LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

Born: February 16, 1957
Age: 64
Birthplace: Landstuhl, West Germany (now Germany)
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Levardis Robert Martyn "LeVar" Burton Jr. (born February 16, 1957) is an American actor, presenter, director and author. He is best known for his roles as the host of the long-running PBS children's series Reading Rainbow, Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation and the young Kunta Kinte in the 1977 award-winning ABC television miniseries Roots. He has also directed a number of television episodes for various iterations of Star Trek, among other programs.

Burton was born to American parents at the U.S. Army Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in West Germany. His mother, Erma Gene (née Christian), was a social worker, administrator, and educator.[1] His father, Levardis Robert Martyn Burton, was a photographer for the U.S. Army Signal Corps at the time he was stationed at Landstuhl.[2][3][4] Burton and his two sisters were raised by his mother in Sacramento, California.[5]

Burton was raised Roman Catholic and, at the age of thirteen, entered St. Pius X Minor Seminary in Galt, California, to become a priest.[6][7] While in seminary, he read works by the philosophers Laozi, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Søren Kierkegaard, which caused him to question the Catholic dogma that Catholicism is the only true religion.[8] At seventeen, Burton graduated with the class of 1974 and enrolled at the University of Southern California with a drama scholarship.[9] While at the University of Southern California, Burton was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California's School of Theatre.[10]



Early work

Burton first appeared on television in a drama about a misunderstood deaf boy. LeVar Burton made his film acting debut in 1977 when he played Kunta Kinte in the ABC award-winning drama series Roots, based on the novel by Alex Haley. Burton's audition for the role of Kinte was the first of his professional career.[11] As a result of his performance, he was nominated for the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama Series. Burton reprised the role of Kunta Kinte in the 1988 television film Roots: The Gift. When asked about the societal impacts of Roots, Burton is quoted as saying, "It expanded the consciousness of people. Blacks and whites began to see each other as human beings, not as stereotypes. And if you throw a pebble into the pond, you're going to get ripples. I think the only constant is change, and it's always slow. Anything that happens overnight is lacking in foundation. Roots is part of a changing trend, and it's still being played out."[12]

Burton played a role as a visitor to Fantasy Island, was a participant in Battle of the Network Stars, a guest of the Muppet Show's televised premiere party for the release of The Muppet Movie, and a frequent guest on several game shows. In 1986, he appeared in the music video for the song "Word Up!" by the funk/R&B group Cameo.

Burton accepted an invitation to host Rebop, a multicultural series designed for young people ages 9-15, produced by WGBH for PBS.

Reading Rainbow

Burton was the host and executive producer of Reading Rainbow starting in 1983 for PBS.[13] The series ran for 23 seasons, making it one of the longest-running children's programs on the network. The series garnered over 200 broadcast awards over its run, including a Peabody Award and 26 Emmy Awards, 11 of which were in the Outstanding Children's Series category.[14][15] Burton himself won 12 Emmy awards as host and producer of the show.[16]

After Reading Rainbow went off the air in 2006, Burton and his business partner, Mark Wolfe, acquired the global rights to the brand and formed RRKIDZ, a new media company for children. Reading Rainbow was reimagined as an all new application for the iPad in 2012, and was an immediate success, becoming the number-one educational application within 36 hours. At RRKIDZ, Burton serves as co-founder and curator-in-chief, ensuring that the projects produced under the banner meet the high expectations and trust of the Reading Rainbow brand.[17]

On May 28, 2014, Burton and numerous coworkers from other past works started a Kickstarter campaign project to bring back Reading Rainbow. To keep with the changing formats to which young children are exposed, his efforts are being directed at making this new program web-based, following the success of the tablet application he helped create in recent years. His desire is to have the new Reading Rainbow be integrated into the classrooms of elementary schools across the country, and for schools in need to have free access.[18] The Kickstarter campaign has since raised over $5 million, reaching triple its goal in only three days.[19]

Star Trek: The Next Generation

In 1986, Gene Roddenberry approached Burton with the role of the then Lieutenant Junior Grade Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series. The character is blind but is granted "sight" through the use of a prosthetic device called a VISOR worn over his eyes. La Forge started out serving as the USS Enterprise's helmsman, and as of the show's second season, had become its chief engineer. At the time, Burton was considerably better known than Patrick Stewart in the United States, due to his roles in Roots and Reading Rainbow. The Associated Press stated that Burton's role was essentially the "new Spock".[20]

Burton also portrayed La Forge in the subsequent feature films based on Star Trek: The Next Generation, beginning with Star Trek Generations (1994) through Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).

