The show’s longtime host LeVar Burton gives us his picks
Photo: Robin Marchant/Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
If you grew up in the ‘80s or ‘90s, you probably spent some time getting your bookworm on with LeVar Burton, the host of Reading Rainbow. If you grew up in the ‘80s or ‘90s and were also a shameless geek, you probably spent some additional time getting your sci-fi nerd on with LeVar Burton, Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. We spoke to the PBS and Trekkie icon about working with his idol Gene Roddenberry, Doctor Who and Reading Rainbow apps. But first we got the question on everyone’s minds out the way: Since Jimmy Fallon did such a great job covering the Reading Rainbow theme song as Jim Morrison, who would Burton like to hear perform it? Check out his picks, and try not to call Jay-Z all at once.
Photo: Photoshot/Retna Ltd | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
LeVar Burton: I’d love to see Jay-Z take a stab at it.
Photo: Pool Photos/Retna Ltd | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
Of course my life would be complete if Stevie Wonder was to do the Reading Rainbow theme song.
Photo: Brian Hineline/Retna Ltd | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
The Roots did The Roots theme when I walked out on Jimmy Fallon. I would love for Quest and the fellas to do a version of the Reading Rainbow theme song. I think that would be at the top of my list. That’d be cool.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Photo: Kevin Estrada/Retna Ltd | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
On the Star Trek: Next Generation 25th Anniversary
It doesn’t feel like we started 25 years ago. Feels like a whole lot fewer years than that. I’m a little surprised at the response of the Blu-ray and the one night only in theaters around the world event. People really seem to love Next Gen in spite of how much they love the new direction of the JJ Abrams movie. They’re still really passionate about Next Gen and those characters and that’s a bit surprising. Especially given we haven’t been in production for 15 years.
On His Initial Star Trek Expectations
My expectations going in was that I was going to be able to work with a real idol of mine -- Gene Roddenberry. I had been such a fan of the original series and mostly because Gene’s vision of the future was one that embraced people of color and that meant a lot to me growing up. It was rare for me when I was growing up to see positive images of black people on TV, let alone to see a black woman in a position of power. That was pretty rare and being raised by a strong black woman, it really got my attention.
Photo: CBS/Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012
On Memorable Next Gen Episodes
We did 110 episodes, about 80 that I’ve yet to see, but a part of my life now is being able to flip around and find an episode where I’m like, “Oh yeah I haven’t seen this one!” I get to do that for the rest of my life. I was turned into a lizard once, while I was fasting. I had 17 hours of makeup in the middle of a week-long fast. That was memorable.
Calling Doctor Burton
My daughter introduced me to Doctor Who and I’ve really enjoyed becoming fluent in Whovian. I’m a big fan of Stephen Moffat. I love what he’s doing on Sherlock as well. I’d go to conventions and people would be talking about Doctor Who. I didn’t grow up in Great Britain; I didn’t know Doctor Who, but now I know and I get why people are so enthusiastic about it. It’s great. I think my dream job would be to be the next Doctor, that would be a dream acting job. I’d like to be a Doctor before I die.
Take His Word On It...the Reading Rainbow App is Good
The last thing we wanted to do was disappoint anyone who had a fondness for the show. It was really important to focus: A, on books and B, on video. We’ve done both in a really, really good way. And if you were a original watcher of Reading Rainbow and have kids, you would really feel good about putting the tablet computer in the kid’s hand and letting them have fun.
Star Trek: Next Generation season one is available on Blu-ray now!