What can you tell me about the actress who plays Lt. Van Buren on the TV show Law & Order? What else has she done?
—Gary M., Iowa
S. Epatha Merkerson, 48, was born and raised in Detroit and received her bachelor of fine arts degree at Wayne State University. She moved to New York to pursue acting in 1978 and has starred in numerous stage productions, including The Piano Lesson, which earned her a Tony Award nomination. Her debut television role was as Reba the Mail Lady on Pee Wee's Playhouse. Merkerson first appeared on Law & Order in 1990 as Denise Winters, a grief-stricken mother. She was offered the permanent role of Lt. Anita Van Buren in 1993. Recent films include the indie film The Rising Place and the Harrison Ford movie Random Hearts. She and husband Toussaint L. Jones divide their time between New York City and Maryland.