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LeVar Burton Says ‘Reading Rainbow’ Proves He’s the Best Choice For ‘Jeopardy!’

"I helped raise these younger generations...we're invested in each other's success."

PBS

LeVar Burton really, really, really wants the Jeopardy! hosting gig. Thanks to a massive online push by his many fans, Burton – Kunta Kinte in Roots, Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and longtime host of the family program Reading Rainbow – will get his shot at impressing the powers that be. In late July, he’ll serve as the latest – and one of the last — interim hosts before a permanent replacement for the late Alex Trebek is named.

“I feel like in some respects that I helped raise these younger generations that grew up watching Reading Rainbow,” Burton said during an interview with the New York Times, referring to the fans who signed the petition. “That means something to them, and it means something to me. We’re invested in each other’s success.”

So, why, exactly, does Burton want to host Jeopardy!? “It’s difficult to explain, but there’s something inside me that says this makes sense,” he replied. “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.”

Burton acknowledged that it would hard not to land the Jeopardy! gig, but he’s lost out on jobs before. For example, he recalled missing out on Glory – which Denzel Washington rode to an Oscar win – because The Next Generation wouldn’t give him time off to make it. Still… “It will hurt,” he said. “I’m not going to lie. But if that happens, I will get over it. I will be fine. Remember: Everything happens perfectly and for a reason. That is my default. It’s all going to be OK. Because it always is.”

Burton will host from July 26 to July 30. Other recent and upcoming Jeopardy! interim hosts include Kate Couric, Joe Buck, Robin Roberts, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Miyam Bialik, Anderson Cooper, Savannah Guthrie, Aaron Rodgers, and Ken Jennings.

Here’s the full guide to each Jeopardy! guest-host tenure.