Since the launch of Law & Order in 1990 on NBC television, viewers have seen a huge turnover of actors leaving the show and returning for guest appearances over the years. However, one of the most popular characters viewers were able to see in the police drama was Lt. Anita Van Burren, who was played by S. Epatha Merkerson, appearing in 17 of the show’s 21 seasons.
S. Epatha Merkerson joined the show in 1993 when it was airing its fourth installment, despite that, she appeared in 390 episodes of Law & Order, becoming the actress with the most episodes in the entire police drama. However, the star only appeared until the penultimate season of the drama.
Anita Van Buren is known for being a very tough and no-nonsense policewoman. In season 8, she files a lawsuit for discrimination when a white woman with less seniority than her is promoted in her place, generating various controversies both with the characters on the show and on television, because it was a very controversial issue that few Sometimes it came to light in 1996, although the lawsuit ends up being dismissed.
Season 20 of Law & Order marked the last appearance of S. Epatha Merkerson as Anita Van Buren, after attending the gynecologist for discomfort in her womb, where she was diagnosed with stage II cervical cancer, caused by the virus. of human papillomavirus (HPV). Shocked, Anita decides to investigate her motives and realizes that her husband had been cheating on her for a while, so she ends up divorcing him and starts dating Frank (Hernie Hudson).
After a difficult treatment journey in all 23 episodes of Season 20, Anita’s health improves. Until, in the final chapter of the twentieth installment, it is revealed that she and Frank had become engaged and had gone on a trip after her recovery. But, the actress explained that she seemed like a perfect way to say goodbye to her character when her contract was coming to an end.
“I’ve been doing my best for 16 years,” Merkerson told Entertainment Weekly at the time.
“It’s time to move on. I’m doing other things and this will be a great way to leave what has been an extraordinary concert.”
After several seasons, S. Epatha Merkerson decided to leave the show to focus on new career opportunities, saying that she realized her “contract was up” mid-season and she wanted a change. Interestingly, the television network decided to cancel the program with its twentieth installment. The star is currently participating in the medical drama Chicago Med, playing Dr. Sharon Goodwin.