||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2009)|
Burton in April 2014
|Born||Levardis Robert Martyn Burton, Jr.
February 16, 1957
Landstuhl, West Germany
|Other names||LeVar Burton|
|Occupation||Actor, director, producer, author|
|Spouse(s)||Stephanie Cozart Burton
Michaela Jean Burton
Levardis Robert Martyn Burton, Jr. (born February 16, 1957), professionally known as LeVar Burton, is an American actor, presenter, director, producer, and author. He is best known for his roles as the young Kunta Kinte in the 1977 award-winning ABC television miniseries Roots, Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and as the host and executive producer of the long-running PBS children's series Reading Rainbow. He has also directed a number of television episodes.
Burton was born to American parents at the U.S. Army Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in West Germany. His mother, Erma Jean (née Christian), was a social worker, administrator, and educator. His father, Levardis Robert Martyn Burton, was a photographer for the U.S. Army Signal Corps at the time he was stationed at Landstuhl. Burton and his two sisters were raised by his mother in Sacramento, California. Burton was raised Catholic and, at the age of thirteen, entered St. Pius X seminary in Galt, California to become a priest.
Burton attended Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, and graduated in the class of 1974. While in seminary, Burton read works by the philosophers Lao-Tzu, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard which caused him to question the Catholic dogma that Catholicism is the only true religion. At seventeen, Burton left the seminary to enroll at the University of Southern California with a drama scholarship. While at the University of Southern California, Burton was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity. He is a graduate of University of Southern California's School of Theatre.
LeVar Burton made his acting debut in 1977 when he played Kunta Kinte in the ABC award-winning drama series Roots, based on the novel by Alex Haley. Burton's audition for the role of Kinte was the first of his professional career. As a result of his performance, he was nominated for the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama Series. Burton reprised the role of Kunta Kinte in the 1988 television film Roots: The Gift. When asked about the societal impacts of Roots, Burton is quoted as saying, "It expanded the consciousness of people. Blacks and whites began to see each other as human beings, not as stereotypes. And if you throw a pebble into the pond, you're going to get ripples. I think the only constant is change, and it's always slow. Anything that happens overnight is lacking in foundation. Roots is part of a changing trend, and it's still being played out."
Burton played a role as a visitor to Fantasy Island, was a participant in Battle of the Network Stars, a guest of the Muppet Show's televised premiere party for the release of The Muppet Movie, and a frequent guest on several game shows. In 1986, he appeared in the music video for the song "Word Up!" by the funk/R&B group Cameo.
Burton was host and executive producer of Reading Rainbow starting in 1983 for PBS. The series ran for 23 seasons, making it one of the longest running children's programs on the network. Furthermore, the series garnered over 200 broadcast awards over its run, including a Peabody Award and 26 Emmy Awards, 11 of which were in the "Outstanding Children's Series" category. Burton himself won 12 Emmy awards as host and producer of the show.
After Reading Rainbow went off the air in 2006, Burton and his business partner, Mark Wolfe acquired the global rights to the brand and formed RRKIDZ, a new media company for children. Reading Rainbow was reimagined as an all new app for the iPad in 2012 and was an immediate success, becoming the #1 Educational App within 36 hours. At RRKIDZ, Burton serves as Co-Founder and Curator-in-Chief, ensuring that the projects produced under the banner meet the high expectations and trust of the Reading Rainbow brand.
On May 28, 2014, Burton and numerous coworkers from other past works started a Kickstarter campaign project to bring Reading Rainbow back. To keep with the changing formats that young children are exposed to, his efforts are being directed at making this new program web-based following the success of the tablet app he helped create in recent years. His desire is to have the new Reading Rainbow be integrated into the classrooms of elementary schools across the country, and for schools in need to have free access. The Kickstarter campaign has since raised over $5M, reaching triple its goal in only 3 days.
