Avery Brooks

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Avery Brooks
QTXP 20121019 Destination Star Trek London MG 2144.jpg
Brooks at the 2012 Destination Star Trek in London
Avery Franklin Brooks

(1948-10-02) October 2, 1948 (age 70)
Residence Princeton, New Jersey
Alma mater Rutgers University
OccupationActor, director, singer, educator
Years active1984–2011
Vicki Bowen(m. 1976)

Avery Franklin Brooks (born October 2, 1948) is an American actor, director, singer, and educator. He is best known for his television roles as Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine , as Hawk on Spenser: For Hire and its spinoff A Man Called Hawk , and as Dr. Bob Sweeney in the Academy Award-nominated film American History X . He is a tenured professor in the theater department at Rutgers University where he has taught since 1976.

Benjamin Sisko Fictional character

Benjamin Lafayette Sisko is a fictional character in the Star Trek franchise. He appears in the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9). He is portrayed by actor Avery Brooks. The character was featured prominently on the television show between 1993 and 1999, which aired on syndicated television in the United States. He was the lead in the third major Star Trek live-action television series after Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The character has also been utilized in various books, comics, and video games of the Star Trek franchise.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) is an American science fiction television series created by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It originally aired from January 3, 1993, to June 2, 1999, in syndication, spanning 176 episodes over seven seasons. The fourth series in the Star Trek franchise, it served as the third sequel to Star Trek: The Original Series. Set in the 24th century, when Earth is part of a United Federation of Planets, it is based on the eponymous space station Deep Space Nine, located adjacent to a wormhole connecting Federation territory to the Gamma Quadrant on the far side of the Milky Way galaxy.

<i>Spenser: For Hire</i> television program

Spenser: For Hire is an American crime drama series based on Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels. The series, developed for TV by John Wilder and starring Robert Urich, was broadcast on ABC from September 20, 1985 until May 7, 1988.


Early life

Avery Brooks was born in Evansville, Indiana, the son of Eva Lydia (née Crawford), a choral conductor and music instructor, and Samuel Brooks, a union official and tool and die worker. [1] His maternal grandfather, Samuel Travis Crawford, was also a singer. [1] When Avery was aged eight, his family moved to Gary, Indiana, after his father had been laid off from International Harvester. Brooks has said: "I was born in Evansville... but it was Gary, Indiana that made me." [2]

Evansville, Indiana City in Indiana, United States

Evansville is a city and the county seat of Vanderburgh County, Indiana, United States. The population was 117,429 at the 2010 census, making it the state's third-most populous city after Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, the largest city in Southern Indiana, and the 232nd-most populous city in the United States. It is the commercial, medical, and cultural hub of Southwestern Indiana and the Illinois-Indiana-Kentucky tri-state area, home to over 911,000 people. The 38th parallel crosses the north side of the city and is marked on Interstate 69.

Tool and die makers are a class of machinists in the manufacturing industries. Variations on the name including tool maker,toolmaker, die maker,diemaker, mold maker,moldmaker or tool jig and die-maker depend on which area of concentration or industry an individual works in.

Gary, Indiana City in Indiana, United States

Gary is a city in Lake County, Indiana, United States, 25 miles (40 km) from downtown Chicago, Illinois. Gary is adjacent to the Indiana Dunes National Park and borders southern Lake Michigan. Gary was named after lawyer Elbert Henry Gary, who was the founding chairman of the United States Steel Corporation. The city is known for its large steel mills, and as the birthplace of the Jackson 5 music group.

The Brooks household was filled with music. His mother, who was among the first African-American women to earn a master's degree in music at Northwestern University, taught music wherever the family lived. His father was in the choir Wings over Jordan, performing on CBS radio from 1937 to 1947. His maternal uncle Samuel Travis Crawford was a member of the Delta Rhythm Boys. "Music is all around me and in me, as I am in it," Brooks has said. [3]

Northwestern University Private research university in Illinois, United States

Northwestern University (NU) is a private research university based in Evanston, Illinois, United States, with other campuses located in Chicago and Doha, Qatar, and academic programs and facilities in Miami, Florida; Washington, D.C.; and San Francisco, California. Along with its undergraduate programs, Northwestern is known for its Kellogg School of Management, Pritzker School of Law, Feinberg School of Medicine, Bienen School of Music, Medill School of Journalism, and McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

CBS is an American English language commercial broadcast television and radio network that is a flagship property of CBS Corporation. The company is headquartered at the CBS Building in New York City with major production facilities and operations in New York City and Los Angeles.

