(written from a Production point of view)
Avery Franklin Brooks (born 2 October 1948; age 69) is an accomplished stage, television, and film actor best known for his role as Benjamin Sisko in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He is the only actor to appear in all 173 episodes of the series, and has also directed several episodes. In addition, he played Benny Russell in the episodes "Far Beyond the Stars" and "Shadows and Symbols". He also voiced Sisko in the games Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Harbinger and Star Trek: Legacy.
Background information Edit
Hailing from Evansville, Indiana, Brooks attended Theodore Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana. After graduating, he attended Oberlin College in Ohio as well as Indiana University. In 1973, he became the first African-American to receive an MFA in acting and directing from Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is currently a tenured professor of theater arts at Rutgers' Mason Gross School of the Arts, and in 1993, he was inducted into the Rutgers University Hall of Distinguished Alumni. That same year, he became the Artistic Director of the National Black Arts Festival, a biannual, ten-day festival celebrating the art and culture of the African Diaspora held in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the Artistic Director during the 1994 and 1996 festivals.
Raised in a musical family, Brooks has a passion for playing jazz piano as well as acting. In March 2006, he played the piano at the funeral for Gordon Parks, who gave Brooks his first television acting experience when Parks directed him in Solomon Northrup's Odyssey in 1984. Brooks also sang the theme from The Learning Tree, a film that Parks wrote and directed. Brooks was also present at Ossie Davis' funeral on 12 February 2005, at the end of which he read the epilogue from the 1961 play "Purlie Victorious," which Davis wrote.
Brooks has been married to Vicki Bowen since 1976. The couple have three children: Ayana, Asante, and Cabral. Although he continues serving as a tenured professor at Rutgers, Brooks had left his teaching job to play Benjamin Sisko on Deep Space Nine and has yet to return to full-time academic work.
David Carson commented on Brooks: "I think that Avery Brooks is a phenomenal actor. I've rarely come across an actor with a combination of his technical skill in front of the camera and an amazing strength of performing with the lens. He's a real joy to work with. And he's extraordinarily deft and constantly interesting, and I think the character gives him much more ability to have these differences in his psychological makeup than Picard, who's a much more straightforward who you can probably predict will react a certain way in different situations. It's very difficult to do that with Sisko, and Avery plays with delight, those opportunities". (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p 25)
Dennis Madalone was impressed by Brooks's stunt work throughout Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Madalone commented: "Of all the stars that I've worked with on all the Star Treks, and all the other shows that I've been on other than Star Trek, I've never seen an actor so physically capable of just doing everything. That's Avery Brooks. He's the best. I worked with Robert Conrad in the late 1970s. He's a heck of a walking stunt actor. Avery is equal to Robert Conrad in fight scenes and physical action. And a gentleman too! He's a great person and giver. Every time I'd bring in a stunt double, he'd be angry, sitting on a bench, because Avery was doing so great". ("Flashback: The Way of the Warrior", Star Trek Magazine, issue 127)
Brooks has received high acclaim for his portrayal of Paul Robeson in the long-running one-man show of the same name. Brooks has starred in this play since 1982, including two performances on Broadway (in 1988 and again in 1995). He actually first played Robeson in the 1978 off-Broadway show Are You Now or Have You Ever Been, which ended up on Broadway in early 1979.
Brooks's stage credits also include many Shakespeare characters, including Othello, Oberon, and King Lear. In addition, he originated the role of Malcolm X in Anthony Davis's opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, in 1985. He went on to perform in another Anthony Davis opera, Tania. In 2001, he portrayed Oedipus in the Shakespeare Theatre's production of the Oedipus cycle with an all-black cast.
While best known for playing Ben Sisko, Brooks had his first episodic television starring role in Spenser: For Hire as the lead character's partner, Hawk. Brooks went on to reprise the role of Hawk in the short-lived spinoff, A Man Called Hawk. Prior to this, he made his television acting debut playing the title role in the 1984 TV adaptation of Solomon Northup's Odyssey. In 1987, he again played the title role in a TV adaptation of a famous novel, this time Uncle Tom's Cabin, which co-starred fellow Star Trek performers Bill Bolender and Albert Hall. Aside from these, he made an appearance in 1985's Finnegan Begin Again (starring Bob Gunton and David Huddleston) and played the role of Cletus Moyer in 1988's Roots: The Gift. The latter also starred Star Trek: The Next Generation actor LeVar Burton in his famous role of Kunte Kinte and also featured future Star Trek: Voyager stars Kate Mulgrew and Tim Russ.
Brooks was cast as Benjamin Sisko, commander of space station Deep Space 9, in 1992. For his performance in this role, Brooks received two Image Award nominations as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, one in 1996 and another in 1997. Also in 1997, he received a Saturn Award nomination from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films for his portrayal of Sisko.
Brooks was initially required by Paramount to keep his head unshaved for the role, as it was thought that if he had a bald head, he might look too much like his previous role as Hawk in Spenser: For Hire. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 102) Brooks felt more comfortable acting with a shaved head, and between the third and fourth seasons, he approached Rick Berman and Ira Behr. According to Behr, the two producers were expecting resistance at Paramount, but the studio had no problem with the request. From the start of the fourth season, Sisko was portrayed with a shaved head. Director James L. Conway remarked, "It was a terrific idea. I was shooting the episode and I happened to look at some of the reruns of the earlier shows and I said to Avery, 'It's like a different actor.' And Avery said, 'I feel like a different guy.' And you can see it in his performance. With his head shaved, I think he feels much freer, much more himself." (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion, p. 257). Robert Hewitt Wolfe noted, "He's actually a little scarier looking but the point is: That's what Avery looks like, so why shouldn't you let the guy look like himself? I think it lets him identify a little more with the character."(Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 102) Brooks remained with the series through all seven seasons, appearing in every single episode, while at the same time continuing his professorship in theater arts at Rutgers University – occasionally instructing classes in his character's costume via prerecorded VHS tapes made on the set.
