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Merkerson confirms 'L&O' departure

Actress S. Epatha Merkerson arrives at a photocall for the television show Law and Order during the 49th Monte Carlo Television Festival in Monte Carlo, Monaco on June 10, 2009. (UPI Photo/David Silpa)
Actress S. Epatha Merkerson arrives at a photocall for the television show "Law and Order" during the 49th Monte Carlo Television Festival in Monte Carlo, Monaco on June 10, 2009. (UPI Photo/David Silpa) | License Photo

NEW YORK, April 2 (UPI) -- S. Epatha Merkerson says she is leaving the New York police procedural "Law & Order" at the end of this season.

TVGuide.com said it has confirmed the Emmy Award-winning actress's imminent departure from the series, which is in its 20th season.

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"It's a graceful way to go. It's the end of my contract this year, and the story line has been so perfect," Merkerson told Entertainment Weekly.

"I've given it my best for 16 years. 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 gig," she said. "(Lt.) Van Buren (who was diagnosed with cancer this season) is a hell of a character. However they decide to take her out, it'll be worthy of the character... Either way, it'll be great for me because I get to act it."

NBC declined to comment on the report, TVGuide.com said.

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