Exclusive: LeVar Burton Talks New Roles, Roddenberry, Blogging and more

Tomorrow night LeVar Burton, better known to Trekkies as engineer Geordi La Forge on Star Trek The Next Generation, appears in the Lifetime movie Taken in Broad Daylight. Burton also has a number of other directing and acting projects in the works, so it seemed like a good time to see how life after the VISOR was treating Burton

 

Burton Interview (Part 1)
Tomorrow night LeVar Burton co-stars in "Taken in Broad Daylight," the inspiring true survival story of teenager Anne Sluti, who was kidnapped from her hometown of Kearney, NE in 2001. Burton plays a police investigator and negotiator. This is Burton’s second collaboration with with producers Charlene Blaine, Mark Wolfe and Susan R. Rodgers and AMediaVision Productions, for whom he recently directed a feature film, "Reach for Me," starring Alfre Woodard and Seymour Cassel, about two very different roommates at a hospice who learn to live their final days to the fullest. In the first part of our interview, we focus on these projects and what else he has on tap for 2009, plus a bit about his new blogging hobby and a bit about Trek as well (with more Trek coming in part 2).
 

TrekMovie.com: What can you tell us about Taken in Broad Daylight?

LeVar Burton: It was produced by my friend Mark Wolfe and I got a call from him saying ‘I need you to come up to Winnipeg for a month and can you be here in two days?’ and there is nothing I wouldn’t do for him so I said yes before I read the script.

TM:  Did you know anything about the real-life story of the abduction of Anne Sulti?

Burton: I knew a little bit about it, especially from Mark when we worked on another project, Reach for Me. But when I read the script I was surprised at how much of a taut thriller it was, it is a good story.

TM:  Your character, detective Mike Timbrook, is one of those composite characters, but did you do any research talking to real-life cops?

Burton: Well 48 hours after I got the call I was on the plane to Canada, and the day after I got there we were shooting. There was no research! You don’t do research for a TV movie, what are you nuts? [laughs]

TM: Have you ever played a cop before? Did you like it?

Burton: It was fun putting on the gun every day and liked the badge? [laughs] I don’t know. I am not like that where I can answer questions about the acting process. It isn’t something I can explain.


Burton in "Taken in Broad Daylight" airing Sunday at 8PM on Lifetime

TM: You mentioned Reach for Me, which you directed, what can you tell us about that and how you got involved?

Burton: Again it was one of those phone calls from my friend Mark Wolfe. They needed a director and he said that he thought I would be terrific for it and they needed an answer in two days and I said yes, then I read the script and called back and said ‘I’m really in now!’ [laughs]

TM: Reach for Me deals with serious issues. Did you have concerns about doing a film that deals with a subject that is usually depressing, about dealing with death?

Burton: No. Reach for Me is about life, not death at all, and that is why I wanted to do it. It is a movie about how we live, not how we die, even though it takes place in a hospice.

TM: What was it like working with Alfre [Woodard] again, and Seymour Cassel?

Burton: Alfre is like my sister. Any opportunity to hang with my sister is a good opportunity. Having done that for so many years, I just love good acting and she is one of the best there is. I try to create an atmosphere on the set where the acting was respected…and that was joyful. Seymour did an episode of Next Gen, but we have been friends over the years, and it was just wonderful. I was so happy when he said yes.

TM: It has got good festival buzz, any word on theatrical or DVD distribution?

Burton: I know they are working on it. We have got terrific festival buzz. We had a great time in Germany at the Oldenburg Festival in 2008. I trust the movie will find an audience, I am really proud of it. I am confident it will find its audience, but at some point you have to let go, and I am on to other projects.


Burton directing Seymour Cassel in "Reach for Me"

TM: What are those other projects?

Burton: I have two feature films that I am directing. One called Initiation, based on a book "Of Water and the Spirit," by Malidoma Patrice Some. Another called Ruby, it is a story about Ruby McCollum, the first African American woman sentenced to the electric chair in the US. We are close to financing on both, and it will probably be Ruby and we would shoot this July. I am doing a play in Spring, here in LA, called The Caterer, by my friend Brian Alan Lane, who was one of the writers on Trek. I am doing Main Street, written by Horton Foote, also as an actor. So I am doing a little acting and a little directing. It is shaping up to be a pretty good year.