Star Trek: The Next Generation
In 1986, Gene Roddenberry approached Burton with the role of the then Lieutenant Junior Grade Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series. La Forge is blind, but is granted "sight" through the use of a prosthetic device called a VISOR, which is worn over his eyes. La Forge started out serving as the USS Enterprise's helmsman, and as of the show's second season, had become its Chief Engineer. At the time, Burton was considerably better known than Patrick Stewart in the United States, due to the fame he gained from starring in Roots and Reading Rainbow. The Associated Press stated that Burton's role was essentially the "new Spock."
In addition to acting in the franchise, Burton also directed two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and several episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise.
On television, Burton has helped dramatize the last days of Jim Jones's suicide cult in Guyana, the life and times of Jesse Owens, and the life of the nine-year-old Booker T. Washington. He portrayed Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 2001 film Ali. He also portrayed Detroit Tiger Ron LeFlore in the television movie One in a Million, The Ron LeFlore Story.
In 1992, a clip of Burton's voice was sampled by DC Talk for the track "Time is..." on their album Free at Last. The sample is at the very end of the song, in which Burton can be heard saying: "Whoa, wait a minute." He has also lent his voice to several animated projects including Kwame in the cartoon series Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990–1993) and The New Adventures of Captain Planet (1993–1996), Family Guy, Batman: The Animated Series, and Gargoyles. Burton is on the audio version of The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Burton has been cast as voice actor for Black Lightning in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies DVD. In an ironic twist, Burton taped a recycling field trip for YouTube.
Burton appeared several times as a celebrity guest on the Dick Clark–hosted Pyramid, from 1982 until 1988. Burton also was the strongest link in the special Star Trek episode of The Weakest Link. He defeated his final opponent Robert Picardo and won $167,500 for his charity, a record for the show at that time and the largest amount won in any Celebrity Edition of the show (it was later surpassed by a $189,500 win in a "Tournament of Losers" episode).
He has made appearances in such sitcoms as Becker.
Burton is the host and executive producer of a documentary titled The Science of Peace, which was in production as of 2007. It investigates the science and technology aimed at enabling world peace, sometimes called peace science. The film explores some of the concepts of shared noetic consciousness, having been sponsored in part by the Institute of Noetic Sciences.
In 2010, he made an appearance on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! as the ghost of himself in the episode "Greene Machine".
In February 2011, Burton made an appearance as himself on NBC's Community in the episodes "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" and "Geothermal Escapism".
Burton has appeared as a fictionalized, humorous version of himself on The Big Bang Theory, first appearing in the episode "The Toast Derivation", in which he almost attends a party thrown by Sheldon (before swearing off Twitter), in November 2012 in the episode "The Habitation Configuration", in which he appears on "Fun With Flags" in exchange for lunch and gas money, and again in November 2014 episode "The Champagne Reflection", in which he returns for the 232nd episode of "Fun With Flags" in exchange for Sheldon deleting his contact details.
In 2014, he had a guest appearance in an introduction section for the 200th Episode of Achievement Hunter's show, Achievement Hunter Weekly Update (AHWU).
Late in 2014, he has another guest appearance on a 24-hour Extra Life, a fund-raising organization for Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, stream by Rooster Teeth.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Burton directed episodes for each of the various Star Trek series then in production. He has directed more Star Trek episodes than any other former regular cast member.
Burton is on the board of directors for the Directors Guild of America.
Burton has also directed episodes of Charmed, JAG, Las Vegas, and Soul Food: The Series, as well as the miniseries Miracle's Boys and the documentary The Tiger Woods Story. He also directed the 1999 Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House starring Katey Sagal, Kevin Kilner and Jessica Steen.
His first theatrical film direction was 2003's Blizzard for which he received a "Best of Fest" award from the Chicago International Children's Film Festival, and a Genie Award nomination for his work on the film's theme song, "Center of My Heart."
His most recent directorial project Reach for Me, in which he also played a supporting role, was released in theaters in March 2008. The film was produced by longtime producer and exec Mark Wolfe, whom Burton officially teamed with in 2010, forming Burton/Wolfe Entertainment (BWE). BWE will produce motion pictures, television, web content and more. Says Burton, "We are looking to tell stories everywhere there will be a screen, BWE will be there. That is our plan."
