- Anita Van Buren
name = Lt. Anita Van Buren
time on show = 1993—present
succeeded = Incumbent
start = "Sweeps"
S. Epatha Merkerson
Lt. Anita Van Buren is a
fictional characteron NBC's long running drama, " Law & Order", portrayed by S. Epatha Merkerson. She is the longest-running character (by number of appearances) on the show. Medical Examiner Elizabeth Rodgers, portrayed by Leslie Hendrix, is the longest-running character based on start date, 1992 as opposed to 1993, but she appears in fewer episodes.
A graduate of
John Jay College(as is Ron Carverfrom ""), Van Buren is married to Donald, who owns a hardware store ("L&O": "Scoundrels"). They have two sons, Ric (who is diagnosed with scoliosisat the age of six in 1995) and Stefan. She spent five years as a cop and seven years in undercover narcotics ("L&O": "Fame").
It is revealed that her favorite poet is
Langston Hughes, and that she is left-handed ("L&O": "Slave). In the episode "Over Here (2007)" She says her father was wounded in Wasu, Korea during the Korea Warin 1952. He spent time at Tulsa VA Hospital in Oklahoma ("L&O": "Over Here"). Her sister lives in Queens, N.Y. ("L&O" : "Whiplash")
She joins the cast in the 1993 episode "Sweeps", replacing Capt. Don Cragen (played by
Dann Florek). Throughout her run on the show, she has overseen the work of detectives such as Lennie Briscoe, Mike Logan, Rey Curtis, Ed Green, Joe Fontana, Nick Falco, Nina Cassady, and Cyrus Lupo.Van Buren focuses on salvaging investigations when her detectives make mistakes, rather than focusing on their failures.
Van Buren is known for her toughness, but she has often paid a price for it. She shoots and wounds a would-be mugger who attacks her at an ATM, and fatally injures the mugger's partner, who turns out to be a mentally retarded teenager. She is investigated, and absolved, by the Bureau of Internal Affairs ("L&O": Compentence). In the 1997 episode "Burden", she nearly loses her job when she sues the
NYPDfor promoting a white woman with less seniority ahead of her. In the episode "Monster", the Chief of Detectives tells her she will have to resign to get her squad the resources it needs. A judge eventually dismisses her discriminationsuit.
Van Buren learns that the case that led her to being promoted to lieutenant is tainted by a dishonest fingerprint examiner's report. No action is taken against her, but it continues to haunt her ("L&O": "The Myth of Fingerprints").
Van Buren is angered in 2006 when she was forced to accept Nina Cassady as the replacement for Det. Joe Fontana upon his retirement. Van Buren feels that Cassady is too inexperienced to be a Homicide detective and that she is a risk to her partner. Van Buren says she had a "hand-picked" replacement for Fontana who is older and much more experienced than Cassady. However, she eventually comes to tolerate (and perhaps accept) Cassady as a member of her squad. However, this acceptance did not seem to last long and in the seventeenth season finale "The Family Hour," Van Buren berates the detective for her inability to keep her temper in check and suggests that Cassady has no future at the 27th precinct.
Anita Van Buren has appeared in 326 episodes of Law & Order and so is the longest running regular character in any of the Law & Order franchises.
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