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 71)
Alma materRutgers 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.

Early life[edit]

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]

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]

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]

Television career[edit]

Spenser: for Hire: Hawk[edit]

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.

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[edit]

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:

Avery, like his character (Sisko), is a very complex man. He is not a demanding or ego-driven actor, rather he is a thoughtful and intelligent man who sometimes has insights into the character that no one else has thought about. He has also been unfailingly polite and a classy guy in all my dealings with him.[5]

Other roles[edit]

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[edit]

Teaching and cultural work[edit]

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 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[edit]

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, covering 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 simulates removing the water from the oceans to explore 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 or Abrahamic series The Bible's Greatest Secrets, on the American Heroes Channel, which attempted to use interpretations of events found in the Bible to illuminate new archeological findings and interpretations of history, and to use interpretations of new archeological findings to illuminate interpretations of events found in the Bible.[16] IMDb lists the "Storyline" as: "Unlock the mysteries of vanished civilizations of the Holy Land and the people who built them."[17]

Later projects[edit]

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.[18]

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."[19]

In March 2007, it was confirmed that Brooks would appear in a new production of Christopher Marlowe's play Tamburlaine.[20]

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.[21]

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."[22]

In August 2008, it was announced that Brooks would play Willy Loman in a new production of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Since 1976, Brooks has been married to Vicki Lenora Brooks,[24] an assistant dean at Rutgers University.[25] Together the couple have three adult children – Ayana, Cabral, and Asante[26] – and live in Princeton, New Jersey.

In January 2012, Brooks was charged with driving under the influence in Connecticut. He was arrested on Sunday, January 29th, 2012, in Wilton, Connecticut after police received a report of erratic driving.[27][28]



Year Title Role Notes
1985 Finnegan Begin Again Dude on bus Television film
1987 Uncle Tom's Cabin Uncle Tom Television film
Nominated—CableACE Award for Actor in a Movie or Miniseries
1987 Moments Without Proper Names N/A
1988 Roots: The Gift Cletus Moyer Television film
1993 The Ernest Green Story Rev. Lawson Television film
1993 Spenser: Ceremony Hawk Television film
1994 Spenser: Pale Kings and Princes Hawk Television film
1994 Spenser: The Judas Goat Hawk Television film
1995 Spenser: A Savage Place Hawk Television film
1998 The Big Hit Paris
1998 American History X Dr. Bob Sweeney
2001 God Lives Underwater: Fame Detective Leon Jackson Short film
2001 15 Minutes Detective Leon Jackson
2011 The Captains Himself Documentary


Year Title Role Notes
1984 American Playhouse Solomon Northup Episode: "Solomon Northup's Odyssey"
1985–1988 Spenser: For Hire Hawk 65 episodes
1989 A Man Called Hawk Hawk 13 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 Maximus Episode: "The Golden Goose"


Year Title Role Notes
2006 Star Trek: Legacy Capt. Benjamin Sisko Voice


  1. ^ a b "Avery Brooks Biography (1948–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  2. ^ Davich, Jerry (2015). Lost Gary, Indiana. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 9781625851376.
  3. ^ a b Southgate, Martha (1989). "Avery Brooks: not just another pretty face". Essence. Vol. 19 no. 12. pp. 74–76, 114. ISSN 0014-0880 – via General OneFile.
  4. ^ "Avery F. Brooks LC'73, MGSA'76". Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni. Rutgers University Alumni Association. Archived from the original on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  5. ^ "Ron_Moore_3_19_97". Archived from the original on 2010-02-04. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  6. ^ Gordon Parks, director: Solomon Northup's Odyssey
  7. ^ "Avery Brooks on Flying Cars". YouTube. Archived from the original on June 2, 2007. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  8. ^ "Avery Brooks".
  9. ^ "Rutgers University – Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni – Avery Brooks".
  10. ^ "About Us – National Black Arts Festival". nbaf.org.
  11. ^ "Avery Brooks – Here – CD Baby Music Store".
  12. ^ "SHAKSPER 2007: Will Awards". Shaksper.net. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  13. ^ "Cast & Crew". Death of a Salesman. Oberlin College. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  14. ^ "Directing Avery Brooks in New York | Phil Cooke The Change Revolution". Philcooke.com. 2007-05-02. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  15. ^ "Watch Avery Brooks tell William Shatner why he had to be the Captain on Deep Space 9". io9.com.
  16. ^ ""The Bible's Greatest Secrets", American Heroes Channel". Archived from the original on 28 February 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2019.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  17. ^ The Bible's Greatest Secrets: Mysteries of the Bible (1994-1998) on IMDb.
  18. ^ "New Federal's Shange Festival Kicks Off Feb. 7". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  19. ^ "STARTREK.COM : Article". Archived from the original on 2007-02-08. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  20. ^ Scott, Brian (2007-03-05). "Auberjonois, Brooks, Page Set for Shakespeare Theatre Season: Theater News on TheaterMania.com – 03/05/2007". Theatermania.com. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  21. ^ "BBC Audiobooks America Launches Trade List". 2007-04-11. Archived from the original on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  22. ^ Christian Höhne Sparborth. "The Trek BBS: Brooks On Star Trek, Rutgers, 'Roots' & Robeson". Archived from the original on 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  23. ^ "Avery Brooks to Play Willy Loman in New Interpretation of Death of a Salesman". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on 2012-10-17. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  24. ^ "Avery Brooks Biography (1948–)". Film Reference. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  25. ^ "Inspiring Success". Rutgers University. Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  26. ^ Boasbergl, Leonard W. "AVERY BROOKS IS JUST AS COOL AND IMPOSING IN PERSON". Deseret News (30 September 1989). Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  27. ^ "'Star Trek' Star Popped for DUI". TMZ News. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  28. ^ "'Star Trek' actor Avery Brooks charged with DUI in Conn". Fox News. Retrieved 11 May 2020.

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