LeVar Burton married Stephanie Cozart Burton, a professional make-up artist, in 1992. He has a daughter, Michaela Jean Burton (born in 1994), with his wife. He and his wife currently live in Sherman Oaks, California, with their daughter, Michaela (Mica). LeVar Burton also has a son, Eian Burton, born in 1980 from a previous relationship.
|1976||Almos' a Man||Dave||Alternative title: Richard Wright's Almos' a Man|
|1977||Looking for Mr. Goodbar||Cap Jackson|
|Billy: Portrait of a Street Kid||Billy Peoples||Ghetto Child|
|1978||One in a Million: The Ron LeFlore Story||Ron Leflore||The Man of Passion|
|1980||Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones||Richard Jefferson|
|The Hunter||Tommy Price|
|1981||The Acorn People||Rodney|
|Grambling's White Tiger||Charles 'Tank' Smith|
|1983||Emergency Room||Ray Walden|
|1984||The Jesse Owens Story||Professor Preston|
|1985||And the Children Shall Lead||Glenn Scott||Alternative title: PBS Wonderworks: And The Children Shall Lead|
|The Midnight Hour||Vinnie Davis||Alternative title: In The Midnight Hour|
|1986||The Supernaturals||Pvt. Michael Osgood|
|1987||A Special Friendship||Ben Summer|
|1988||Roots: The Gift||Kunta Kinte||Alternative title: A Roots Christmas: Kunta Kinte's Gift|
|1993||Firestorm: 72 Hours In Oakland||Fire Chief J. Alan Mathers||Alternative title: Firestorm: A Catastrophe In Oakland|
|1994||Parallel Lives||Dr. Franklin Carter|
|Star Trek: Generations||Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge|
|Star Trek: First Contact||Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge|
|1998||Star Trek: Insurrection||Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge|
|1999||Our Friend, Martin||Martin, Age 26 (voice)|
|2000||Dancing in September||Himself|
|2001||Ali||Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.|
|2002||Star Trek: Nemesis||Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge|
|2003||Blizzard||Night Watchman Elf||Directed by Burton|
|2008||Reach For Me||Nathaniel|
|2009||Taken In Broad Daylight||Mike Timbrook|
|Superman/Batman Public Enemies||Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning (voice)|
|2011||And They're Off||Himself|
|2012||Rise of the Zombies||Dr. Dan Halpern||television movie|
|2015||Practice Makes Perfect||Principal Healy|
|1987–1994||Star Trek: The Next Generation||2 episodes|
|1993–1999||Star Trek: Deep Space Nine||10 episodes|
|1995–2001||Star Trek: Voyager||8 episodes|
|1998||The Tiger Woods Story||Alternative title: Son, Hero, and Champion|
|1999||Smart House||Disney Channel Original Movies|
|2000–2004||Soul Food||2 episodes|
|2001–2005||Star Trek: Enterprise||9 episodes|
|2005||Miracle's Boys||1 episode|
|2006||Las Vegas||1 episode|
|2008||Reach For Me|
- 1977 Emmy — Outstanding Lead Actor for a Single Performance in a Drama or Comedy Series — Roots (Part 1, "Kunta Kinte")
- 1998, 2001, 2005 Image Awards variously for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series and Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special — ' Reading Rainbow ' (both as Self and as Executive Producer)
- 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1999 Daytime Emmy — Outstanding Children's Series — Reading Rainbow (Executive Producer)
- 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 - Daytime Emmy — Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series — Reading Rainbow (Self)
- 2004 Genie Award — Best Achievement in Music-Original Song — Blizzard (Co-composer "Center of My Heart")
- 2006 Black Reel Award — Best Director-Television — Miracle's Boys
- 1990 Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7030 Hollywood Blvd. for television achievement
- 1992 Peabody Award — Reading Rainbow (as executive producer of episode, "The Wall")
- 1994, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2003 Image Award — variously for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series and Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special — ' Reading Rainbow ' (both as Self and as Executive Producer)
- 2000 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album - The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- 1990, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 Daytime Emmy — Outstanding Children's Series — Reading Rainbow (Executive Producer)
- 2001, 2002 Daytime Emmy — Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series — Reading Rainbow (Self)
- 2003 Television Critics Association Award — Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming — Reading Rainbow (Executive Producer)
- 2004 Chicago International Children's Film Festival — Best of Fest — Blizzard (Director)
- Aftermath, 1997, ISBN 0-446-67960-7
- "LeVar Burton Biography (1957-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
- "NewsLibrary.com - newspaper archive, clipping service - newspapers and other news sources". 1993-05-18.
