LeVar Burton wants Jeopardy producers to know he's the best person to host
"I've thought and thought and thought — I've asked friends and family to help me identify someone out there who's more qualified for the job than I am," the Roots and Star Trek actor tells EW. "I don't believe there is anyone out there who is better suited for this job than me. And I will go to my grave believing that.
"I think my whole career is an advertisement for being the host of Jeopardy," he adds with a laugh.
In case you couldn't tell, Burton wants the gig — and he hasn't been coy about it. The actor expressed interest as early as September 2020, before beloved host Alex Trebek's death, when he tweeted, "Not gonna lie, I feel like I've been preparing my whole life to occupy the @Jeopardy host podium when Alex retires." On Monday, he shared a months-old petition urging Jeopardy's producers to name Burton the show's new host. So far, the petition has garnered the support of more than 200,000 fans (and, apparently, Dick Van Dyke).
"It feels like, 'Wow, they really are behind me,'" Burton says. "They want this for me as much as I want it for me, I believe, because it makes so much sense to them too."
He can list a litany of reasons why it makes sense. Burton is a lifelong Jeopardy fan, recalling that he started watching the show as a fourth- or fifth-grader, when Art Fleming was the host, and has continued viewing it "almost every night of my life," he says. He competed on Celebrity Jeopardy in 1995 — "A dream come true," he says — and won by a considerable margin. (Notes Burton, "Having the correct answer for Final Jeopardy is now crossed off my bucket list.")
So: "Love of the franchise, check." But it goes deeper than that. Burton has long been a passionate advocate for learning and literacy ("Loves knowledge and curiosity, check") with such projects as PBS' Reading Rainbow, which he hosted for more than two decades ("I spent 26 years talking directly to people through the camera lens, check") and his podcast LeVar Burton Reads, on which he shares his favorite short fiction. That passion came from his mother, an English teacher, and inspired deep-seated beliefs he holds to this day.
"The values that my family has established over time has been, if there is a leveler of the playing field in America, it's education — aside from, you know, just being born white," he adds with a laugh. "But if you are ever going to fulfill your full potential, then learning needs to be your friend."
In summation, he has the pedigree, the enthusiasm, the gravitas, and, clearly, the fan support to back his bid for Jeopardy host. ("I bring an audience of Gen X-ers and millennials — checkmate!" he says.) And yet, Burton is not among the series of guest hosts tapped to step behind the lectern, and he says he hasn't heard from the show's producers. (Representatives for Jeopardy did not respond to EW's request for comment.)
"I've got to believe that they're paying attention," the actor says. "And I hope they weigh this campaign as a factor in my favor." In other words: your move, Jeopardy.
America's favorite answer-and-question game.