S. Epatha Merkerson Leaving 'Law & Order'
Cast departures and changes within the 'Law & Order' franchise are are a dime a dozen these days. So much so that most fans tend not to notice when they occur. The exception is when a long-running cast member decides to step down. Fans take notice then because, frankly, there aren't too many more long-running cast members left in the franchise (except the amazingly stable group at 'Special Victims Unit.'
This time the honor goes to S. Epatha Merkerson, who plays Lieutenant Van Buren in the original 'Law & Order'. After 16 years, the actress has decided to leave the series at the end of this season.
If you'll recall, Merkerson took over for Dann Florek after his character, Captain Don Cragen, was dropped from the show after the 1992-1993 season. Who will replace Merkerson on the show next season (if there is a next season) isn't known at this time.
With fifteen years under his belt, Sam Waterson is now the longest running cast member on the original 'Law & Order'. If you look at the franchise as a whole, Waterson would be followed by Florek, who has around 14 years (16, if you count his two appearances in 'Law & Order' TV movies). The cast members with the least amount of time? Pick anyone from 'Criminal Intent.'