LeVar Burton has come out to say that he was not just disappointed, but wrecked after he was passed over for the position of Jeopardy! host last summer – contradicting previous claims that he had been unaffected by the slight.
Speaking to Newsy in a sitdown interview, the 65-year-old longtime Reading Rainbow host addressed lingering animosity regarding his ill-fated bid to host the show, which saw producers instead pick ex-Wheel of Fortune host Mike Richards.
However, Richards, 46, has since been nixed, leaving the show after just a few weeks on the job over offensive comments made on a podcast in 2014. He was subsequently replaced by Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialik, who share hosting duties. ‘
Experiencing a very public defeat – humiliation, if you will – was sobering, ‘Burton told host Christian Bryant in the interview.
‘And what I learned from the experience, really, is that it reinforced my belief that everything happens for a reason, even if you can’t discern the reason at the moment.’
Scroll down for interview:
Speaking to Newsy Tuesday, 65-year-old Levar Burton addressed still-lingering animosity regarding his ill-fated bid to host the game show last summer
Burton’s desire to take on the lauded game show gig long held by late TV icon Alex Trebek had been well known following Trebek’s tragic death in 2020, and many even pegged him as the favorite. Burton served as the show’s guest host for a single episode in July 2021 (pictured)
Burton’s desire to take on the lauded game show gig long held by late TV icon Alex Trebek had been well known following Trebek’s tragic death in 2020, and many even pegged him as the favorite over candidates like Richards and former contestant Jennings, 48, who guest hosted several shows during that transitionary period.
However, in August, showrunners surprisingly announced that Richards was their man – with Burton only serving as a guest-host for a single episode that aired in July 2021.
The decision left many puzzled – and in Tuesday’s interview a newly bitter Burton alleged showrunners had conspired against him so that he did not get the job, cryptically commenting that ‘the fix was in.’
‘I didn’t expect that I wouldn’t be their choice for host,’ Burton, who in November told reporters that he was ‘disappointed’ but ‘not devastated’ over the slight, shared.
‘The truth is it was my favorite game show. It really was. I mean, I watched that show since I was in the third grade and Art Fleming was the host. ‘
And I honestly thought that I was well-suited for it, ‘he went on. ‘As it turns out, it really wasn’t a competition, after all – the fix was in.’
Burton, who played Kunta Kinte in the classic 1977 television series Roots, did not elaborate on those accusations.
‘In the fullness of time, everything will be revealed,’ he said, before revealing: ‘that first week of feeling really sort of not just disappointed, but wrecked.’
He went on to label the undergoing as a learning experience.
‘I believe I’m still mining some of the takeaways from that experience,’ Burton said. ‘First and foremost, I’m a firm believer in betting on myself, and I would encourage anyone and everyone out there to believe similarly in themselves.
‘I’m always going to bet on me.’
Show producers picked ex-Wheel of Fortune host Mike Richards for the job in August. After just 9 days on the job, he was ousted over offensive comments made on a 2014 podcast
Alex Trebek (left) served as the host of the show from its premiere in 1984 until his tragic death in 2020. After his passing, Ken Jenning (at right) served as the first interim host. He was tabbed as a cohost after Richards’ firing but revealed he was stepping away from those duties on May 10
Burton further revealed that he is the host of a new game show of his new creation, inspired by Hasbro’s ‘Trivial Pursuit.’ He is also currently hosting the Scripps Spelling Bee in Washington DC, which ends Thursday
‘The doors have been opened. Windows have been opened. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing, and I would never have experienced those things that I’m experiencing, like I had gotten that job, ‘Burton shared.
‘So I think it was a big lesson for me and just being willing to sit in the discomfort long enough to find out what was really supposed to happen to me around this game show thing.’
Trebek served as host of the daily syndicated version of Jeopardy! from its premiere in 1984 until his tragic death in 2020.
In the wake of his passing, Jennings served as the first interim host.
Between January and February 2021, additional guest hosts were announced, including executive producer Mike Richards; television news personalities Katie Couric, Bill Whitaker, Savannah Guthrie, and Anderson Cooper.
NFL star Aaron Rodgers, talk show Mehmet Oz, and actress and Big Bang Theory star Bialik would follow.
Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik was also tabbed as a cohost along with Jennings, and will assume full time hosting duties for the show’s upcoming season
By April 2021, a final group of guest hosts got their opportunities, including television news personalities George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts, Squawk on the Street co-host David Faber, Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck, and Burton, who had recently starred on Reading Rainbow. In addition, Buzzy Cohen, the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions, winner hosted the 2021 Tournament of Champions.
In August, Richards would end up getting picked to succeed Trebek, with Bialik serving as host of Jeopardy! primetime specials and spin-offs.
But then, just nine days later, it was revealed that Richards would no longer take over the job after controversial comments he made in the past resurfaced.
Within weeks, it was announced that Bialik and Jennings will host the show through the end of 2021.
Through the host replacement drama, Burton came to a place where he admitted to Trevor Noah that he was not that interested in the gig after all, during an appearance on The Daily Show, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.
‘I put myself out there and publicly stated that I wanted the job on Jeopardy!’ Burton, told the publication at the time.
‘When I didn’t get the job, there was a lot of unnecessary concern that I was devastated, when in fact I wasn’t. I was disappointed, but I wasn’t devastated. ‘
The Roots star continued: ‘As a public personality, who you are is commented on and subject to the whims of people who don’t know you. In the age of social media, you have access to the good, the bad, and the ugly of what people think of you, [like] seeing on my Twitter, Oh, he was terrible! He was the worst of all the guest hosts. He s ** t the bed! “S ** t the bed? ‘
While pontificating, he added, ‘I don’t think I was that bad! You gotta have thick skin. As Forrest Gump would say, “That’s all I’m gonna say about that.” ‘
Bialik and Jennings have switched off hosting duties following Richards’ firing in AUgust.
On May 10, however, Jennings surprisingly revealed he would be stepping back from hosting duties and that Bialik would assume more of a full-time role.
Viewers have not been too keen on the idea, with many preferring Jennings to the actress.
Jennings has not detailed the reasons behind his hiatus.
The full Newsy interview with Burton will air at 9 pm ET Wednesday.