LeVar Burton has been capturing the admiring attention of both audiences and his industry peers for three decades, and continues to enjoy a longevity truly rare within the industry. His deftness in avoiding stereotype continues to be a hallmark of an incredibly diverse career. Whether acting, directing, producing or writing, LeVar has demonstrated, over time that he can do it all.
As if following some implausible Hollywood scenario, LeVar’s first professional audition, while pursuing his undergraduate studies at USC, led to his being cast as Kunta Kinte in the acclaimed miniseries ROOTS. The phenomenal success of ROOTS launched his career as an actor, and more importantly, earned his performance as KUNTA KINTE, lasting status as a worldwide icon representing the indomitability of the human spirit. What followed were starring roles in a string of television movies, including ONE IN A MILLION: THE RON LEFLORE STORY, DUMMY, GRAMBLING’S WHITE TIGER, THE GUYANA TRAGEDY and A ROOTS CHRISTMAS: KUNTA KINTE’S GIFT. Among his early feature film credits are LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR, with acclaimed writer/director, Richard Brooks and THE HUNTER, the final motion picture of the icon of cool, Steve McQueen.
An avowed science-fiction buff as well as a devoted fan of the unique vision of Gene Rodenberry, LeVar
considers his longtime association with the STAR TREK franchise nothing short of a dream come true. Having grown up in the 60’s and 70’s, a time he remembers as having been, “rare to encounter portrayals of people who looked like me, represented in the popular culture.” Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future provided validation as well as assurance. “Seeing Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Uhura in the original series said to me, ‘when the future comes…there’s a place for me!” Having both appeared in and directed a plethora of TREK incarnations over the years, LeVar adamantly adheres to his optimistic point of view of the future saying, “I’m betting on our ultimate success at rising to our highest level of human expression.”
After twenty-five seasons as the host and executive producer of the highly acclaimed PBS children’s television series READING RAINBOW, LeVar ended his long time commitment to the show in favor of exploring other avenues of creative expression. While taking great pride in the series’ role in garnering him a total of 13 Emmy Awards, five NAACP Awards and numerous nominations, he continues to be most proud of Reading Rainbow’s ability to “use the medium of television to help create generations of Americans who are passionate readers”.
LeVar has directed numerous episodes of all four STAR TREK series: THE NEXT GENERATION, DEEP SPACE NINE, VOYAGER and ENTERPRISE as well as various episodes of CHARMED and LAS VEGAS. His first dramatic television movie, THE TIGER WOODS STORY, which he directed for Showtime, received great critical acclaim as well as three Emmy nominations. He also directed the enormously popular Disney Channel original film, SMART HOUSE.
In 2006 LeVar received a Grammy Award for his narration of the book, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. Included in the titles LeVar has recorded on tape are THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, THE MILES DAVIS STORY, THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY as well as THE TENTH INSIGHT and THE CELESTINE VISION by James Redfield, author of the CELESTINE PROPHECY.
Today, while primarily focusing his energy behind the camera as a successful film and television director, LeVar sees himself as a trained storyteller, who is “in love with the visual medium.”
In his latest project, the independent feature REACH FOR ME, LeVar both directs and returns to his first love, acting. While a worldwide theatrical release is being planned for 2008, REACH FOR ME is currently rounding the festival circuit. He describes REACH FOR ME, which stars Alfre Woodard and Seymour Cassel, as “an intimate story that takes place in a hospice. It’s about how we love and who we are while we’re dying, and yet it’s told with a lot of humor and a lot of heart.”