We know him as Hawk, but most know him best as Captain Benjamin Sisko on Star Trek Deep Space Nine. I don’t think any fan knows what to expect when Avery Brooks takes the stage. Shatner famously told an audience that the man was crazy (something I find hard to believe seeing as Shatner, in his documentary Captains, sits in a cardboard box on a hot New York City street with the words “Captain Inside” written in Sharpie while he waited for Kate Mulgrew to meet him for no readily apparently allegorical or metaphorical reason).
The truth is, Avery Brooks is a little crazy, but the good kind; the kind that makes you laugh, confused, and somehow more enlightened at the end.
A Q&A with Brooks, therefore, is not really like one would expect. You may ask a question. You may get an answer, but that answer is almost always only tangentially related to the question.
For example, the question,”What do you like about Jazz?” ends up with the answer, “We taught the birds to sing.”
When I asked if he had a preferred Sisko to play between the Mirror Universe Sisko, Benny or the normal Sisko, he first made fun of me for suggesting Sisko was “normal” but then said, “Look. The script only ever just said Sisko,” indicating that they were all the same to him.
Here are the highlights from the Q&A:
The Hair Wasn’t His Fault
As many fans know, Brooks never wanted to have the hair he did in the first two seasons. It seems that from the start, he always wanted to be Hawk in space.
DS9 Is Like Us
Brooks has always been vocal about how he thinks what a special phenomenon the show DS9 is. He talked about how the show really wasn’t about what we want to be, but what we are like now, and the hope that we still have as we try to sort our problems out.
What Episodes Stand Out?
“The pilot, of course” smiled Brooks, “because it was the first one.” He then answered again with “Somewhere Beyond the Stars”, a fan favorite, and an episode he directed.
Favorite Vacation Place?
Here, Brooks made the crowd roar with laughter when he pronounced “We are not on this planet to vacation! Vacation? I’ve got work to do!”
The Biggest Changes in Acting Since He Started His Career
It was not really easy to follow Brooks’ line of reasoning here. Sometimes, it feels like Brooks forgets to start an answer with some sort of thesis statement, and jumps right into the body of his argument, making it difficult to figure out where he’s going.
But I’ll boil it down to this: He’s still waiting for a change.
He notes that the highest compensated actor in the world is brown, that many are, but it hasn’t changed anything. Ethnicities still struggle to get a place in Hollywood. He concludes that no changes have been made because Hollywood still doesn’t look like us.
If There Can be a Superboy, There Can be Hawk
When asked if Spenser, in ‘Spenser for Hire’, was the Hawk’s conscious, Brooks responded that Hawk was the Id and Spenser was the Ego. He then went on to talk about Hawk as a mythological character, who appears on one page and disappears the next. He ends the answer with “If there can be a Superboy, there can be a Hawk.”
I include this not because I understand it, but in case someone else does.
The Enormity of Star Trek
Had Brooks known how big Star Trek was going to be, he said he would have walked away. No one can be prepared for how much bigger than them Star Trek will make them.
What does it feel like to be a Captain?
In answer to this question, Brooks talks about how he had trouble getting off the film lot, and insinuates it was because he was black. He wasn’t allowed off until he opened his trunk, which he refused to do, and it wasn’t until the producer came and told the security he was an actor that he was allowed off.
Days later, when he tried to get back on the lot, the same security gaurd wouldn’t let him until he opened his trunk, and the same drama ensued.
In a roundabout way, I think he was he telling the fan that being a captain didn’t mean anything. He still had to put up with all the same bull he always did.
Working with Q (John de Lancie)
The famous line in DS9, when Sisko punches Q in the face is “Picard never hit me!” to which Sisko answered, “I’m not Picard.” So it’s only appropriate that when a fan asked what it was like to work with Q, he said “it didn’t matter!” He only found out who John de Lancie was, and the significance of Q, much later in his career and by then it was too late to care.
At the end of the Q&A, Cirroc Lofton (Jake Sisko) came on stage, and there was a touching reunion of sorts where they talk about the father/son relationship in the show not being a fake. Lofton’s parents had been going through a divorce at the time, and Brooks became his real life father figure, as well as his stage father, and Brooks agreed that he viewed Lofton as a son.
All in all, it was rather touching, and an excellent segue to Lofton’s own Q&A.