"Kunta is a universal icon of freedom. How much of an honor to have been the person to create that role.… in terms of [his] meaning to people all over the world."
About This Interview
Long before becoming a part of the Star Trek universe himself, LeVar Burton watched the original series, impressed to see an African-American character in Nichelle Nichols's "Uhura": "I was a huge Star Trek fan when I was a kid. I loved science fiction literature and it was rare for me to see heroes in the pages of those novels who looked like me. Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future said to me, you— you little black kid from Sacramento, California, reading science fiction books — when the future comes, there's a place for you." LeVar Burton became an instant star with his television debut, playing "Kunta Kinte" in Roots, but he is just as well known in children's television as the Daytime Emmy-winning host of Reading Rainbow. So, too, is he well known in the sci-fi world, as the visor-wearing "Lt. Geordi La Forge" in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In his two-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Burton describes his drama studies at the University of Southern California (USC), and chronicles his participation in the groundbreaking miniseries Roots -- his casting, his immersion into the role he played, and his work with the all-star cast. He comments on the legacy of Roots and speaks fondly of writer Alex Haley. He recalls getting cast on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and meeting and getting to know show creator Gene Roddenberry. Burton describes the character he played on the show (and the challenges in playing him), and comments on his role as one of the series' directors. He details the concept of and book selection on Reading Rainbow, and talks about his work as a voice-over artist and director in television and features. Steven Wishnoff conducted the interview in North Hollywood, CA on January 27, 2009.