessed the separation of her parents when she was only 5 years old. She grew up with her siblings in Detroit. The actress from a very young age was inspired by her mother’s adventurous nature. In fact, her mom was one of those first proud women who drove a truck with 18 wheels as she delivered cargo. She worked in the post office in the vehicles operation department.


In 1978, Epatha began her acting career in New York theatre. Merkerson then started her television career in the year 1986 as Reba, the Mail Lady on the children’s show, Pee-wee’s Playhouse. She has excitedly expressed her joy she had from working with the cast and crew of this classic program. Her big screen debut appearance happened when she appeared as Doctor Robinson in She’s Gotta Have It. She is also known for her role as Elsa in Jacob’s Ladder, a psycho-thriller movie starring Tim Robbins.

Since 1990, the calendar days have been quite busy for her. She has been in a lot of movies and TV shows since her career took off. For movies like Equal justice, Loose Cannons, Navy Seals, Merkerson performed well in these movies to become the fine actress she is known as today.

The actress is most famous for being on the first season of Law & Order in the episode Mushrooms. There she portrayed the role of a mother whose son was paralyzed in a drug related crime. However, her association to the show ended in 2010.

Later, she stayed engaged in the acting industry with various projects like Boomerang, The Gabby Douglas Story Deception, Drop Dead Dive, and Chicago Med.

Versatile Actress

In an interview with Queen City Tours, Merkerson spoke about the different platforms of acting she has experienced in her career. She has worked on stage plays, appeared on television shows, and also been a cast member on feature films. Since they all involved the craft of acting, Merkerson was asked to explain how she dealt with the shift from each medium.

Being the experienced and talented actress she is, Merkerson did not have much difficulty with the changes, “I think it was a natural flow; I did start in the theatre. I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre from Morgan State University (Baltimore, MD) so it was a natural sort of flow, you know, you work to let people see the kind of work that you do, to let them know that you are dependable and that you come through with the goods.”

The job of acting is just like any other skill. You have to work hard and grow every day that you are in the thick of it. Picking up experience makes each next step a little bit easier, “And, you continue to work in a way that will have you growing in each piece that you do and you are learning something new. If you stay long enough, there is sort of a natural flow. People then get to know you and you start doing a little television and film.”

Most actors would see the growth from stage acting to the big screen as something very challenging and stressful but Merkerson was able to handle it with grace. When asked if she shared the same fears as other actors, she said, “No, not really. They all three have certain focuses; you use certain muscles for them. I think probably the only adjustment actors have to make is that they have to be much smaller for television or film as opposed to the stage where you need all of your power. The camera tends to pick up everything that you need, so you have to find a way to sort of hone in on all of that energy that you use on stage.”

The nervous and inexperienced actor will assume that you act the same way on all platforms but Merkerson advised that each space requires a different approach, “You don ′t need all of that [energy] for TV or film. That’s probably the biggest adjustment most stage actors have to make.”

Personal Life

S. Epatha Merkerson was once the wife of Toussaint Louverture Jones. However, the relationship did not last. The actress was married until 2006, after which they were separated.

S. Epatha Merkerson has always spoken against the habit of smoking. She supports research and awareness for lung cancer. The actress was herself addicted to smoking for a long period of 23 years old. But later the addiction ended when one fine morning she found herself unable to breathe smoothly. She was one of the Board of Directors for the Tobacco-Free Kids campaign.

Most of her fans are curious about the amount of salary she draws. As estimated, S. Epatha Merkerson has $5 million dollars as her net worth.

Awards and Achievements

The actress is a winner of the prestigious Emmy Award. Apart from this, she has received a lot of awards for her outstanding performance in different movies, television shows, and theatre presentations. To mention some of her awards, she has won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by female actor in 2006. She won NAACP Image Award for Best Supporting Actress in both 2010 and 2011.

Last Modified: Apr 7, 2020

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