Brooks attended Indiana University and Oberlin College. He later completed his B.A., plus an M.F.A. from Rutgers University in 1976, becoming the first African American to receive an MFA in acting and directing from Rutgers. [4]

Indiana University university system, Indiana, U.S.

Indiana University (IU) is a multi-campus public university system in the state of Indiana, United States. Indiana University has a combined student body of more than 110,000 students, which includes approximately 46,000 students enrolled at the Indiana University Bloomington campus.

Oberlin College Private liberal arts college in Oberlin, Ohio, United States

Oberlin College is a private liberal arts college and conservatory of music in Oberlin, Ohio. It is the oldest coeducational liberal arts college in the United States and the second oldest continuously operating coeducational institute of higher learning in the world. The Oberlin Conservatory of Music is the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the United States. In 1835 Oberlin became one of the first colleges in the United States to admit African Americans, and in 1837 the first to admit women.

Rutgers University multi-campus American public research university in New Jersey, United States

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, commonly referred to as Rutgers University, Rutgers, or RU, is a public research university in New Jersey. It is the largest institution of higher education in New Jersey.

Television career

Spenser: for Hire: Hawk

In 1985, Brooks assumed the role of 'Hawk' on the ABC television detective series Spenser: For Hire , based on the mystery series published by Robert Parker. Hawk became a popular character and, after three seasons, Brooks in 1989 received his own, short-lived spinoff series, A Man Called Hawk .

Robert B. Parker American crime writer

Robert Brown Parker was an American writer of fiction, primarily of the mystery/detective genre. His most famous works were the 40 novels written about the private detective Spenser. ABC television network developed the television series Spenser: For Hire based on the character in the mid-1980s; a series of TV movies based on the character were also produced. His works incorporate encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston metropolitan area. The Spenser novels have been cited by critics and bestselling authors such as Robert Crais, Harlan Coben, and Dennis Lehane as not only influencing their own work but reviving and changing the detective genre. Parker also wrote two other series based on an individual character: He wrote nine novels based on the character Jesse Stone and six novels based on the character Sunny Randall. Mr. Parker wrote four Westerns starring the duo Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. The first, Appaloosa, was made into a film with Ed Harris.

A Man Called Hawk is an American action drama series that ran on ABC from January 1989 until May 13, 1989. The series is a spin-off of the crime drama series Spenser: For Hire, and features the character Hawk, who first appeared in the 1976 novel Promised Land, the fourth in the series of Spenser novels by mystery writer Robert B. Parker.

Brooks said of his role as Hawk: "I never thought of myself as the sidekick... I've never been the side of anything. I just assumed that I was equal." [3]

Brooks returned to play Hawk in four Spenser television movies: Spenser: Ceremony, Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes, Spenser: The Judas Goat and Spenser: A Savage Place.

Star Trek: Benjamin Sisko

Brooks is best known in popular culture for his role as Commander—and later Captain—Benjamin Sisko on the syndicated science fiction television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine , which ran for seven seasons from 1993 to 1999.

Brooks won the role of Commander Benjamin Sisko by beating 100 other actors from all racial backgrounds to become the first Black-American captain to lead a Star Trek series. In landing the role, Brooks also became the first Black-American male actor in a starring role in a first-run television drama since Clarence Williams III had starred as undercover police detective Linc Hayes in the iconic ABC "hippie" cop drama The Mod Squad from 1968 to 1973. Brooks was the second in American television history to do so since Bill Cosby co-starred with Robert Culp in the NBC spy series I Spy from 1965 to 1968. Brooks also directed nine episodes of the series, including "Far Beyond the Stars", an episode focusing on racial injustice.

Series producer Ronald D. Moore said of Brooks:

Other roles

In 1984, Brooks received critical praise for his featured role in PBS's American Playhouse production of Half Slave, Half Free: Solomon Northup's Odyssey , directed by Gordon Parks. The story chronicled the life of Solomon Northup, a free man from New York kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 and held until 1853, when he regained his freedom with the help of family and friends. It was adapted from Northup's memoir, Twelve Years a Slave (1853). [6]

Brooks appeared in the 1985 television movie adaptation of Finnegan Begin Again. In 1987 he starred in the role of Uncle Tom in the Showtime production of Uncle Tom's Cabin. A third project that allowed Brooks to highlight the history of African Americans was his performance in the 1988 television movie Roots: The Gift , which featured his fellow Star Trek actors LeVar Burton, Kate Mulgrew, and Tim Russ.