He directed two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and several episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise.

Other appearances

Burton with social activist and former Second Lady Tipper Gore

On television, Burton has helped dramatize the last days of Jim Jones's suicide cult in Guyana, the life and times of Jesse Owens, and the life of the nine-year-old Booker T. Washington. He portrayed Martin Luther King Jr. in the 2001 film Ali. He also portrayed Detroit Tiger Ron LeFlore in the television movie One in a Million, The Ron LeFlore Story.

In 1987, Burton played Dave Robinson, a journalist (sports writer), in the third season of Murder, She Wrote, episode 16 - "Death Takes a Dive", starring Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher.

In 1992, a clip of Burton's voice was sampled by DC Talk for the track "Time is..." on their album Free at Last. The sample is at the very end of the song, in which Burton can be heard saying: "Whoa, wait a minute." He has also lent his voice to several animated projects, including Kwame in the cartoon series Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990-1993) and The New Adventures of Captain Planet (1993-1996), Family Guy, Batman: The Animated Series and Gargoyles. Burton is on the audio version of The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Burton has been cast as voice actor for Black Lightning in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies DVD. In an ironic twist, Burton taped a recycling field trip for YouTube.

Burton appeared several times as a celebrity guest on the Dick Clark-hosted $25,000 and $100,000 Pyramids, from 1982 until 1988. Burton also was the strongest link in the special Star Trek episode of The Weakest Link. He defeated his final opponent Robert Picardo and won $167,500 for his charity, Junior Achievement of Southern California, a record for the show at that time and the largest amount won in any Celebrity Edition of the show (it was later surpassed by a $188,500 win in a "Tournament of Losers" episode).

He has made appearances in such sitcoms as Becker.

Burton at the Schlow Centre Region Library, January 29, 2007

Burton is the host and executive producer of a documentary titled The Science of Peace, which was in production as of 2007. It investigates the science and technology aimed at enabling world peace, sometimes called peace science. The film explores some of the concepts of shared noetic consciousness, having been sponsored in part by the Institute of Noetic Sciences.[21]

He appeared in an April Fool's episode of Smosh pretending to have taken over the channel and making various edits at popular Smosh videos.[22]

He makes occasional appearances on This Week in Tech, where he is a self-proclaimed "nerd", and also participated in the Consumer Electronics Show 2010.[23]

In 2010, he made an appearance on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! as the ghost of himself in the episode "Greene Machine".

In February 2011, Burton made an appearance as himself on NBC's Community in the episodes Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking and Geothermal Escapism.

Burton has appeared as a fictionalized, humorous version of himself on The Big Bang Theory, first appearing in the episode "The Toast Derivation", in which he almost attends a party thrown by Sheldon (before swearing off Twitter), in November 2012 in the episode "The Habitation Configuration", in which he appears on "Fun With Flags" in exchange for lunch and gas money, and again in the November 2014 episode "The Champagne Reflection", in which he returns for the 232nd episode of "Fun With Flags" in exchange for Sheldon deleting his contact details.

In 2012, he had a recurring role as dean Paul Haley on the TNT series Perception. For the second season (2013), he became part of the regular cast.

In 2014, he had a guest appearance in an introduction section for the 200th episode of Achievement Hunter's show, Achievement Hunter Weekly Update (AHWU). In May 2014, he appeared as a guest on the YouTube channel SciShow, explaining the science behind double, tertiary, and quaternary rainbows. Late in 2014, he had another guest appearance on a 24-hour Extra Life, a fund-raising organization for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, stream by Rooster Teeth.

In 2017, Burton began a podcast titled "LeVar Burton Reads".[24] Each episode features Burton reading a short story.


Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Burton directed episodes for each of the various Star Trek series then in production. He has directed more Star Trek episodes than any other former regular cast member.[25]

He has also directed episodes of Charmed, JAG, Las Vegas, and Soul Food: The Series, as well as the miniseries Miracle's Boys and the documentary The Tiger Woods Story. He also directed the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House starring Katey Sagal, Kevin Kilner and Jessica Steen.

His first theatrical film direction was Blizzard (2003), for which he received a "Best of Fest" award from the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, and a Genie Award nomination for his work on the film's theme song, "Center of My Heart".

Burton is on the board of directors for the Directors Guild of America.

Personal life

LeVar Burton married Stephanie Cozart-Burton,[26] a professional make-up artist, in 1992. He and his wife currently live in Sherman Oaks, California.[9] LeVar Burton has two children, a daughter Michaela "Mica" with his wife, and a son, Eian Burton (born 1980) from a previous relationship.[27] Mica was an employee of Rooster Teeth's news division, The Know.[28] Burton is also a fan of English football club Arsenal.[29][30]


Burton serves on the board of directors for the AIDS Research Alliance, a non-profit, medical research organization dedicated to finding a cure for AIDS.[31]


Main article: LeVar Burton filmography


Year Film Role Note
1976 Almos' a Man Dave Alternative title: Richard Wright's Almos' a Man
1977 Looking for Mr. Goodbar Cap Jackson
Billy: Portrait of a Street Kid Billy Peoples
1978 One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story Ron Leflore The Man of Passion
Battered Andrew Sinclair
1979 Dummy Donald Lang
1980 Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones Richard Jefferson
The Hunter Tommy Price
1981 The Acorn People Rodney
Grambling's White Tiger Charles 'Tank' Smith
1983 Emergency Room Ray Walden
1984 The Jesse Owens Story Professor Preston
Booker Davis
1985 And the Children Shall Lead Glenn Scott Alternative title: PBS Wonderworks: And the Children Shall Lead
The Midnight Hour Vinnie Davis Alternative title: In the Midnight Hour
1986 The Supernaturals Pvt. Michael Osgood
Liberty Robert Johnson
1987 A Special Friendship Ben Summer
1988 Roots: The Gift Kunta Kinte Alternative title: A Roots Christmas: Kunta Kinte's Gift
1993 Firestorm: 72 Hours In Oakland Fire Chief J. Alan Mathers Alternative title: Firestorm: A Catastrophe in Oakland
1994 Parallel Lives Dr. Franklin Carter
Star Trek Generations Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
1996 Yesterday's Target Winstrom
Star Trek: First Contact Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
1998 Star Trek: Insurrection Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
1999 Our Friend, Martin Martin, Age 26 (voice)
2000 Dancing in September Himself
2001 Ali Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
2002 Star Trek: Nemesis Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
2003 Blizzard Night Watchman Elf Directed by Burton
2008 Reach for Me Nathaniel
2009 Taken in Broad Daylight Mike Timbrook
Superman/Batman Public Enemies Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (voice)
2011 And They're Off Himself
2012 Rise of the Zombies Dr. Dan Halpern Television movie
2015 Practice Makes Perfect Principal Healy
2018 In Saturn's Rings Narrator Documentary, Premier 4 May 2018


