How would Avery Brooks describe himself? "I am a human being filled with wonder," he told the Wisconsin State Journal in 1998. To many of us, he's Capt. Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Yet, before he took on the most prominent role he ever played, Brooks' childhood was filled with leaders (his parents) who guided him toward owning his many talents and using them to his advantage.
The actor was born on October 2, 1949, at his parent's home in Evansville, Indiana. Brooks' father, Samuel, was "a big man" who sang with two gospel groups but mostly enjoyed singing with Avery's mom Eva as she played the piano. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Eva was a music teacher who supplemented her teaching salary by giving private voice and piano lessons.
"We had to speak in sentences with correct grammar," Brooks recalled. Music became his first love, although he did act in school plays. He played most wood string instruments, something that was self-taught. He also spent the summer as an exchange student in Mexico learning Spanish.
At one point, Brooks thought he found his dream career, and it wasn't acting. "I thought I wanted to be a linguist. I didn't go to class. I failed all these courses. It was arrogance," he added, revealing that he dropped out of Oberlin College during his first year.
After returning home, he worked full-time in a steel mill and took night courses at Indiana University, giving college another chance. Brooks eventually decided to take acting seriously, transferring to Rutgers, getting his undergraduate degree, and becoming the first Black student to earn a graduate degree in acting and directing when he decided to return for more education.
In 1991, he was sent the Deep Space Nine script after finding success in a few productions. Rick Berman, the series executive producer, said Avery "embodies the strength and dignity that we try to depict in Star Trek leaders."
His failures as a teen transitioning into adulthood opened a new mindset that valued life in a way he didn't think about before. That helped him become Capt. Benjamin Sisko and dominate the role.
"I'll tell you what brings me joy," he said. "It's opening my eyes and seeing the sunrise. Being able to appreciate the beauty of all creation. Looking into the mirror of the world that is in every human being. I am rich in so many other ways. My wife. My children."
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