In 1998 he appeared in the motion picture American History X ; which also stars another Star Trek actor, Jennifer Lien. He also played the role of Paris in the 1998 film The Big Hit .

In animated films, he supplied the voice of King Maximus in Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, as well as Nokkar in an episode of Disney's Gargoyles .

In 2001, Brooks was the voice-over and appeared in a series of IBM commercials for its software business unit. [7]

Other work

Teaching and cultural work

Brooks has taught at Oberlin College and Case Western Reserve University. A graduate of Livingston College and Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, he accepted an appointment in 1976 as an associate professor of theatre arts with tenure at Mason Gross, [8] and has since been promoted to full professor. [9]

From 1993 to 1996, Brooks was artistic director for the National Black Arts Festival in association with Rutgers University. Held annually [10] since 1988 in Atlanta, Georgia, the internationally renowned festival celebrates African-American culture and people of African descent. In addition, Brooks has done extensive work with the Smithsonian Institution's Program in Black American Culture.


A deep baritone singer, Brooks has performed on stage with Butch Morris, Lester Bowie, and Jon Hendricks. He also recorded an album with saxophone player James Spaulding, James Spaulding Plays the Legacy of Duke Ellington (Storyville, 1977). Brooks had the lead role in the 1985 Anthony Davis opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. Also, he performed at the Paris Banlieues Bleues Festival in 2005. In his role as Captain Benjamin Sisko, he performed the Frank Sinatra tune "The Best Is Yet to Come" at the conclusion of the Deep Space Nine episode "Badda-Bing Badda-Bang" as a duet with James Darren.

In 2009, Brooks released his debut album, Here, an album of jazz and blues covers, as well as spoken word. [11]


Brooks received critical acclaim in Phillip Hayes Dean's play Paul Robeson . Brooks portrayed the life of the famous singer, actor, and civil rights activist in a one-man, critically acclaimed biographical drama. He has performed the role since 1982 at the Westwood Playhouse in Los Angeles, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Longacre Theater on Broadway. He also portrayed Robeson in Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been?, both on and Off-Broadway.

Brooks' early theater credits include The Offering, A PHOTOGRAPH: A Study of Cruelty, and Are You Now or Have You Ever Been in the 1970s. He started to gain recognition after his appearance in Spell #7 at the Public/Anspache Theater in New York City in 1979. He subsequently starred in Othello at the Folger Shakespeare Festival (1985) and Fences at the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, Missouri (1990). He reprised the role of Othello at the Washington Shakespeare Theater in 1990–1991.

Brooks appeared in the title role of The Oedipus Plays, a production that traveled to the 2003 Athens Festival in Greece. He also appeared in the title role of King Lear at Yale's Repertory Theatre. In 2005, Brooks again starred as Othello, this time at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in a production directed by the renowned Michael Kahn. Brooks was one of 15 actors of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington to be honored with the William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre in 2007. [12] He returned to the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Fall 2007 to play the title role in Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine .

In 2008, Brooks returned to Oberlin College to play the lead in a mixed-race production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman . [13]

Once again, Brooks played the title role of Paul Robeson at the Shakespeare Theater from March 24–27 in 2011.


Brooks played Dr. Bob Sweeney in American History X alongside Edward Norton. He also played mob boss Paris in The Big Hit , co-starring Mark Wahlberg. His last feature film role was in 2001 as Detective Leon Jackson in 15 Minutes , which also starred Robert De Niro and Edward Burns.

Documentary work

Brooks has also hosted several documentaries and served as narrator in such features as the IMAX film Africa's Elephant Kingdom. His other documentary credits include narrating Earthquake!, A Passion for Faith, coveting the history of black Catholics in America, Eyes on the Prize , Walking with Dinosaurs , Jesus: The Complete Story , Land of the Mammoth: Ancient Evidence, The Ballad of Big Al, The Science of Big Al, Savage Sun, Engineering the Impossible (The Colosseum), Greatest Places and Echoes from the White House, and God vs. Satan. He also narrated the three-part series Heart of Africa, consisting ofHeart of Africa: Jewel of the Rift, about the life cycles of African cichlid fish in Lake Tanganyika, Heart of Africa: Virunga, about the gorillas of Virunga National Park, and Heart of Africa: Fire and Ice, about the lowland animals of the Rift Valley.

