Longtime children’s television host LeVar Burton is putting it frankly: If he doesn’t get a permanent spot as the host of “Jeopardy!” “It will hurt.”
In a recent New York Times Magazine interview, the 64-year-old spoke candidly about his quest to take the game show throne. Since its 36-year host Alex Trebek’s passing at 80 in November 2020 after a long battle with cancer, many celebrities have had brief stints on the show, including show champion Ken Jennings, Green Bay Pacers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and longtime “Today” show host Katie Couric. However, many fans of the trivia game show had routinely tossed around Burton’s name as a potential replacement — something the actor himself stated well before Trebek’s passing.
The role — especially as a full-time host — appears to be very important to Burton, so vital that it’s almost “difficult to explain.” But, he added, “but there’s something inside me that says this makes sense. I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do. I have been watching ‘Jeopardy!’ more or less every night of my life since Art Fleming was host. ‘Jeopardy!’ is a cultural touchstone, and for a Black man to occupy that podium is significant.”
“Look, I have had a career for the [expletive] ages. ‘Roots,’ ‘Star Trek,’ ‘Reading Rainbow.’ Won a Grammy. Got a shelf full of Emmys. I’m a storyteller, and game shows are tremendous stories. There’s a contest, there’s comedy, there’s drama. If you don’t know your [expletive] on ‘Jeopardy!’ you’re sunk in full view of the entire nation. The stakes are high. I love that,” he continued.
However, should he not succeed, the “Roots” star says, “It will hurt, I’m not going to lie,” but he’ll ultimately snap out of it. “I will be fine,” he told the publication. He added, “Remember: Everything happens perfectly and for a reason. That is my default. It’s all going to be OK. Because it always is.”
Burton’s attitude appears hopeful, but he is prepared for whatever happens, as he recalls instances where he’s lost out on gigs and had to make peace with the circumstances. “There was the time that I found out that the producers of ‘Glory’ wanted me for the role that Denzel Washington ended up playing, and ‘Star Trek’ would not agree to let me go,” he explained. “When the movie came out, and then Denzel won an Academy Award [for best actor], I thought, ‘Hmm.'”
He continued, “But it wasn’t for me, and I’ve made peace with that. That which is mine, no one can take away. That which is not meant for me, no amount of wishing or stamping my feet will make it so.”
Burton will have his opportunity to grace the game show stage thanks in part to the efforts of his fan base, who voiced their interest in seeing the actor in the role on social media and even created online petitions, one of which garnered over 200,000 signatures. The actor’s “Jeopardy!” episodes will air Monday through Friday from July 26 to July 30.