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‘This Was a Real Challenge’: LeVar Burton Opens Up About the Challenges He Faced While Assuming ‘Jeopardy!’ Hosting Duties

“Jeopardy!” fans are finally getting their chance to see LeVar Burton host the long-running trivia show.

For a week, July 26 to 30, Burton will live out his dream, in part, by standing behind the podium once reigned by late host Alex Trebek. The opportunity is one Burton and his fans have been pushing — and even started a petition for since Trebek passed. 

Levar Burton is more than ready for fans to tune into “Jeopardy!” as he takes on hosting duties for a week. (Photo: @levarburton/Twitter)

The host of 37 years died from pancreatic cancer in November 2020. Following a brief hiatus, the show returned with guest host Ken Jennings. Since then there have been a string of familiar names and faces — “Good Morning America” co-hosts Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos, Anderson Cooper, Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and “Jeopardy!” champ Ken Jennings to name a few —  taking over hosting duties, each for a week at a time.

But as far as Burton is concerned, everyone before him is simply keeping the podium warm until he is named the permanent host.

Last June, Burton told The New York Times that something inside him led him to believe he is the ideal candidate to take over the show. “It’s difficult to explain,” he said. “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.”

Ahead of the airing of Burton’s first episode as host, he touched on what his experience was like.

“For me my standard of excellence is so intense that my initial approach was to try and be as good as Alex was, of course I realized that was an impossibility, the man had thirty-seven years to perfect his mastery,” said Burton while appearing on Good Morning America.

Burton also revealed to “Entertainment Tonight Canada” that despite his eagerness to take on the challenge of hosting, he still experienced some trepidation.

”This was a real challenge, first of all because of the enormity of it, you know. It’s an iconic — it’s singular in culture, ‘Jeopardy!’— what it means to people as a part of their daily lives…there’ve only been two hosts that have ever stood in that spot,” said “The Roots” star. “The pressure, the natural tendency was to want to live up to Alex’s you know, example, his legacy. I was terrified.”

In the end, Burton says it was his wife, Stephanie Cozart Burton, who helped him let go of the notion he had to be more like Trebek, and less like the beloved “Reading Rainbow” host his legion of fans adore.

“That became my point of focus, and when it did I started having fun. The glimpse that I got of it, of myself in the process was enough to convince me that I know in time I could master the process.”

As for the former Trekkie’s fans, they remain committed to seeing their favorite candidate become the hopeful permanent host.

“Yes! Finally!! Yay!! 😄👏👏”

“I am so excited about this!!! Who better to host a show centered on learning than the man who introduced a love of learning to generations!!! ❤️❤️”

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