Joanna Merlin

Joanna Merlin

  • Born on
    • July 15th, 1931
Joanna Merlin (born Joann Ratner; July 15, 1931) is an American actress and casting director who has worked with Stephen Sondheim and starred in the original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof. She has written two acting guides and is a faculty member of New York University's graduate acting program. In recent years, she has become known for her recurring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Judge Lena Petrovsky. Joann Ratner, who later took her mother's maiden name, was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Toni Merlin and Harry Ratner, a Jewish grocer. Her family also included her older sister Harriet Glickman (1926-2020) who would go on to gain recognition for having helped persuade Charles Schulz to add a black character to his Peanuts strip. Merlin first acted on stage at age 11, joining a community theatre production, Too Many Marys. Merlin graduated from UCLA and later studied under Michael Chekhov, learning his world-renowned acting technique. She has been described as the last student of Michael Chekhov who is still alive and teaching. Merlin made her first screen appearance in Cecil B. DeMille's film The Ten Commandments in 1956. Five years later, she made her Broadway debut in Becket before playing Tzeitel in Harold Prince's production of Fiddler on the Roof. She left the cast of Fiddler on the Roof before the end of its tour to take care of her two small children but Harold Prince gave her the opportunity to become involved in casting with a more flexible schedule. Company was the first musical for which Merlin served as the casting director. She was also in charge of casting for such plays as Follies, Evita and Sweeney Todd. In 1986, she served as casting director for the John Carpenter film, Big Trouble in Little China. After making appearances in several feature films, including the movie Fame, in which she played Miss Olivia Berg, a classical dance teacher; Merlin appeared in the NBC crime drama Law & Order in 1992 as a defense attorney. Like many actors from that show, she went on to play other characters in the Law & Order franchise - another defense attorney in the original show and a more recurring role as Judge Lena Petrovsky, a judge who was very stern, by-the-book, and has scolded or sanctioned, at various times, ADAs Casey Novak (Diane Neal) and Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March) and Detective (now Lieutenant) Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay), in its first spin-off Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In the latter role, she appeared in every season between the years 2000 and 2011. In 2001, Joanna Merlin wrote Auditioning: An Actor-Friendly Guide and in 2007, shared her knowledge of the theatre industry in the instructional video Master Classes in the Michael Chekhov Technique. She teaches in New York University's graduate acting program at the Tisch School of the Arts and in 1999, founded the Michael Chekhov Association where she teaches acting workshops. Source: Article "Joanna Merlin" from Wikipedia in english, licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Starring Joanna Merlin on Plex


Acting (20 Credits)

2017Active Adults as Miriam
2010Elle s'appelait Sarah as Mrs. Rainsferd
2008The Wackness as Grandma Shapiro
2007The Invasion as Joan Kaufman
2001The Jimmy Show as Emily
1999Witness Protection as Cindy's Mother
1998City of Angels as Teresa Messinger
1995Two Bits as Guendolina
1993Mr. Wonderful as Loretta
1991Class Action as Estelle Ward
1991In a Child's Name as Frances Silvano
1991In a Child's Name as Frances Silvano
1988Mystic Pizza as Mrs. Arujo
1987Prince of Darkness as Bag Lady
1984The Killing Fields as Schanberg's Sister
1983Baby It's You as Mrs. Rosen
1980Fame as Miss Berg
1975Hester Street as Jake's Landlady
1964Another World
1956The Ten Commandments as Jethro's Daughter


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