LeVar Burton

Interview: LeVar Burton Is as Amazing to Talk to as You Could Possibly Imagine

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LeVar Burton is about as amazing to talk to as you’d possibly imagine. First, he was more than willing to talk to a 27-year-old who grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and Reading Rainbow and even sang the iconic theme song with me, and when I stopped singing to geek out, he just kept inserting my name into it.

Burton was eager to talk with me, ahead of Keystone Comic Con, about fans, conventions, and the joy of his iconic roles. He’ll be there in Philadelphia on August 24 and 25 to connect with fans, something he finds exciting because he considers himself a geek as well, and he told me all about all things geekdom and what he gets out of meeting fans.

Much like Troy from Community, I wanted to roll into a ball and cry while screaming “I CAN GO TWICE AS HIGH.” This was basically me:

In all seriousness, talking with Burton—once you get over the initial desire to constantly say, “Don’t take my word for it”—is easy. He’s very open to connecting with fans and, more importantly, talking about the love that we all still have for Star Trek.

Coming from a Trek family himself, LeVar Burton understands fans and their desire to meet him, because he’s just as much of a geek about these things. I asked if his wife and daughter also the theme song to Reading Rainbow at him, and he laughed, saying, “That’s got to be a no.”

“I love my life, okay? It’s not like, at home, my wife and daughter are clamoring to adore me. So spending a weekend with fans? First of all, I feel like I really have something in common with the fans in that I’m a fan. Right? I grew up watching Star Trek: The Original Series with my family—my mom and my two sisters. So, I’ve been connected to this universe for a long time, and do I love it because of the vision? Yeah, but I love it because it is place where everyone can find themselves.”

And Burton is on to something here with Star Trek. As someone who comes from a family who loves and appreciates Trek, I understand that sentiment. So, I asked if he thought that’s why fans are returning to the series now that the world seems a bit darker. We’re all looking to Gene Roddenberry and his vision for the future instead of the world we’re currently living in.

“I think there’s a really good and solid argument for that. We are, all of us, looking for reasons to have hope these days. No matter what side of these issues you’re on, you’re convinced that the other side needs salvation.”

I pointed out, then, that even in the world of Star Trek, this was true. The “villains” believed they were right where Starfleet was wrong, and that Roddenberry’s vision was not the ideal future but rather one searching for it. That led into the idea of LeVar Burton’s other iconic show, Reading Rainbow.

We, as kids, were told stories and encouraged to read and learn, but still make decisions for ourselves, and I asked if that’s why he brought his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads, to the world. Instead, he pointed out one important thought behind Reading Rainbow:

“Which is the whole point behind ‘But you don’t have to take my word for it.'”

Throughout his career, Burton has taught us to stand up for what we believe in, make our own decisions, and search for the curiosity of the world for ourselves. That joy he brought us as kids is still there with him throughout everything that he does, and it is truly a wonderfully joyous experience talking to him.

I’ll forever cherish LeVar Burton singing the theme song to one of my favorite shows with me, and I’m not even ashamed that I just stopped and got too excited.

He’s wonderful, brilliant, and one of the greats!

(image: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Global Learning XPRIZE)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.