LeVar Burton Interview: ‘Jeopardy,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Roots,’ Mr. Rogers

Depending upon your age, LeVar Burton may be known as Kunta Kinte in the groundbreaking Seventies series RootsAs host of the Eighties Educational TV Show Reading RainbowOr, of course as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

When fans approach him, is he able to tell them where they fall on the timeline? “Ninety-five percent of the time,”Actor: “More often than not, I am absolutely able to tell what’s their entry point to LeVar and the work I do. It’s cool. I am very proud of the way my career has been able to speak to different generations simultaneously. If it were easy, everybody would do it.”

In more recent years, Burton’s popular Twitter account led to a stint as a Jeopardy!Host. He didn’t get the permanent gig, but he’ll be hosting an upcoming game-show version of Trivial Pursuit.

Here Burton looks back at his career. Jeopardy!The magic of experiencing the experience Star TrekConventions have a lasting importance RootsHe also received advice from Fred Rogers.

You’ve been a well-known actor for more than 40 years. Do you see any disadvantage to spending so much of your time in the public eye?
Recently I found out that vulnerability is one of the down sides to fame. I made it public by declaring that I wanted the job. Jeopardy! — when I didn’t get the job, there was a lot of unnecessary concern that I was devastated, when in fact I wasn’t. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t devastated.

As a public personality, who you are is commented on and subject to the whims of people who don’t know you. You can access the good, the poor, and the ugly information that people have about you through social media. [like]You can see my Twitter feed. “Oh, he was terrible!” “He was the worst of all the guest hosts.” “He shit the bed!”Is it time to get out of bed? I don’t think I was That bad! Thick skin is essential. Forrest Gump would be proud. “That’s all I’m gonna say about that.”

It is still amazing to see grown-ups doing this. Reading RainbowFans came together to support you in your bid to be the host. How was it?
I felt the love. I cannot describe the feeling. It was overwhelming. And it came from every corner of the fandom. Even casual fans reached out to each other and shared their opinions. “This makes so much sense. You were done dirty.”The best thing about all this was the love.

What lessons did you take away from guest-hosting
Alex Trebek was a genius at this game. I really feel like given an opportunity, I would have mastered it, but it’s a lot harder than it looks. The experience taught me that things always turn out for the good. The opportunities that I’m looking at right now would have never come to me had I gotten that gig.

Are you saying that you believe everything happens for a reason
Always. Even when we can’t figure out what it is in the moment, in the fullness of time, the answer always reveals itself. It happened in this instance sooner than expected. I didn’t have to wonder. It was demonstrated to me, the regard that I hold in people’s eyes. That’s worth so much more than a job, or money, or a car. It is truly priceless to know you have had a positive effect on people’s lives.

Mike Richards, Ken Jennings, and Miyam Bibilik all had controversies when their names were put forward for the job. Do you have any hidden skeletons that could have got you fired?
If I had, I imagine they would have made it to this point. My goal throughout my 45-year career was to make my family proud. Perhaps, it’s the reverse. So far, so good.

Guest-hosting brought you a resurgence of fame that you haven’t had since you were 19. What advice would your younger self give you?
Oh, my goodness! Relax. It’s all going to work out. I lived with anxiety and angst all my life. Looking back at that boy, I am amazed at how present he was. It is also clear that underneath that calm, present exterior, was a young person who struggled to keep his head together. [and]The late Seventies saw them become famous.

It was a pretty rock & roll time, let’s just say. It was. I had everything I needed and was able to overcome the natural human tendency to overindulge. I am truly grateful to the people who helped me through that time in my life and all of its uncertainty.

I’ll say this: I wouldn’t want to be a young and emerging talent in today’s environment of the 24-hour news cycle and social media and a camera in everyone’s hand. I can’t imagine how much that adds to the burden of the journey. I’m just so glad that my rise to fame happened in the Neanderthal age.

“I wouldn’t want to be a young and emerging talent in today’s environment of the 24-hour news cycle and social media and a camera in everyone’s hand. I can’t imagine how much that adds to the burden of the journey.”

What do you consider the most important rules that you follow?
It is important to be honest with yourself, but it is even more important to be authentic. Find out who you are and then be authentic.

Fred Rogers was a close friend of yours. Which advice did Fred Rogers give you that you still use today?
Fred, my God, is a voice in mine. Fred was a Presbyterian minister. I also studied for the priesthood early in my life. Our paths crossed on the use of media as an educational tool. Fred was the one that encouraged me to use multimedia. Reading RainbowIt was a way for me to be real with my audience and build a connection based upon authenticity.

