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S. Epatha Merkerson Leaving 'Law & Order'

by Rich Keller, posted Apr 4th 2010 10:42PM

S. Epatha Merkerson is leaving 'Law and Order' after this seasonCast 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.'

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It was hinted from the beginning of the season that she was going to leave. Her doctor visits and the debate of how her health is, it's been hinted that this may be her last season. I'm somewhat glad because she disappointed me when she started to do drugs. I hear that Kathryn Erbe from Law and Order: Criminal Intent would be taking over as the lieutenant.

April 27 2010 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i wish epatha the very best. i enjoyed her very much.

April 05 2010 at 7:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm very sad to hear of Ms. Merkerson's leaving L&O. She has brought a depth to her character that crosses many lines. I hope that it's not the cancer that brings her story line to an end. But something better than that. Maybe the promotion she's been waiting for many years.

April 05 2010 at 4:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Uhhh, hey Mike... Read your list again... Now, how does your list differ from what the author stated? On your list, the only 3 people currently in a L&O are Merkerson, Waterston, and Florek. And, as the author said, Florek will now be second only to Waterston... What is incorrect about that? He never said that Florek will be number 2 all-time... #2 currently left....

April 05 2010 at 12:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As an FYI: It's Dann Florek (with two "n"s)

And, while season count may put Florek in 2nd place, if you count by episodes it's as follows:

386 - S. Epatha Merkerson
363 - Sam Waterston
174 - Jerry Orbach
229 - Steven Hill
198 - Jesse L. Martin
138 - Leslie Hendrix
116 - Fred Dalton Thompson
111 - Chris Noth
95 - Benjamin Bratt
88 - Michael Moriarty
87 - Carolyn McCormick
85 - Elisabeth Röhm
80 - Alana De La Garza
72 - Angie Harmon
69 - Dann Florek
69 - Richard Brooks

April 05 2010 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mike's comment

Mike, I think his argument of length goes to the character that Dann Floreck plays. If you include his L&O and his SVU run as Capt. Don Cragen, he has more eps than anyone else currently in the franchise.

April 05 2010 at 12:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bummer - she is an outstanding actor - I wish her the best. Since Sam Waterson only gets 2 minutes of screen time I will stop watching what used to be the best show on network tv.

April 05 2010 at 3:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Her character and acting will be missed. Though she got less screen time than some of the other actors I think she really added depth and emotion to her role.

April 05 2010 at 1:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Sorry to hear she is leaving. She has been an important asset to the series. The questions now are: is her character stepping down to take better care of herself because of her cancer, or will her cancer take her life? I guess we will have to wait and see.

April 04 2010 at 11:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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