LeVar Burton is ‘serious’ about wanting to be the new permanent host of ‘Jeopardy!’
Answer: This “Reading Rainbow”star wants to be the next host of “Jeopardy!”
Question: Who is LeVar Burton?
Amid calls on social media and a Change.org petition with more than 200,000 signatures, it seems the world is rallying for Burton to take the helm of “Jeopardy!” following the heartbreaking death of longtime host Alex Trebek.
And Burton is very interested in the job.
The actor, known for his roles as Kunta Kinte in 1977 ABC miniseries “Roots,” Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and as host of “Reading Rainbow” for more than two decades, says he’s “really, really, really” serious about wanting to takeover as permanent host for the popular quiz show.
LeVar Burton smiles as he takes his seat in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP)
“This is something that I really think is a good idea,” the 64-year-old said, appearing on a Friday episode of USA TODAY’s The Mothership podcast. “I think it’s a good fit of what the show is, what the show requires and what I feel like I bring to the table.”
“I feel as strongly about my rightness for this as I did about Kunta and Geordi. And I’m that invested in getting the job,” he added.
Burton also said that he wants to do “justice to the legacy of Alex.”
LeVar Burton is ‘flattered’ by petition to be ‘Jeopardy!’ host, pays tribute to Alex Trebek’s family
Trebek hosted the show since 1984 until he died of pancreatic cancer in November. Since then, a series of guest hosts have been filling in at the “Jeopardy!” podium, including “Greatest of All Time” champion Ken Jennings, executive producer Mike Richards, news anchor Katie Couric, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Future guest hosts include Anderson Cooper, Savannah Guthrie, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Bill Whitaker and Mayim Bialik. The show is expected to announce a new round of guest hosts soon, though a permanent replacement has yet to be announced.
In the meantime, here’s everything you should know about Burton, the man vying for the job.
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Hosting ‘Reading Rainbow’ was one of Burton’s biggest roles
Take a look, it’s in a book – a reading rainbow!
If you were in elementary school any time between 1983 and 2009, chances are you’ve still got those lyrics and the rest of the “Reading Rainbow” theme song lodged away somewhere in your brain.
Burton hosted the PBS show for 26 years, winning several daytime Emmy awards in the process.
LeVar Burton attends the "Reading Rainbow" software preview at Studio 450 on June 19, 2012 in New York City. (Photo: Robin Marchant, Getty Images)
He had a couple run-ins with Alex Trebek
Burton told USA TODAY that winning “Celebrity Jeopardy!” in 1995 is one of his proudest moments. Up until then, he didn’t have much interaction with Trebek, but recalled a time he ran into the beloved host backstage at a taping in Las Vegas.
“He was unbelievably smooth. You sense that on TV. In person it’s even more apparent just how comfortable he was. And relaxed. And very, very, very, very smooth. Just effortless. And I know how much work it takes to make it look that easy,” he said of Trebek.
He loves ‘Jeopardy!’
Beyond his experience playing “Jeopardy!,” Burton laid out another reason he is best qualified for the job: He loves the game.
“I’ve watched it almost every night my entire life, or since (I was) in the fifth grade. Like everybody else in America, I just think the world of the game. Because I think we all just love to measure ourselves against what we know is a very high pressured situation. That’s why it’s as popular as it is,” he said.
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ABC miniseries ‘Roots’ was his breakthrough role
In 1977, the landmark ABC miniseries brought the horrors of American slavery to the forefront of pop culture and shattered ratings records in the process. Tracking the lives of enslaved protagonist Kunta (Burton) and his family, the century-spanning drama was anchored by themes of identity, heritage and confronting one’s past in order to move forward.
“Roots” was revived in 2016 with Burton serving as co-executive producer.
“If you are living in America right now, then the story of slavery is relevant to you, because it’s shaped the country and the culture in which you live, whether you want to admit that or not,” Burton told USA TODAY at the time of History’s four-part remake.
A scene from the final episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" with LeVar Burton, Left, Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner. (Photo: NONE, PARAMOUNT PICTURES)
Contributing: Patrick Ryan, Haley Blum, Gary Levin, Brett Molina, Brian Truitt
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