Indian-born actor Erick Avari has been acting for 30 years. From films, on and off-Broadway shows, TV, regional theaters to opera, Avari has developed a successful and varied career.
He has appeared in movies such as The Mummy with Brendan Fraser, Mr. Deeds with Adam Sandler, Independence Day with Will Smith, Paul Blart: Mall Cop with Kevin James; acted with Shakespeare and Company in Stockbridge, MA, been in many TV shows such as the soap Days of Our Lives, Heroes, Burn Notice, JAG, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, NYPD Blue; on Broadway, including A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and in David Hare’s A Map of the World; in the musical The King and I, and even the opera Rasputin at the New York City Opera.
Avari is one of only two actors – Alexis Cruz being the other – who both appeared in the 1994 film Stargate and its TV cousin Stargate: SG-1. He played Kasuf, Dr. Daniel Jackson’s father-in-law.
The sci-fi movie Stargate tells the adventures of a team of US troops led by Colonel Jack O’Neill, along with Egyptologist Dr. Daniel Jackson, who travel to a planet via an ancient alien teleportation ring found in Egypt. It starred Kurt Russell as O’Neill and James Spader as Jackson. The film, which has spun off three TV series and two movies, has just been released in a Blu-ray edition in honor of the movie’s 15th anniversary.
M&C recently spoke to Avari about working on the Stargate movie and the TV show Stargate SG-1, TV versus film, theater and his future project.
M&C: What was it like playing Kasuf in the movie, and then the TV series?
Avari: it was an interesting transition being a bridge for the two mediums. It was interesting because it [the TV show] broke tradition with the language. That was a big thing because in the movie, I spoke ancient Egyptian, and English in the TV show.
M&C: Were there differences and similarities between Stargate SG-1 and the film?
Avari: The major difference was the scope of the movie. It was enormous. On the second day of shooting, in Yuma, Arizona, I was in the sand dunes, walking with James Spader. We were taking a short cut, and came up over the dune and see the base camp. People were lining up for dinner. There were 1,500 extras. It was only my second studio movie. I turn to Jim and ask if he had been in such a movie. He said, “Erick, no one has.”
The scale was daunting and so elaborate. I was always conscious of lots of extras. The first night in the hotel, the call sheet called for 15 principal actors, 15 elders, 35 shepherds. There were dune sweepers to smooth out the dunes from the dune buggies. The AD [assistant director] had to keep them away. It was kind of surreal to picture yourself in ancient Egypt.
The size and scope of the film was staggering. You can’t do that on a TV series. Also Kurt Russell’s O’Neill was so cynical, in need of healing. Richard Dean Anderson’s O’Neill was modified from the movie’s O’Neill. And the language was different in the movie.
[Director] Roland Emmerich was very loose. I’d get to the set to rehearse, he’d say, “Maybe you can say this,” so I’d go the Egyptologist to get it translated, then I had to learn to say it. It was a three-step process.
It was tremendous fun. Emmerich was light, with a playful attitude on the set, which translated to everyone. We were in grueling conditions, 130 degrees in the shade, and nothing fazed him. He’d keep the mood on the set something to be embraced. I learned a lot.
M&C: What are the differences working in film and TV?
Avari: TV is a quicker medium with multiple pages a day. Movies are more leisurely and move like molasses. TV has smaller cast and it’s an intimate setting. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
M&C: What do like about being on the stage?
Avari: I came from the stage. I also have been in a couple of operas. There’s nothing like it. You have control, sharing the stage with unabashed [freedom]. It brings a smile to me. The stage is an actor’s medium, TV is a producer and writer’s medium; movies, a director’s medium.
M&C: On the Blu-ray disc, what’s on the gag reel?
Avari: I don’t have a Blu-ray player (laughing) But there’s a lot of material to pick from and humorous mishaps.
M&C: What do you think the audience will like about this new Blu-ray edition?
Avari: It’s difficult to put myself in the audience, to be on the other end. The movie was in some ways ahead of its time. There were interesting aspects to it. When it was offered to me, it was the fact that the local populations led the uprising, and not the calvary coming in to save the day. It was a subtle, quiet revolution.
I hope there is a fresh perspective of the size and scope and the magnitude of the film. They built one street of the village and then CGI’d the other half, as well building the bottom half of the pyramid, and CGI’d the top.
I hope fans see some of the awe-inspiring details of the set designers. I hope they are highlighted in this Blu-ray edition.
M&C: What are you working on now?
Avari: I’m doing a little project filmed on DV digital that I’ve written, directed and I’m acting in. It’s a little daunting.
The Stargate: 15th Anniversary Edition features the theatrical and extended cuts of the movie in remastered 1080P High Definition 16 x 9 Widescreen with English 7.1 DTS-MA Audio and four hours of special features including three new featurettes, a gag reel, an interactive trivia track and more.
Stargate: 15th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray] is now available at Amazon. Visit the DVD database for more information.