What do you think? RootsWould it be different if made today?
We did retellThe story was written five years ago. Being a part in both productions was an incredible and memorable experience. This story must be told in American culture. It’s an essential part of who we are — the story of slavery in America. This conversation must be kept alive. As we’ve seen, the tendency to [retreat]It’s a time of ignorance and denial that is very strong. It’s really prevalent. It is important to resist the temptation to lie to ourselves.

You’ve portrayed various aspects of Black life throughout your career — from slavery on RootsAll the way to the future with Geordi La Forge.
How many people are able to say that about their own lives? I don’t take any of it for granted. I am grateful for everything in my life — the tragedy as well as the triumphs. That’s the stuff that life is made of. That’s the human condition. We have no resilience if there’s nothing to bounce back from, right?

You’ve confirmed that Geordi will not appear on Season 2 of PicardYou might, but did you ever witness that in a later episode?
I’m not psychic. Look, I love. Star Trek. I love my castmates. Here’s what I will say about Picard: I do believe that whatever else is going on in his life, in the storytelling that they’re engaging in now, he still knows these people. They should definitely show up during the current adventure. We’ll see.

What’s the most special thing about attending Star Trek conventions?
That is what you need to know [in my]We watched our family Star Trek religiously. If I wasn’t appearing at these conventions as part of the storytelling, I’d be on the other side as a fan in those rooms. Star TrekGrowing up, it was very important for me because Gene Roddenberry was telling me that. “When the future comes, there’s a place for you.” That’s huge. Repealment fucking matters. It does. It allows me to see myself. [original cast member]Nichelle Nichols wasn’t just inspiration; it was validation. That’s how powerful the medium can be.

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 8: LeVar Burton as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge and Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data in the STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION episode,

“Whether they are aware of it or not, those white men who wrote the show had an unconscious bias that was on display to me and to other people of color,”Burton speaks out about his ‘Next Generation’ role.

CBS/Getty Images

If The Next GenerationWould you like to see Geordi on a different show?
Yeah. He’d get laid.

It’s pretty weird that Data, an android, got laid more than Geordi.
Weird? It’s insulting. It’s insulting. Their blind spot is revealed in the fact that a Black man never was successful at one of the basic and most … My wife says, “There’s a lid for every pot.” It’s true. It is absurd to believe that Geordi did not find a lid to his pot. It’s preposterous, and it’s insulting.

Are you familiar with the term? “incel”?
Yes.

Geordi could be described by some as an incel.
I don’t think Geordi was an incel, because he wasn’t angry. I think that term comes along with the idea there’s some sort of maladaptation going on in the fixation. Geordi wasn’t angry, so I think it’s unfair to put him in that category.

Even so, he did some creepy things — like creating his dream woman in the Holodeck and trying to date his subordinate.
And that’s part of the problem, right? In their attempts to be cute, they inadvertently created an aspect of Geordi’s character that is very uncomfortable.

It’s crazy that warp speed is a thing, but Geordi needs a visor to see.
That was a conversation I had with the power brokers. They always maintained that Geordi’s visor was a shorthand language of communicating the technological sophistication of the 24th century. I learned to be OK with that, until I wasn’t. We made seven years of movies together. [1994’s Star Trek Generations]. Then, I was done. I was fed up with having my eyes closed and was determined to get rid of it. As I knew, we found a way to make that technology smaller into an ocular implant.

It was amazing. It was not easy.
It did. It did its job. Geordi’s visor is iconic. You know exactly what you’re looking at when you see it. It is a classic image that sees young men and women wearing headbands and playing Geordi La Forge. Can’t argue with that.

Which music moves you most today?
Right now I’m stuck on the SiriusXM soul station because it’s the music I grew up with. It’s such a part of me, and it’s such a part of my life. In my universe, words have power. Soul music is about the root. It goes to the core, the center of everything. Soul, that word, what it conjures up in me — I know a lot of it is the nostalgia factor that it holds, but it’s just damn good music.

Do you have a favourite soul song?
Come on, God! What about anything released between 1971-79?

What can you do to relax?
I used reading to relax. Now I’m constantly reading for work [laughs]. I love traveling and getting to see different cultures and countries. I haven’t been able to do that in a while, and I really miss it. Nothing is more relaxing for me than being on a tropical beach. My skin glows when I’m in that Caribbean atmosphere. That’s when my soul gets replenished at a real elemental level.

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