September 10th, 2012
12:22 PM ET

LeVar Burton on 'legion' of 'Reading Rainbow' fans

Space, the final frontier.

OK, yes, I just wanted to use those words in an article - but chances are, if you're a geek like me, you know that saying by heart.

And for a generation of "Star Trek" fans (pun intended), watching LeVar Burton fix a warp core every week on TV might have even inspired you to get into the field of engineering or physics and dream of one day working at NASA.

Widely known in the sci-fi community as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge on the Enterprise of “Star Trek: The Next Generation" in the 1980s and '90s, Burton has also cemented his place in television history by teaching countless children to read as the host of “Reading Rainbow," not to mention his breakout role as Kunta Kinte in 1977's “Roots."

With such a varied career, his fan base is certainly diverse.

“There's a whole new generation of 'Roots' fans who had never seen it before. ... 'Star Trek' fans are out there," Burton said. "But I gotta say, the 'Reading Rainbow' fans, it's like an army, they're a legion."

When an iReporter asked whether Burton ever thought of becoming a teacher, the actor noted that "education is the family business. My mother was a teacher. My older sister is a teacher. ... It's what we do in my family.” Although he went down a different road, Burton said, he feels well-suited to what he does.

“It is an amazing and remarkable feeling for the son of an English teacher to ... really have been a part of an effort that ... cemented a level of literature using the medium of TV for a lot of years,” he said.

With everything he’s done, if there was one scene that stayed with him the most, it was the whipping scene in “Roots."

“When they cut (Kunta) down and Fiddler is bathing his wounds ... (and) reassures him that his name is indeed Kunta no matter what anybody says and that there will be another day, that line (Louis Gossett Jr.) ad-libbed, 'There's gonna be another day,' that stands out in my mind as one of the most powerful moments certainly in, you know, in my career, but I also think it's one of the most powerful moments in television history," he said.

Burton is certainly busy these days, with “Reading Rainbow” returning for a digital generation as an app, and he’s learning the dynamics of becoming an entrepreneur and building a sustainable business.

“I'm really, really happy and excited about what I'm doing now and what the future holds because, by the grace of God, apparently we get to keep doing this for a whole other generation of human beings, and I'm grateful," he said.

And, as any Trekker would attest to, this last question had to be asked: Would he ever reprise Geordi if he got the call?

“I love Geordi La Forge, and I love playing Geordi La Forge, but I would want to have that experience with all of my friends,” the actor said, “For a lot of fans, the work that we did for all of those years on the Enterprise was our gift to them. But our gift, what we got (from it), was we got our friendships (and) the love that we have. So I wouldn't want to do Geordi without my friends."

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Filed under: Celebrities • iReport

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Jason Cohn

    The juniors were a Social Club run by Jane Belmont from Elkins Park Pa. circa 1963!

    Jane Belmont is the best of the best of the class of 1969!

    September 15, 2012 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  2. Steve

    l still watch the Star Trek TNG episodes and I just wanted to say that those episodes would not have been the same with out Lt. Geordi LaForge!
    So much power re-routed, so many phases inverted!

    September 13, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. LeVar

    LeVar Burton is a wonderul person.

    September 11, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  4. Richard Fore


    September 11, 2012 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. LeVar

    really decent actor-he deserves a better recognition for his work.

    September 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mike

    I had the reading rainbow app for I-pad but had some issues with it. so I deleted it tried to reinstall, but now it's gone from the app store. The app store message says it's not available in US. I paid the subscription and my kids really liked it so I hope this is only temporary.

    September 10, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |

    you are laughing stock. let it go. your a complete silly person.

    September 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JonfromLI

    They just don't make educational shows like Reading Rainbow anymore. It's good to see that it's being adopted into an app.

    September 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Roots

    it will always be long and good.

    September 10, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. mariololol

    roots was a long n good movie

    September 10, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Byrd

    My daughter and I used to watch Reading Rainbow all the time when she was little. Burton did a fabulous job with that show and all kudos to him for making reading so accessible and enjoyable for young minds.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |

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