LeVar Burton

Levardis Robert Martyn Burton Jr. is an actor, director, and children's television personality from the United States. He is best known for his roles as Kunta Kinte in the ABC miniseries Roots (1977), Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise (1987–1994), and as host of the PBS Kids educational television series Reading Rainbow for over 23 years (1983–2006), for which he won 12 Daytime Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award as host and executive producer.

Related Biography: Bill Klein


Levardis Robert Martyn Burton Jr. was born in the West German town of Landstuhl on February 16, 1957. His mother, Erma Gene, was a social worker, administrator, and educator, while his father was a photographer for the United States Army Signal Corps stationed at Landstuhl at the time of Burton's birth. Burton was raised in Sacramento, California, by his mother and two sisters.

Burton, an educated Roman Catholic, enrolled in St. Pius X Minor Seminary in Galt, California, as a teenager with the intention of becoming a priest. However, at the age of 17, he began to question his Catholic faith and shifted his vocation to acting. While an undergraduate at Southern California, he played a significant role in the 1977 television miniseries Roots.

Personal Life

On October 3, 1992, LeVar Burton married Stephanie Cozart, a professional make-up artist. Burton is the father of two children, Eian Burton Smith and Michaela "Mica" Jean Burton. "I went away from the seminary, and I walked away from Catholicism, I moved away from organized religion because I believed there was more for me to discover in the world, and I felt that I could do that without clinging to one certain belief system or another," Burton says.

Burton joined the AIDS Research Alliance's board of directors in 2012, a non-profit medical research group dedicated to discovering an AIDS cure. Burton was one of the five initial recipients to be inducted into the Sacramento Walk of Stars in 2016. LeVar Burton Park was named after him in Sacramento in 2019. The park is located in the Meadowview area, close to Burton and his sisters' childhood home.

Career Beginnings

Burton made his television debut in a drama about a deaf teenager who was misunderstood. In 1977, he made his film acting debut as Kunta Kinte in the ABC award-winning drama series Roots, based on Alex Haley's novel. Burton's professional career began with an audition for the role of Kinte, for which he was nominated for an Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama Series. In the 1988 television film Roots: The Gift, Burton reprised his role as Kunta Kinte. Burton is reported as saying, "When asked about Roots' societal impact, I said that people's awareness was raised due to it. Whites and blacks began to perceive each other as individuals rather than stereotypes. If you toss a pebble into the water, it will create ripples. Change, I believe, is the one constant, and it is always slow. Anything that occurs overnight is without a solid foundation. Roots are part of an evolving movement that is still playing out."

Burton appeared as a visitor on Fantasy Island, was a contestant on Battle of the Network Stars, was a guest at the Muppet Show's televised premiere party for The Muppet Movie, and was a frequent guest on various game shows. In 1986, he appeared in the music video for the funk/R&B group Cameo's song "Word Up!". Burton accepted an invitation to host Rebop, a multicultural series created by WGBH for PBS for young people aged 9–15.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

In 1986, Gene Roddenberry approached Burton about playing Lieutenant Junior Grade Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series. La Forge was blind, but thanks to a prosthetic device called a VISOR worn over his eyes, he was able to "see". He began his career as the helmsman of the USS Enterprise, and by the show's second season, he had advanced to chief engineer. Due to his appearances in Roots and Reading Rainbow, Burton was far more well-known than Patrick Stewart, an English film, television, and stage actor in the United States at the time. The Associated Press described Burton's part as the "new Spock" when the episode first aired. Burton laughed in surprise at the concept in a 2019 interview, saying, "That supposition never came to fruition."

Beginning with Star Trek Generations in 1994 and ending with Star Trek: Nemesis in 2001, Burton reprised his role as La Forge in the following feature films based on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

He directed multiple episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise, as well as two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.


  • 1990 – Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7030 Hollywood Blvd. for television achievement
  • 1992 – Peabody Award – Reading Rainbow (as executive producer of episode, "The Wall")
  • 1994, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2003 – Image Award – variously for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series and Outstanding Youth or Children's Series/Special – Reading Rainbow (both as Self and as Executive Producer)
  • 2000 – Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album – The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • 1990, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007 – Daytime Emmy – Outstanding Children's Series – Reading Rainbow (Executive Producer)
  • 2001, 2002 – Daytime Emmy – Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series – Reading Rainbow (Self)
  • 2003 – Television Critics Association Award – Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming – Reading Rainbow (Executive Producer)
  • 2004 – Chicago International Children's Film Festival – Best of Fest – Blizzard (Director)

Quick Facts
Birth Date: 16 Feb, 1957
Age: 63 yrs
Citizenship: United States of America
Birth Place: Landstuhl
Gender: Male
Description: American actor
Twitter Id: Levarburton
Net Worth 2021: 6 million
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Last Modified: Mar 26 2023
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