Brooks was born in Evansville, Indiana, and grew up in Gary, Indiana, in a house that vibrated with music. His mother, Eva Lydia, served as a choral conductor and music instructor, and taught music in the Brooks family home. His dad worked as a union official, but loved to sing as well, performing with the Wings Over Jordan choir. Brooks went on to study at Livingston College and Rutgers University, and he holds the distinction of being the first African American to earn a master of fine arts degree in acting and directing from Rutgers.
Prior to landing his role as Sisko on DS9, Brooks was best known for his stint as the tough-talking character Hawk, first on the popular series Spenser: For Hire and later on his own spinoff, A Man Called Hawk. Brooks also played Hawk in four Spenser: For Hire telemovies from 1993-1995. DS9 fans were quick to take note of the fact that Hawk referred to A Man Called Hawk character as "Old Man," which is what Sisko called Dax. Brooks was also known for his one-man show, Robeson: A Play with Music, in which he portrayed performer and activist Paul Robeson. (Brooks has reprised the production several times, including during DS9's run and as recently as 2011).
Early Days on DS9
Back in season one of DS9, while in production on the series' second episode, Brooks spoke to the Official Deep Space Nine Magazine about the show and his character. He addressed how Sisko had his hands full aboard the space station, dealing with the assorted characters, conflicts and politics, as well as raising his son, Jake. "When we first encounter Benjamin Sisko, you realize he is really struggling with the wars of his past, which left him a widower," the actor said. "The most wonderful of the challenges is to find all of these different colors in him and the different textures of humanity. So far, there have been no two days that are alike, and I like that."
Directing Deep Space
Brooks settled into the director's chair to call the shots on a total of nine DS9 episodes, starting with "Tribunal" in season two and ending with "The Dogs of War" in season seven. In between, he directed the landmark, still-powerful sixth-season entry, "Far Beyond the Stars," which, in the eyes of many fans, remains DS9's finest hour and ranks way up there on the list of the entire Trek franchise's best episodes.
Following his time on DS9, Brooks pulled back somewhat from the limelight. He acted occasionally, including in the film 15 Minutes, but spent much of his time raising his children and teaching at Rutgers University, where he's a professor of theater at Mason Gross School of the Arts. He also recorded and released the 2009 album, Here, featuring spoken word poetry pieces, as well as blues and jazz covers. Brooks, for many years, continued to make appearances at Star Trek conventions and he participated in William Shatner's 2011 documentary, The Captains.
Please join StarTrek.com in wishing Brooks a happy birthday.