You know his face. You’ve seen him in everything from the original Mummy to the recent Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Where there’s a need for a vaguely eastern-looking character who is going to carry some significant weight in a story be it comedy, drama or (especially) science fiction, Erick Avari has been stepping up and doing the job with aplomb for 25 years.
One role he’s most well-known for, at least with convention-goers, is that of “Good Father” in the original Stargate motion picture, and later in the television series Stargate: SG1. Indeed, Avari is only one of two actors to have reprized their movie rolls on the TV show. All of which serves to explain that I was recently at a Stargate convention in Vancouver, BC where I got the chance to chat with Erick.
The first thing you notice about him is his boundless energy. At 58, he’s going stronger than a few sub-40 year-olds I know. Indeed, at one point during a charity auction at the con, he was seen to leap up on a tall chair and onto the stage like Jackie Chan might have a decade ago.
He also obviously loves his work, and loves connecting with the fans he’s garnered through his genre work. In the 20-minute sitdown I had with him and a few others, he was completely gracious with the ecstatic fangirl who had brought along some rare pictures of him to spark conversation. Unlike many actors who don’t always recall small roles they did many years before, Avari was able to go over stories and fine points of character and plot for movies he was in nearly 20 years before.
Probably the most interesting part of the chat was his response to my questions about the types of roles he’s landed over the years. Avari is Indian by birth, but because of his features he’s played nearly every possible eastern ethnicity. But he made a very strong point about one kind of role he has studiously avoided: terrorists.
In the years since 911, he told us, he was offered many generic middle-eastern terrorist bad guy roles and turned nearly all of them down, including multiple offers to appear on 24. Indeed, his aversion to the type of role, born of an inherent pacifism and his disagreement with the Iraq War and its aftermath, has worn somewhat on his career. Over a couple years he’s had to switch agents four time to find representation that understands that sometimes principle is more important than just landing a gig.
Obviously Erick Avari, as an actor, likes to work and find important, professionally satisfying roles in every type of story. But he obviously enjoys working in science fiction (other than Stargate, he’s been on three incarnations of Star Trek, Heroes, The X-Files, and even Babylon 5), and truly gets the convention experience and connecting directly with his fans. If you have the opportunity to see him at a con, I urge to to see him out. And ask him to tell you the story about the Stargate movie and the soot he couldn’t wash off. It’s pretty funny!