‘Jeopardy!’ host gig began ‘scary,’ ended fun

LeVar Burton’s quest to grow to be the brand new host of “Jeopardy!” has been a assured, upbeat effort by the actor and people who rooted him on with a petition drive.

But when the day got here to tape the primary of his week’s share of episodes as one in all a succession of visitor hosts, the show’s tempo and the problem of following in Alex Trebek’s much-admired footsteps threw Burton off stride.

It made for a tough begin to the 5 back-to-back tapings that start airing Monday, stated the veteran actor identified for “Roots,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and ”Reading Rainbow.” He turned for recommendation to spouse Stephanie Cozart Burton, who as his make-up artist was available to play coach throughout a manufacturing break.

“Being at dwelling, it looks like a extremely relaxed half-hour, but it surely’s not relaxed in any respect,” he stated. “You cannot let your focus drop for a nanosecond.”

Burton has been watching and assessing the opposite visitor hosts — in different phrases, his competitors for the place that the Canadian-born Trebek held from 1984 to shortly earlier than his November 2020 dying from most cancers at age 80. Art Fleming was the quiz’s show’s authentic and solely different host, within the Sixties and ’70s.

Although Burton had made the show’s producers conscious of his curiosity in being thought of, his addition to the roster got here after a petition backing him as the brand new “Jeopardy!” host caught hearth (with greater than 250,000 signatures thus far).

He faces different brazenly keen would-be hosts — together with NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers — however the actor, director and training and literacy advocate sees himself as a stable match for a sport show that rewards data.

Burton spoke with The Associated Press about his spouse’s on-point recommendation, why variety issues for “Jeopardy!” and what he thinks of his probabilities for the job anticipated to be crammed this summer season, earlier than subsequent season’s taping begins. Remarks have been edited for readability and size.

AP: What was the guest-host expertise like?

BURTON: Scary. Really, actually, actually scary. Did I point out it was scary?

AP: How so?

BURTON: I’ve jumped out of airplanes. I’ve walked over scorching coals. This was an actual problem. First of all, as a result of (‘Jeopardy!’) is singular within the tradition and what it means to folks as part of their each day lives. And the truth that there are solely two hosts who’ve ever stood in that spot. The strain, the pure tendency was to wish to reside as much as Alex’s instance, his legacy. I had, like the entire hosts, in the future of rehearsal and the next day I shot 5 episodes of ‘Jeopardy!’ I got here backstage after taping the primary episode and I stated to Stephanie, ‘Well, how did I do?’ She stated, ‘ehhh.’ Now, this can be a girl who loves me sufficient to inform me the reality. She stated it wasn’t me.

AP: How did you alter?

BURTON: I made it my enterprise for the following 4 probabilities at bat to only be myself, to neglect concerning the process, to neglect concerning the course of, cease attempting, cease specializing in the mistaken factor. You’re not going to be easy as Alex, let go of that. But what you’ll be able to convey to the desk is you. So that turned my level of focus. And when it did, I began having enjoyable.

AP: Why do you take into account the show and the host’s position as worthwhile?

BURTON: I’ve been about training my whole profession, and I positively imagine within the medium (of tv) as one the place greater than merely entertaining is the order of the day. I attempt to use the medium in a means that brings one thing else to the desk as usually as I can. I believe that ‘Roots’ and ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Reading Rainbow,’ all of them have that commonality about them, that frequent thread of leisure, sure — and informational, inspiring, enlightening, academic, uplifting. We can accomplish that rather more than simply promote one another stuff with the medium.

AP: There’s important variety among the many visitor hosts. Would there be worth in ‘Jeopardy!” having its first particular person of coloration or girl as host?

BURTON: There’s nothing like ‘Jeopardy!’ within the cultural consciousness. It’s not that I’m attempting to place it on the identical stage, however I liken it to Barack Obama being elected president within the United States in 2008. I personally by no means thought I might see that occur in my lifetime. Did his election imply that we have been in a post-racial America? Obviously by no means. But it was an vital step. Every time we attain that milestone of a primary, it does say one thing about us. It additionally tells us one thing that we proceed to have these moments of firsts…. that white is the normative default. The cause that white is the default is the dialog that we are attempting to have on this nation now, that there’s a lot resistance to.

AP: How optimistic are you about being picked as host?

BURTON: I’m a preternaturally optimistic particular person. Look, if I don’t get this job, will it’s devastating to me? No. I imply, it should harm, I’ll be disillusioned. And I’ll be positive, as a result of what I learn about my life is that which is meant to be for me comes my means. And that which isn’t mine, doesn’t. The most vital factor is that I went for it and my ardour was rewarded. I received what I needed, which was a possibility to compete for the job. If I don’t get the gig, it’s not immaterial, but it surely actually is secondary. I received what I used to be after. The likelihood — get me within the room.


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