Actor, singer, and professor, Avery Brooks is best known to the geeky crowd as Captain Benjamin Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Brooks returned to Dragon Con this year, after a three year absence, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the show. The Daily Dragon sat down for a chat with him in the Walk of Fame.
Daily Dragon (DD): I started rewatching DS9 recently, and I noticed how many social justice issues the show tackled. Did all of the impetus for that come from the producers and writers and showrunners, or did any of that emanate from you or other members of the cast?
Avery Brooks (AB): The writers, the producers.
DD: Even “Far Beyond The Stars”?
AB: Yes, that came from Ira [Stephen] Behr.
DD: With “Far Beyond The Stars,” was there any trepidation about directing that episode since your character is the focus?
AB: No, not by that time. I directed nine episodes altogether. Ira asked me, “I have this piece coming up, and you’re going to be in front of the camera a lot. I want you to direct it.” I said all right.
DD: Was that your favorite experience directing?
AB: I can’t say favorite. It’s certainly very close. When we think about who we are, how the show is a reflection of things, that’s very close to who we are—our history in America. Here is a science fiction writer who is brown in 1953. That’s very close to us, you see.
When you look at it, you have to think about Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler. Octavia Butler, God rest her soul, is one of the most prolifically read writers in the world. Samuel Delany was this trail blazing science fiction writer. Those are not the only two, of course. But you have to think about that. It’s not just from this imagination that the episode happened. We go back to 1953 and there it is.
DD: One of the scenes from that episode that struck me is, after Benny finishes the Deep Space Nine story and all the other writers love it, the editor says: “I like the story. It’s good, it’s very good. But you know I can’t print it. Your hero’s a Negro captain. I’m a magazine editor. I’m not a crusader. I’m not here to change the world.”
AB: That sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
DD: Yes, it does!
AB: You’ve heard that?
DD: I hear it often.
AB: That’s what I thought.
DD: That’s almost exactly the conversation we have with some science fiction and fantasy magazine editors today.
AB: In 2013.
DD: And that episode was from 1997 looking back to 1953. Sometimes I feel a bit of despair that things are never going to change. We’ve clearly been having this conversation for a while.
AB: Some things have changed. But again, it’s the substance of what we talk about. Change is what? Every day is change. Every day is movement. If we get locked into the polemic of it all and don’t find a way to integrate these things that we believe in into our lives, that’s another matter. So the complaint will remain some years hence. Because we’re locked in the polemic of it rather than investing in our own lives and implementing what we think is change. It’s the way we live that’s important.
DD: What was your favorite thing about playing Sisko?
AB: The relationship with Cirroc Lofton.
AB: Because it’s real. As we speak, I treat him like all my children. The same. The good and the bad. You can ask him.
DD: That was my favorite thing about Sisko.
AB: This idea of raising a child—it’s still a work in progress. I have three children–they’re grown. However, the instruction never ceases. The importance of raising a child anywhere in the world is critical to one’s existence. Not just my own. Because without such importance given, where are we going to end up?
[DD Side note: During our interview we paused several times while Brooks met with fans and signed autographs. It struck me that the majority of the people who came to meet him said essentially the same thing: how important Deep Space Nine was to them and how important Sisko still is. One of the fans–author Anthony Harris, who studies sociology, psychology, gender, and social interactions–credited the show with shaping his worldview and showing him what is possible. “I saw your show, your Star Trek, first. I got into it because I wanted to expand my ideas of what it means to be human. Now I…study how we’re changing and moving.”]
DD: A lot of the people who’ve come up to you are very emotional about the show and Sisko and you personally. Is that the majority of the reaction your fans give you?
AB: Each person, that experience is unique. I don’t evaluate it. It’s whatever we have in these few seconds between each other. That’s it.
DD: People love you.
AB: It’s the power of television.
Brooks mentioned to a fan that he does plan to follow up his last musical endeavor, Here, with a new CD sometime soon. When asked about a timeframe, the actor would only say, “You’ll know. Trust me, you’ll hear about it.”
If you missed both of Avery Brooks’s panels so far, you have one more chance at the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (2)” panel on Monday at 11:30AM in the Sheraton Grand Ballroom.