LeVar Burton is an American German Born Actor, Director, Producer and Author. Burton is most famous for his roles in “Star Trek, The Next Generation”, and “Roots”, in which he played the main character, “Kunta Kinte”. Burton was also famous as the main host for PBS’s main children’s series, “Reading Rainbow”.
Burton’s father was a photographer for the United States Army who was stationed at West Germany, Landstuhl, during the time of Burton’s birth (February 16, 1957). Burton’s mother raised him and his two sisters at Sacramento, California, after which Burton soon joined the St. Pius Seminary to become a Catholic Priest. However, after reading books by Lao Tzu and Kierkegaard, he grew skeptical of his religion and dropped out of the seminary to join the University of Southern California where he studied drama and theatre.
Burton’s first acting role was for ABC’s award winning television mini-series, “Roots”, which was based on a novel by Alex Haley titled “Roots: The Saga of an American Family”. Burton played a young “Kunta Kinte” in the series. The series itself was nominated for thirty seven Emmy Awards, out of which it won nine, while Burton was nominated for “Best Actor in a Drama Series”. Burton was asked to portray “Kunta Kinte” for the book’s 1988 film adaptation, “Roots: The Gift”.
Burton then went on to star in ‘Fantasy Island’, ‘Battle of the Network Stars’, and ‘Word Up!’, after which he went on to host PBS’s premiere children’s series, “Reading Rainbows”. The series, for whom Burton was also an executive producer, was one of the most successful PBS series of all time. Not only did it run for twenty three consecutive seasons, it also picked up over two hundred broadcast awards during its run, including over twenty six Emmy’s, with Burton himself winning a little over ten.
Burton started acting for “Star Trek, The Next Generation” in 1986. He played Lieutenant Junior Grade Geordi La Forge, a blind engineer who is visually aided by an ingenious prosthetic device called “VISOR”. At the time, Burton was one of the only highly acclaimed actors to join the show, and his role was defined by several critics as that of ‘a new Spock’. Burton went on to reprise his role as Geordi La Forge in the subsequent Star Trek Movies, “Star Trek Generations”, and “Star Trek: Nemesis”.
The Star Trek ‘Enterprise’ also helped Burton kick start his career as a director, as his first assignment as director was for a Star Trek episode. Burton went on to direct more Star Trek episodes than any other director affiliated with the Star Trek name.
Burton also hosted a documentary titled “The Science of Peace”, which documented pieces of technology that aimed to bring about world peace. Burton also played the great Martin Luther King Jr. in the 2001 blockbuster release titled “Ali”. He makes regular cameo appearances on popular shows and sitcoms such as “The Big Bang Theory”, “Smosh”, “Community”, “This Week in Tech”, “Family Guy”, and “The Weakest Link”.
LeVar Burton was awarded the 1990 Hollywood Walk of Fame Star at 7030 Hollywood Boulevard. He has also won a Grammy Award for “Best Spoken Word Album”. Burton is currently busy working for a 2015 release titled “Practice makes Perfect”.