TM: In the last month you have really jumped into the Web 2.0 with your new blog and prolific Twittering. Why the sudden embrace?

Burton: Well if you read my first blog, that sort of explains it. It coincided when I went to CES and when I got my name back on Twitter from the fake LeVar Burton. Which turned out to be not so bad. He is not such a bad guy once he understood that his attempts at having some laughs was causing somebody else harm. I would like to meet him one day, actually.

TM: In a recent blog post you talked about about Gene Roddenberry and how as a big Trek fan, you were confused and disappointed to find out that he was human, can you go into that a little more?

Burton: I will go a bit into detail but no too much because, obviously, a lot of that I consider private. However, I will share this…Gene was a human being and full of contradictions. He was this great visionary, and yet he was a womanizer. All of the women all wore short skirts you know? He had somewhat sexist views. Star Trek was full of spiritual meaning and yet he was an agnostic. Those kinds of things.

TM: So getting back to your Twitter thing, what is going on with Wil Wheaton? You tweeted about how Wil stopped following you on Twitter.

Burton: You will have to ask Wil. Would you ask him? I have no idea why he stopped following me.

TM: Is there some kind of feud? Is this going to get like Shatner and Takei?

Burton: That remains to be seen. [laughs]

NOTE: TrekMovie did ask Wil about it, and here is what he said:

Wil Wheaton: Oh, this is just silly. I start and stop following people all the time, depending on a whole bunch of different things. Anyone looking for high school drama should go someplace else. I absolutely adore LeVar, and as far as I know, there are no hard feelings between us at all

TM: You recently blogged and tweeted about re-quitting smoking, so you think you are going to make it this time?

Burton: Day eight baby! I am really feeling optimistic about my chances. [Note: interview done two days ago, but Burton updated Twitter this morning that he was still a non-smoker]

TM: You use your picture of showing off your Levar/Kunta ambigram tattoo as your Twitter icon and you often refer to yourself as ‘Kunta.’ So do you relate more that character from Roots more than Geordi from Star Trek?

Burton: Well I refer to myself as Kunta, but I do it because it is funny and because I can. 

TM: But you did get it tattooed…

Burton: Well I guess I would have to say the answer to that question is yes, then. I think the spirit of Kunta lives big inside of me, because I see Kunta as a warrior.

TM: What is your war?

Burton: Life!


Burton as Kunta Kinte in the 1977 mini-series "Roots" (L) and showing off his Levar/Kunta tattoo in 2009 (R)

More from Burton in Part 2
Coming up soon we will have the second part of our interview with LeVar Burton, where we talk all about Star Trek, including Nemesis, the new movie, and possible TNG reunions, and more.

See LeVar in Taken in Broad Daylight – Sunday Night on Lifetime
Taken in Broad Daylight, the true story of the abduction of Anne Sluti, starring Sara Canning, James Van Der Beek and LeVar Burton, airs Sunday at 8PM Eastern on Lifetime More information at Lifetime.com.

Here is the trailer and some more images of Burton from Taken in Broad Daylight.


(click to enlarge)

And keep an eye out for Reach for Me, directed by LeVar Burton, starring Alfre Woodard and Seymour Cassel, with an appearance from LeVar and even Adrienne Barbeau. The movie is currently looking for distribution. More information at the official site.


Poster for "Reach for Me," directed by LeVar Burton

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Ian Watson
February 14, 2009 11:01 pm

I love that tattoo.

Captaingoesdownwiththeship
February 14, 2009 11:03 pm

Ahh, remembering my childhood watching Levar Burton on reading rainbow and TNG. Definitely looking forward to seeing his new movie on lifetime.

February 14, 2009 11:09 pm

Keep it coming Anthony, LeVar… Good stuff!

spock
February 14, 2009 11:19 pm

Levar was on the twit podcast two weeks ago talking tech.

danpaine
February 14, 2009 11:27 pm

He’s aging well.

