Levardis Robert Martyn “LeVar” Burton Jr. (photo ©Josh Hallett) was born on February 16, 1957 in Landstuhl, in the then West Germany, where his parents worked. With her sisters, he grew up in Sacramento, California, USA.
When he was 13, LeVar Burton entered a seminary but the reading of works by various philosophers, ancient and modern ones, led him to doubt that Catholicism was the only true religion. At 17, he left the seminary and went to study at the University of Southern California and graduated at the University’s School of Theatre.
LeVar Burton’s debut as an actor happened in 1977, when he was cast as one of the most important roles of his career, that of the young Kunta Kinte in the original version of the TV show “Roots”. His performance earned him an Emmy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Drama Series.
In subsequent years, LeVar Burton had many roles in television productions and for a time was the host of the show “Rebop”. He quickly started diversifying his activities so for example in 1983 he became the host but also the executive producer of the TV show for children “Reading Rainbow”, which went on for 23 seasons and won 26 Emmy Awards.
In 1987, LeVar Burton started playing the character for which he’s best known, Geordi La Forge in the TV show “Star Trek: The Next Generation“. La Forge was born blind but can see through a viewer connected directly to his optic nerves. At the end of the show’s sixth season, LeVar Burton started being a director as well, continuing with an episode of the seventh season and especially in the following Star Trek shows, becoming the actor of the saga who directed more episodes in the various shows. Over the years, occasionally he directed episodes of TV shows that are not part of the Star Trek universe.
After the end of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, LeVar Burton played Geordi La Forge again in the movies: “Star Trek Generations” (1994), “Star Trek: First Contact” (1996), “Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998) and “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002).
These movie appearances are exceptions in LeVar Burton’s career as he normally works for television, as an actor or otherwise. Most of the movies he worked in are in fact television productions. He also lent his voice to several cartoon shows. Occasionally he played himself, such as in his appearances in the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”.
Among LeVar Burton’s recent works there are those as an actor in the TV show “Perception”, in the cartoon show “Transformers: Rescue Bots” and as a producer in the new 2016 version of the TV show “Roots”, where he also played a different role than the original version.