Erick Avari has appeared in at least 40 movies and dozens more TV shows. You may not know his name, but you’ve seen him in “The Mummy,” maybe, or “Independence Day,” or on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
But Avari, born in India to a theatrical family, is perhaps best known for speaking two words from a dead language. In 1994’s “Stargate,” he played Kasuf, the leader of a tribe descended from the ancient Egyptians, now living on another planet. When a galaxy-hopping archaeologist (James Spader) makes a peace offering, he gives Kasuf a 5th Avenue candy bar.
After taking a tentative bite, Kasuf breaks into a grin and says, “Bunny . . . bunny way!” As aficionados of weird Internet memes know, that translates roughly as “very sweet!”
On a Sunday in the tiki lounge above the Noshery in Amesbury, Avari gamely delivered his famous catchphrase. The actor and his trusty dog, an elderly boxer named Tootsie, were making a stop on a yearlong RV tour of North America. Avari, 65, has been engaging intimate audiences in an open-ended discussion about a subject that, he said, appears to be in short supply these days: basic human kindness.
“Compassion is in our nature,” he told the 40 or so movie fans gathered over cheese and crackers and glasses of wine. “But how we express kindness – that is nurture.”
Avari said he’s trying to do something about the increasing hostility he’s been seeing in his adopted country.
“What is going on?” he asked. “I’m just out asking the questions. I may look like a spiritual leader, but I’m certainly not.”
Mayor Ken Gray briefly addressed the room, acknowledging the sense of political division and saying Avari’s simple message of kindness “is something we desperately need right now.”
He also joked that “Stargate” was one of his favorite movies “when I was just a wee young lad.”
Avari’s excursion, which he is filming for a possible documentary, is partly a fund-raising effort on behalf of Ben’s Bells, a volunteer goodwill project established in Tucson, Ariz. With hostility in the air across the country, he said he simply wants to hear from ordinary people about their own brushes with kindness. Though he’s spent years in the “glitz and glamour” of the movie business, “what I’m doing now is so much more exciting.”
To that end, Noshery owners Jon Mooers and Ginny Page honored a local resident who organized fund-raising and caretaking efforts for Ginny’s daughter, Paige Fortin, after she survived a life-threatening accident five years ago. They hadn’t met until now.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with you,” said Donna Eldredge as she hugged Fortin, who was sobbing.
“You know the saying ‘See something, say something?’” Eldredge told the gathering. “Well, we’re kind of ‘see something, do something.’”
Avari said he was honored to witness the exchange.
“Just standing here with you right now gives my life some meaning,” he said.