In May 2007, Brooks recorded the narration for the documentary The Better Hour, which is about the life of William Wilberforce, the man who led the campaign for the end of slavery in the United Kingdom in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. [14]

Brooks also provided the narration for the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs when it aired in North America on the Discovery Channel. His deep and authoritative voice commanded viewer attention; Brooks was able to draw on his years of training as an opera singer and his extensive stage experience with Shakespeare company actors to not only engage the viewer, but use his vocal abilities to emphasize the events as seen in the show.

In 2009, Brooks narrated a special documentary for the National Geographic channel, titled Drain the Ocean. Using CGI animation, National Geographic removed the water from the oceans and explored the ocean floor and its vast geography.

In 2011, Brooks was interviewed by William Shatner in the feature-length documentary The Captains . The film was written and directed by Shatner and features the original Star Trek captain interviewing every other actor who had portrayed a prominently recurring captain, upon whom the science-fiction franchise had yet been based. Brooks also served as Musical Supervisor for the project. [15]

In 2013, Brooks began to narrate the Christian series The Bible's Greatest Secrets, which attempted to reconcile

the stories in the Bible with new found archeological information. [16]

Later projects

Avery Brooks, 2009 Avbrooks2009.png
Avery Brooks, 2009

Brooks was part of a directors panel at a festival celebrating the work of Ntozake Shange at the New Federal Theatre on February 11, 2007. Brooks has directed Shange's Boogie Woogie Landscapes at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and in London's West End. [17]

In 2006, Trekweb and TrekToday announced that Avery Brooks would take a role in the film Rambo . Brooks himself later said this was not the case. He said "I've met Mr. Stallone, many years ago — I have great respect for Mr. Stallone, always did. However, Rambo is not in my future." [18]

In March 2007, it was confirmed that Brooks would appear in a new production of Christopher Marlowe's play Tamburlaine . [19]

As part of BBC Audiobooks America's entry into the US market, Brooks narrated an audiobook of Alex Haley's novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family , which won the 2008 Audie Award for Non-Fiction. It is the first time the novel has received an audio adaptation. Brooks himself had starred in the 1988 television film based on the book, Roots: The Gift . [20]

Brooks has also completed work on his long-awaited CD. It contains "a selection of ballads and love songs... I speak of my respect for my father, and for artists that I have listened to all my life." [21]

In August 2008, it was announced that Brooks would play Willy Loman in a new production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman . [22]

Personal life

Since 1976 Brooks has been married to Vicki Lenora Brooks [23] , an assistant dean at Rutgers University. [24] The couple has three adult children--Ayana, Cabral, and Asante [25] --and live in Princeton, New Jersey.



1985 Finnegan Begin Again Dude on busTelevision film
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin Uncle TomTelevision film
Nominated—CableACE Award for Actor in a Movie or Miniseries
1987Moments Without Proper NamesN/A
1988 Roots: The Gift Cletus MoyerTelevision film
1989 The Ernest Green Story Rev. LawsonTelevision film
1993Spenser: CeremonyHawkTelevision film
1994Spenser: Pale Kings and PrincesHawkTelevision film
1994Spenser: The Judas GoatHawkTelevision film
1995Spenser: A Savage PlaceHawkTelevision film
1998 The Big Hit Paris
1998 American History X Dr. Bob Sweeney
2001God Lives Underwater: FameDetective Leon JacksonShort film
2001 15 Minutes Detective Leon Jackson
2011 The Captains HimselfDocumentary


1984 American Playhouse Solomon NorthupEpisode: "Solomon Northup's Odyssey"
1985–1988 Spenser: For Hire Hawk65 episodes
1989 A Man Called Hawk Hawk13 episodes
1993–1999 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Commander/Captain Benjamin Sisko 173 episodes
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series (1997–98)
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor on Television
1996 Gargoyles Nokkar (voice)Episode: "Sentinel"
1997 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child King MaximusEpisode: "The Golden Goose"


2006 Star Trek: Legacy Capt. Benjamin SiskoVoice

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