LeVar Burton Says He Wanted to 'Be as Good' as Alex Trebek During Jeopardy! Guest-Hosting Stint
LeVar Burton is taking his job as a guest host on Jeopardy! very seriously.
"For me, my standard of excellence is so intense that my initial approach was to try and be as good as Alex was. Of course, I realized right away that that was an impossibility," said Burton, 64. "The man had 37 years to perfect his mastery."
Burton said it was his wife — who worked on set as his makeup artist during the tapings — who gave him the honest feedback he needed in order to shake off the pressure and nerves.
"I came back after taping the first episode and I said, 'So, how did I do?' She said, 'Eh, it wasn't you,'" he recalled. "So, you know, thank God for marrying a woman who will tell you the truth — what you need to know when you need to know it."
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"So after I got the heads up from Steph, I just went out there and tried to bring as much LeVar to the moment as a possibly could," he continued. "And I'm hoping that that worked out better."
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Burton is set to make his Jeopardy! guest-hosting debut Monday. But this certainly won't be his first hosting gig. He led the educational PBS children's series Reading Rainbow for more than 23 years.
"This is what I've been doing my entire career. For 45 years, I've tried to use the medium of television to do more than simply entertain," he said on Good Morning America. "I know that we have the opportunity when we do it with consciousness to inform, to enlighten, to educate, to even uplift ourselves with the stories we tell one another. And I see Jeopardy! as absolutely [being] in the sweet spot of that Venn diagram."
Burton added that he believes storytelling is what he "was born to do" and considers it "the one thing I feel like I have any mastery at."
And while his performance is yet to be seen, Burton previously expressed his interest in taking on the Jeopardy! hosting gig full-time.
"I feel like this is what I'm supposed to do," he told The New York Times earlier this year. "I have been watching Jeopardy! more or less every night of my life since Art Fleming was host. Jeopardy! is a cultural touchstone, and for a Black man to occupy that podium is significant."
Burton added, "Look, I have had a career for the [expletive] ages. Roots, Star Trek, Reading Rainbow. Won a Grammy. Got a shelf full of Emmys. I'm a storyteller, and game shows are tremendous stories. There's a contest, there's comedy, there's drama. If you don't know your [expletive] on Jeopardy!, you're sunk in full view of the entire nation. The stakes are high. I love that."
And he admitted that he would be a bit "hurt" if he did not receive the offer.
"It will hurt. I'm not going to lie," Burton said. "But if that happens, I will get over it. I will be fine. Remember: Everything happens perfectly and for a reason. That is my default. It's all going to be OK. Because it always is."
Longtime host Trebek died in November 2020 at age 80 after a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Nearly two years before his death, the TV personality had renewed his contract with Jeopardy! through 2022.