Burton with Brent Spiner and William Shatner in July 2010
Year Title Role Notes
1976-1979 Rebop Host
1977 Roots Kunta Kinte TV miniseries
1982 Trapper John, M.D. Luther Peacock Episode: "A Piece of the Action"
1983 Fantasy Island Edward Ross Jr. Episode: "Edward/The Extraordinary Miss Jones"
1983-2006 Reading Rainbow Host 155 episodes
1984 The Love Boat Darnell Episode: "Love is Blind"
1987 Murder, She Wrote Reporter Dave Robinson Episode: "Death Take a Dive"
1987 Houston Knights Jason Evans Episode: "Bad Girl"
1987-1994 Star Trek: The Next Generation Geordi La Forge 178 episodes
1990-1996 Captain Planet and the Planeteers Kwame (voice) 113 episodes
1993 Batman the Animated Series Hayden Sloane/Hatter Henchman (voice) Episode: "The Worry Men"
1995 Christy Daniel Scott 7 episodes
1995 Deadly Games Mr. Metcalf Episode: "The Boss"
1995 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Monk (voice) Episode: "The Frog Prince"
1996 Gargoyles Anansi Episode: "Mark of the Panther"
1997 Pinky and the Brain Murray Episode: "The Real Life"
1998 Star Trek: Voyager Captain Geordi LaForge Episode: "Timeless"
1998 Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Himself Episode: "Giving and Receiving"
2000 Becker Mr. Haller Episode: "Beckerethics"
2003 Boomtown Marvin Lloyd Episode: "The Hole-in-the-Wall Gang"
2005-2009 Family Guy Vern / Himself (voice) Episodes: "Petarded" and "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven"
2009 The Super Hero Squad Show War Machine (voice) Episode: "Tales of Suspense"
2010 Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Ghost of LeVar Burton Episode: "Greene Machine"
2010 The Jensen Project Kendrick James TV film (brokered programming from Procter & Gamble/Wal-Mart)[32]
2011-2014 Community Himself Episodes: "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" and "Geothermal Escapism"
2011-2014 The Big Bang Theory Himself Episodes: "The Toast Derivation", "The Habitation Configuration" and "The Champagne Reflection"
2012 Face Off Himself Episode: "Alien Interpreters"
2012-present Transformers: Rescue Bots Doc Greene (voice) 26 episodes
2012-2015 Perception Paul Haley 30 episodes
2013 Adventure Time Bubble (voice) Episode: "BMO Lost"
2014 Hell's Kitchen Himself Season 13 Episode 14: "5 Chefs Compete"
2016 Roots Ephraim Episode: "1 episode"
2017 OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes Kwame (voice) Episode: "The Power Is Yours"
2018 Explained Himself (narrator) Episode: "Extraterrestrial Life"
2019 Weird City TBA TBA


Year Work Note
1987-1994 Star Trek: The Next Generation 2 episodes
1993-1999 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine 10 episodes
1995-2001 Star Trek: Voyager 8 episodes
1998 The Tiger Woods Story Alternative title: Son, Hero, and Champion
1999 Smart House Disney Channel Original Movies
2000-2004 Soul Food 2 episodes
2001-2005 Star Trek: Enterprise 9 episodes
2003 Blizzard
JAG 1 episode
2005-2006 Charmed 3 episodes
2005 Miracle's Boys 1 episode
2006 Las Vegas 1 episode
2008 Reach for Me
2014 Perception 2 episodes
2017 NCIS: New Orleans 3 episodes



  • 1977 Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Performance in a Drama or Comedy Series — Roots (Part 1, "Kunta Kinte")
  • 1998, 2001, 2005 Image Awards variously for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series and Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special — Reading Rainbow (both as Self and as Executive Producer)
  • 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1999 Daytime Emmy — Outstanding Children's Series — Reading Rainbow (Executive Producer)
  • 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 - Daytime Emmy — Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series — Reading Rainbow (Self)
  • 2004 Genie Award — Best Achievement in Music-Original Song — Blizzard (Co-composer "Center of My Heart")
  • 2006 Black Reel Award — Best Director-Television — Miracle's Boys


  • 1990 Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7030 Hollywood Blvd. for television achievement
  • 1992 Peabody Award — Reading Rainbow (as executive producer of episode, "The Wall")
  • 1994, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2003 Image Award — variously for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series and Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special — Reading Rainbow (both as Self and as Executive Producer)
  • 2000 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album - The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • 1990, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 Daytime Emmy — Outstanding Children's Series — Reading Rainbow (Executive Producer)
  • 2001, 2002 Daytime Emmy — Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series — Reading Rainbow (Self)
  • 2003 Television Critics Association Award — Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming — Reading Rainbow (Executive Producer)
  • 2004 Chicago International Children's Film Festival — Best of Fest — Blizzard (Director)


  • Aftermath, 1997, ISBN 0-446-67960-7
  • The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm, 2014, ISBN 0-990-53950-4

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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