A man in priestly robes stands just out of sight as Jesus and His disciples prepare to leave the city. The man is torn; he has been invited to join them on the journey of a lifetime, yet he feels compelling loyalties to his family and religious community. With anguish in every line of his expression and posture, Nicodemus sobs quietly as chooses to stay behind.
If you wept with Nicodemus at his heart-wrenching dilemma, you’ve been touched by the masterful acting of Erick Avari, a 30-year veteran of television, film, and stage. The role of Nicodemus on the popular series The Chosen is one of his latest.
In his keynote address at RootsTech Connect 2021, Avari shared stories about his family and acting career, as well as his thoughts on kindness and the duty we owe each other.
Destined for Drama
Erick Avari was born Nariman Eruch Avari in 1952 in Darjeeling, India. You might say that acting is in his genes. His father was Eruch Avari, the proprietor of two local movie theaters. His great-grandfather Jamshedji Framji Madan is considered one of the pioneers of Indian cinema.
It didn’t take long for Avari to go from watching movies to being in them himself. His first role came in his teens when he was in the Satyajit Ray film Kanchenjungha. After attending the North Point School in Darjeeling, he went to the College of Charleston in South Carolina in the United States, where he studied acting. Soon his talent was recognized, and he began securing roles on stage, on the silver screen, and on TV.
Look at a list of Avari’s acting credits, and you realize it might be shorter to list what he hasn’t been in. Besides those productions already mentioned, here’s a brief sampling:
- Two Gentlemen of Verona
- The Merchant of Venice
- Bunty Berman Presents …
- A Map of the World
- Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
- Hope and Faith
- Law and Order
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Murder, She Wrote
- NYPD Blue
- The Beast
- The Mummy
- Outbreak on a Plane
- Home Alone 4
- Mr. Deeds
- Master of Disguise
- McHale’s Navy
- The 13th Warrior
- The Glass House
And those are just a few.
Avari’s versatility goes beyond roles in a wide variety of genres. Besides English, he speaks several Indian languages, including Hindi, Bengali, and Gujarati. His talents and ethnic awareness have made him an ideal choice to portray characters of many ethnicities (besides his native Indian), including British, Greek, Eygptian, Libyan, and Jewish—not to mention his stints as a Klingon and a Bajoran on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Ninerespectively.
Connecting with Fans
With Avari’s broad exposure and exceptional talent, it is not surprising that fans connect with him. Avari relates how he was booked for a fan convention in September 2001, and then 9/11 happened three days earlier. Despite the tragedy, the convention organizers chose not to cancel, so Avari attended.
Looking back on the experience, he reminisced in an interview: “It was the first time I’d ever gone out to any of these [conventions], had any of that interaction with fans, and it was such a powerful coming together under adverse conditions. I really admired the spirit of the fans. They weren’t going to let something like this douse their enthusiasm. It was a magical experience.”
He went on to say, “As an actor, you tend to get a little jaded and cynical about the work, and then when you meet people and you see how it’s touched them, you realize (a) what a powerful medium it is, and (b) it’s something you have to use with prudence and a sense of responsibility. Again, it is a very, very powerful medium, and it influences people very strongly. You need to have a sense of responsibility about it, and it’s one that I’ve taken to heart.”
Learn more about Avari’s career and life in his RootsTech Connect 2021 keynote address.
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