Sloan47
February 14, 2009 11:47 pm

Here’s my Levar Burton story: I remember watching Next Gen every day after school and LaForge was easily my favorite character. He is one of the reasons I became an Engineer. I remember back when I was about 12 talking amongst friends about the characters on the show and the topic of how many black characters were on the show came up. I was momentarily stunned because in all my years watching this show, I never gave it a second thought (or even first thought for that matter) about the color of anyone’s skin. I never thought of LaForge or Worf as black. I suppose the moral of this story is that I’m very grateful for LeVar Burton’s influence on my life from Next Gen to Reading Rainbow. LeVar, if you end up reading this… thank you.

February 14, 2009 11:49 pm

” will go a bit into detail but no too much because, obviously, a lot of that I consider private. However, I will share this…Gene was a human being and full of contradictions. He was this great visionary, and yet he was a womanizer. All of the women all wore short skirts you know? He had somewhat sexist views. Star Trek was full of spiritual meaning and yet he was an agnostic. Those kinds of things.”

whoa.

just effing whoa.

AIIIIIGHT!!

=h=

Wheeli
February 14, 2009 11:58 pm

Note: the Abbreviation for Nebraska is NE, If you put NB on a letter it will end up in Canada,

Brad
February 15, 2009 12:08 am

Levar is such a great guy! I’d really like to meet him one day!

February 15, 2009 12:13 am
Ok, went to his website and the actual quote that AP asked him about is: “To this day it trips me out that I was such a HUGE fan of the original Star Trek series and today I am a part of that history. Getting to meet and then getting to know Gene Roddenberry was a dream come true. He was a hero of mine, this amazing visionary who had created a future realm that I wanted to help birth into being. It was however, confusing to me and disappointing to discover that this “great man” was also human. Ultimately, and this revelation has only come in the past few years, I have come to really appreciate those parts of Gene I couldn’t reconcile when I was a younger man. Those parts that he himself had already embraced and made peace with. Since then I have tried to be more forgiving where my heroes are concerned.” LeVar confuses ME. Who is this guy? I almost gleen from that he learned that Roddenberry used the N word or something in his life? Is this idealistic, 5th grade mentality or what? OF COURSE Roddenberry was complex. Did it make him a bad man? Does it make LeVar a better man? This whole line of thought totally disgusts me. Fault him for being a man, who chased short skirts? Really??? He didnt BILLieve in God? Who didn’t know this?? Whats this guy talking about???? The only thing that I think happening here, as… Read more »
GaryS
February 15, 2009 12:15 am

He did a great job directing The Pegasus one of my favorite episodes of TNG and Timeless the100th episode of Voyager.

Steamblade
February 15, 2009 12:29 am

10.

You honestly have no idea of the context of Mr. Burton’s feelings regarding Gene Roddenberry or anything else for that matter. It is very disconcerting when we find our idols are flawed. Not that we shouldn’t expect it, but it’s still sometimes jarring. Why don’t you get off of your high horse and think a bit before you rant about how others should perceive those they esteem.

Requiem1971
February 15, 2009 12:37 am

With all do respects to LeVar Burton in his continued acting, did anyone catch Conner Trinner showing up on Terminator Chronicals last night? He was great to see again. I really enjoyed his roll as Trip Tucker on Star Trek Enterprise. Speaking of which, did anyone notice Tahmoh Penikett? he appeard on the premier episode of Dollhouse??? Tahmoh had played the character Karl Agathon “Helo” on Battlestar Galactica.

Kirk's Revenge
February 15, 2009 12:40 am

12

Well put.

Rocket Scientist
February 15, 2009 12:42 am

His candor and honesty are pretty illuminating. I really don’t see how he could have been more respectful or discreet in expressing such thoughts. I didn’t read this as him trashing Roddenberry.

February 15, 2009 12:44 am

re 12. Steamblade

No, I read his entire blog entry and understand the context of what he was saying. I am not on a high horse. My point of consideration is that Gene Roddenberry’s son reads this site as do many other loyal constituents such as myself. I thought that LeVar’s comments were counterproductive, thoughtless, and rude.

I honestly DO understand what Mr. Burton’s feelings are regarding Gene Roddenberry. He made that very clear in his post, which I did copy and paste here.

THE WOMEN!!