- "Pennsylvania: Burton speaks of 'Roots,' other strong influences". Herald-mail.com. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
- Lee, Elyssa (February–March 2012). "LeVar Burton Q&A". Sactown magazine. Retrieved July 20, 2013.
- a 'You live in LA now, but Sacramento comes up regularly in your tweets.' "-It's my hometown, my home base. It's where I grew up. I was born in Landstuhl, Germany in '57, came to Sacramento in '59—we lived in Glen Elder—then went back to [Germany] in '64, then [returned to Sacramento] in '66. [Burton's father was a photographer in the Army.] My parents split up during that second tour of duty when I was in the third or fourth grade. So my mom, my sisters and I settled in West Sacramento, in Broderick. Then we moved to South Sacramento when I was in the sixth grade—St. Anne's Elementary." — ¶ 15.
- "LeVar Burton At Book-Signing: Actor, Now Author, Returns To - Sacramento Observer | HighBeam Research - FREE trial". Highbeam.com. 1997-02-19. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
- "Metacritic.com". Metacritic.com. Retrieved 2014-01-08.
- "Bio.com". Biography.com. 1957-02-16. Retrieved 2014-01-08.
- "Burton, LeVar. Twitter status update, 11:28 PM (PST) 27 August 2010". Twitter.com. 2010-08-27. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
- Beale, Lewis (1987-01-29). "Sun Sentinel Ft. Lauderdale January 29, 1987". Pqasb.pqarchiver.com. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
- Jones, Fred (1999-05-19). "Learning to Read the Rainbow". Tacoma Herald.
- "Reading Rainbow Awards". IMDb.com. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
- "About Us - Reading Rainbow". Retrieved 16 June 2013.
- "LeVar Burton Awards". IMDb.com. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
- "Reading Rainbow Team". Retrieved 16 June 2013.
- "Burton Calls On 'Star Trek' Fans To Bring 'Reading Rainbow' To The Next Generation". NPR. 28 May 2014.
- "Toledo Blade August 2, 1987". News.google.com. 1987-08-02. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
- "Science of Peace". scienceofpeace.com.
- "LeVar Burton Buys Smosh (April Fools)". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-02-26.
- "LeVar Burton at CES 2010.".
- "Matinee Classics". Matinee Classics. 1957-02-16. Retrieved 2014-01-08.
- "Actor Levar Burton has paid $8,863 in overdue child...". United Press International. February 2, 1984.
- "Emmy Award Winner LeVar Burton Joins AIDS Research Alliance’s Board of Directors". AIDS Research Alliance. September 11, 2012. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- "NBC sets 'Jensen' with P&G, Wal-Mart". The Hollywood Reporter. October 13, 2010. Retrieved 2012-02-19.
- Nishikawa, Kinohi. "LeVar Burton." The Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature. Ed. Hans Ostrom and J. David Macey, Jr. 5 vols. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005. 219.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to LeVar Burton.|
- Official website
- RRKIDZ (Reading Rainbow) - LeVar Burton, Co-Founder, Curator-in-Chief
/ Wolfe Entertainment (production company)
- LeVar Burton at the Internet Movie Database
- LeVar Burton at the TCM Movie Database
- LeVar Burton at AllMovie
- LeVar Burton interview video at the Archive of American Television