Former “Reading Rainbow” star LeVar Burton is next up to guest host the ever-popular game show “Jeopardy!”
Burton will step behind the “Jeopardy!” podium for the first time during tomorrow’s (Monday) episode. Now as the hit quiz show is pre-recorded, Burton already knows what to expect from his debut performance. The Star Trek alum says he also had a harsh critic waiting for him after recording each episode — his wife, Stephanie Cozart Burton. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, recalls his hosting stint and having his wife backing him up backstage.
“I’ve jumped out of airplanes. I’ve walked over hot coals. This was a real challenge,” Burton says. “First of all, because (‘Jeopardy!’) is singular in the culture and what it means to people as a part of their daily lives. And the fact that there are only two hosts who have ever stood in that spot. The pressure, the natural tendency was to want to live up to Alex’s example, his legacy. I had, like all of the hosts, one day of rehearsal and the following day I shot five episodes of ‘Jeopardy!’ I came backstage after taping the first episode and I said to Stephanie, ‘Well, how did I do?’ She said, ‘ehhh.’ Now, this is a woman who loves me enough to tell me the truth. She said it wasn’t me.”
Burton says he may have focused a little too much on living up to Alex Trebek’s standards. He also says as the week went along, he became more and more comfortable with simply being himself behind the “Jeopardy!” lectern.
LeVar Burton on ‘Jeopardy’
Burton also noted the pace of the show can be a bit daunting, especially for a first-time guest host. It took some getting used but he was eventually able to smooth out his delivery and keep the frenetic pace “Jeopardy!” works at.
“Being at home, it feels like a really relaxed half-hour, but it’s not relaxed at all,” he says. “You can’t let your focus drop for a nanosecond.”
Burton expects to be a fan-favorite for the permanent hosting gig once “Jeopardy!” decides to take that route. He wasn’t on the initial list of celebrities vying to serve as guest hosts during the current season. That changed when thousands of fans signed a petition stating they want LeVar Burton to get a shot. The television personality has also not been shy about his desire to obtain the full-time hosting job. He certainly appears to have a great deal of fan support backing his candidacy.
On Saturday, “Jeopardy!” officially introduced Burton as this week’s guest host. His reign will begin on Monday and end with his final episode on Friday. “Jeopardy!” hopes to have a new permanent host before the year is up.