For a man without any hair, Avery Brooks certainly wears a lot of hats. Stage, screen and television actor; director; jazz and opera singer; college professor; film narrator; civil rights activist; Avery Brooks excels at every career path he has chosen.
Born in Evansville, Indiana, he and his family moved to Gary, Indiana, when Avery was eight years old. His father, Samuel, worked as a machinist and as a singer in the choir of CBS radio's "Wings over Jordan" choir from 1937 to 1948. His mother, Eva, was a pianist and a choir director and his uncle, Samuel, was a member of the "Delta Rhythm Boys". It's no surprise that Avery took to singing at an early age being surrounded by so much musical talent. As he developed his deep, baritone voice, Avery sang with musical acts like Butch Morris, Lester Bowie, Jon Hendricks and James Spaulding. As an accomplished pianist, he feels as though the music he plays is a spiritual gift from God. In his own words, he feels that "Everybody is playing or listening to this black cal music is the highest form of performance on the earth--from God, to you, through you, to your ear".
Avery Brooks enrolled to Indiana University and Oberlin College. He later received his BA and his MFA from Rutgers University in 1976, making him the first African American to achieve this at Rutgers. He later used that distinction to inspire other African Americans to pursue their goals in acting and directing by becoming a tenured professor of theatre at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers. In addition, he had also taught at his alma-mater of Oberlin College as well as at Case Western Reserve University. For over three decades, Professor Brooks has helped to hone the skills of thousands of actors and theatre professionals.
Not being one to ignore the axiom "practice what you preach", Brooks continued to perform on stage himself as he was teaching future generations to do the same. He had received critical acclaim in the play "Paul Robeson" in which he played the title role. His portrayal of the famed singer, actor and civil right leader reflected all of Avery's passions as well. He performed the one-man play for several years at the Westwood Playhouse in Los Angeles, at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway. His stage career continued quite successfully afterwards, playing the lead role in Shakespeare's "Othello" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as well as Anthony Davis' "X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X".
Although he had seen considerable success on stage, his exposure to the television audiences was limited. After having only been on television playing the title role in PBS's Solomon Northup's Odyssey and a bit part in Finnegan Begin Again, he was cast to play the tight-lipped and menacing tough guy "Hawk" in the new ABC crime drama, Spenser: For Hire opposite lead actor, Robert Urich. Avery's character became so popular among fans of the show that a spin-off was created for him: A Man Called Hawk. The spinoff only lasted half a season, but Avery was called back to play Hawk in a number of Spenser: For Hire movies of the week. The exposure that the role gave him drew the attention of Rick Berman, who had been auditioning actors for the newest addition to the Star Trek universe, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Originally, Berman wanted to cast Siddig El Fadil as Commander Benjamin Sisko after seeing him in A Dangerous Man. However, when he saw Siddig without the beard he had worn in that film, he realized just how young he was. He kept Siddig on to play Dr. Julian Bashir, but the hunt for a commander was still on. When Avery came in to audition, he was motivated by the idea of being connected with a show that had broken so many barriers for African Americans in the 1960s (With Lt. Uhura being a black female officer in the original show when any two of those three conditions were considered unthinkable at the time). He wanted to be the first African American commander in Star Trek history. Despite competing with nearly 100 other actors of various ethnicities, Avery came out on top with the most impressive performance. When working out the character with Berman, he did not want his character to be anything like Kirk or Picard. They were explorers and diplomats (with the emphasis of each characteristic differing between the two men). He wanted Benjamin Sisko to be a builder. Since his command would have him remaining in one place, his goal would be to develop a community from these diverse and varied species and personalities that haven't been trained to work together as a Starfleet crew would have been. As another departure from the commanders that preceded him, his character did not want to be where he was. He had just suffered a tragic personal loss and wanted nothing more than to resign his commission and fade into the background. Berman agreed and Benjamin Sisko was born.
Throughout the seven year run of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Avery not only played the role of Sisko, but he had also directed several episodes of the show and he continued to teach his s at Rutgers. On occasion, he had conducted his by way of video link while still wearing his Starfleet uniform from the set. Like Bill Cosby before him, Avery Brooks wants to use every resource at his disposal to assure that the next generations of African Americans don't have to endure the burden of racism; that poverty is a result of a failure to educate the youth of the community and that young African American men should not have to go through life certain that they'll be killed or imprisoned before their 25th birthdays. Avery Brooks will try to educate the people about his heritage. "I grew up in the context of a black community where ideas such as dignity and integrity and proper behavior still existed," he told Martha Southgate during an interview for Essence magazine. "I thought that was the way the whole world was, and I will insist that, ultimately, that's the way it still is."… Expand