In 2002, Brooks revealed that he had initially planned to leave Deep Space Nine during the early seasons, due to the strain of television production. However, while having a conversation with his son about the importance of giving and keeping his word, he decided to stay and endured the entire seven year run of the series. (DS9 Season 7 DVD)
While Deep Space Nine was still in production, Brooks continued to star in a number of Spenser telefilms. He also become one of many Star Trek performers to voice in the animated series Gargoyles; others who have done so include LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Kate Mulgrew, Nichelle Nichols, John Rhys-Davies, Salli Elise Richardson, W. Morgan Sheppard, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, David Warner, Frank Welker, and Paul Winfield.
In 2000, Brooks was briefly the spokesperson for IBM e-business software. He filmed a few television commercials for the company, in which he stated "It's a different kind of world. You need a different kind of software."
Films and documentariesEdit
Brooks made his feature film debut in 1998, playing a mafia kingpin in the action thriller The Big Hit. This was followed that same year with the critically-acclaimed drama American History X, which also starred Star Trek: Voyager's Jennifer Lien. Also in 1998, Brooks' deep, commanding voice was employed to narrate various documentary programs, including Africans in America: America's Journey Through Slavery, Africa's Elephant Kingdom, and The Greatest Places.
After Deep Space Nine ended its run in 1999, Brooks continued to act on stage and continued narrating documentaries such as Jesus: The Complete Story, The Ballad of Big Al, Land of the Mammoth, and Walking with Dinosaurs. He also hosted the Discovery Channel show Unsolved History for a few years. In 2001, he had a supporting role as a police detective in the film 15 Minutes, which also featured Kim Cattrall, Kelsey Grammer, and future Star Trek star Anton Yelchin. In 2006, it was announced that Brooks was cast in the fourth Rambo film, set for release in 2008; Brooks, however, shot down the rumor at a Star Trek convention. (X)
Brooks has also participated in a number of Star Trek documentaries and specials, including The Science of Star Trek, Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond, and Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier. Footage of his performances on Deep Space Nine have been used in such documentaries as Ultimate Trek: Star Trek's Greatest Moments and How William Shatner Changed the World.
Brooks was filming an interview on the Star Trek franchise when the 40 Years of Star Trek: The Collection auction was being held at Christies. He briefly entered the bidding room and described the experience as bringing back "great feelings of nostalgia".
Brooks can be heard on the soundtrack for Anthony Davis's opera Tania, released in 2001. He sings the role of Cinque in this production.
Brooks recently completed work on a CD containing "a selection of ballads and love songs", in which he praises his father and artists he admires. In 2007, Brooks narrated an audio recording of Alex Haley's Roots.
Additional roles Edit
Acting credits Edit
Star Trek Edit
- Video games:
Other notable works Edit
- Are You Now or Have You Ever Been (1978-1979) as Paul Robeson
- Paul Robeson (1982-) as Paul Robeson
- X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1985-1986) as Malcolm X
- Othello (1985, Folger Shakespeare Festival) as Othello
- The Cherry Orchard (2000, McCarter Theatre Center) as Lopahin
- The Oedipus Plays (2001, Shakespeare Theatre) as Oedipus
- King Lear (2004, Yale Repertory Theatre) as King Lear
- Tamburlaine (October 28, 2007 to January 6, 2008) as Tamburlaine
- Solomon Northrup's Odyssey (TV movie, 1984) as Solomon Northrup
- Spenser: For Hire (TV series, 1985-1988) as Hawk
- Uncle Tom's Cabin (TV movie, 1987) as Uncle Tom
- Roots: The Gift (TV movie, 1988) as Cletus Moyer
- A Man Called Hawk (TV series, 1989) as Hawk
- Spencer: Ceremony (TV movie, 1993) as Hawk
- Spencer: Pale Kings and Princes (TV movie, 1994) as Hawk
- Spencer: The Judas Ghost (TV movie, 1994) as Hawk
- Spencer: A Savage Place (TV movie, 1995) as Hawk
- Gargoyles (episode: "Sentinel", 1996) as Nokkar (voice only)
- The Big Hit (feature film, 1998) as Paris
- American History X (feature film, 1998, with Jennifer Lien) as Dr. Bob Sweeney
- 15 Minutes (feature film, 2001, with Kelsey Grammer, Kim Cattrall, and Anton Yelchin) as Detective Leon Jackson
Directorial credits Edit
|Star Trek: Deep Space Nine regular cast|
|Rene Auberjonois • Avery Brooks • Nicole de Boer • Michael Dorn • Terry Farrell • Cirroc Lofton • Colm Meaney • Armin Shimerman • Alexander Siddig • Nana Visitor|
Star Trek interviews Edit
- TNG Season 7 DVD special feature "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine DVD Preview"
- DS9 Season 1 DVD special feature "Deep Space Nine: A Bold Beginning", interviewed on 4 November 1992
- DS9 Season 1 DVD special feature "Section 31-Hidden File 01", interviewed on 4 November 1992
- DS9 Season 1 DVD special feature "Deep Space Nine Scrapbook Year One", interviewed on 4 November 1992