=h=

February 15, 2009 12:47 am

re:15. Rocket Scientist – February 15, 2009
His candor and honesty are pretty illuminating. I really don’t see how he could have been more respectful or discreet in expressing such thoughts. I didn’t read this as him trashing Roddenberry.

He should have not expressed these thoughts. PERIOD.

=h=

Will
February 15, 2009 1:25 am

re: hitch1969© speaks with wise tongue™

Yes! You are correct! No one should express their opinions of people once they are dead!! I totally agree!

/sarcasm

If Mr. Roddenberry was that way, not saying it isn’t gonna change anything and, more than likely, his son knows at least some of the situation… so, the only person hurt by it are those who hold Mr. Roddenberry up on a high pedestal of infallibility who, like a fanatic, can’t accept that while the person they admire may have been great and had some great ideas(as LeVar stated), also had myriad flaws.

It is the good and the bad which makes up everyone and to ignore the bad of someone is to ignore the truth of someone which, in my opinion, is far more disrespectful than uttering some less than “shining” comments about a person after their death.

Can’t wait for the next half of the interview!

Shane Zeranski
February 15, 2009 1:36 am

Love LeVar

Iowagirl
February 15, 2009 1:47 am

– Gene was a human being and full of contradictions. –

Well, aren’t we all? ;)

re 18. Will

sorta understood. SORTA. Look, I am not coming from any background that espouses Roddenberry as a “visionary”. In fact, I acknowledge him as a man first and as BEING a man myself… understanding all the politically incorrect urges that encompass that.

Maybe LeVar shouldnt have made The Great Bird his “hero” in the not knowing of him.

And WOW… finally only a few years ago (and many after GR actually died) did LeVar learn about what GR did.

SO LeVar heard 3 years ago that Gene Roddenberry might have used the N word. Although.. in working with Gene Roddenberry from 1986 until his death in the early 90s (’91?) he had no clue about that?

OK so if Roddenberry was a racist, obv. no one knew this until now. because he didnt BILLieve in God, and loved POO-say.

ay carambotz

=h=

and P.S> who even effing cares!

Sci
February 15, 2009 2:10 am
#20: Not funny. Not funny at all. #10: You’re completely blowing Burton’s comments out of proportion. Further, several of your statements are borderline racist. I almost gleen from that he learned that Roddenberry used the N word or something in his life? A borderline racist comment. Why would you assume that Burton is trying to say or imply that? Burton gives no indication of that whatsoever. OF COURSE Roddenberry was complex. Did it make him a bad man? Does it make LeVar a better man? Actually, Burton’s whole point was growing older and realizing your own fallibility, and therefore realizing the necessity of forgiving others for being fallible. The only thing that I think happening here, as I have always thought, is that LeVar Burton is a man of small mechanical proportions who compensates by thinking that because he had a role in “Roots” that his fecal deposits do not offend one’s olfactory senses. Yet another borderline racist statement. Burton gives no indication whatsoever that he believes that having played Kunta Kinte in Roots gives him any moral high ground, and the idea that you would attribute such to him makes sense only if the fact that he is an African-American somehow threatens you. You know what is so sad, is that he’s so effing cool simply for what he has accomplished in movies and tv that seeing him try to roundaboutly take out A LEGEND is the lamest statement of lame statements. He’s not trying to take out a… Read more »
Sci
February 15, 2009 2:13 am

A further note, re: Burton’s blog comments with regards to Roddenberry:

His statements are completely appropriate. In that blog, one of the things he talks about is the effect of fame upon a person and his/her behavior. He’s talking about the different expectations people have of the famous, and about how sometimes people might or might not live up to those expectations. He wasn’t talking to diss Roddenberry, he was talking about realizing that no one is perfect. And at no point does he bring up race in discussing Roddenberry.

Sci-

I’m sorry that you are so into keeping track of who is bring up “race” that you are unable to digest slander of a dead man.

Do you not realize that there are no great men, but simply men that do great things?

And while they are doing these great things perhaps they are tainted by their own racism, sexism, and selfishness?

Again, dealing with grade school, idealistic mentality REALLY REALLY frustrates me. You call me racist and I submit to you, that the entire HUMAN RACE is racist and these issues will never – ever – be solved.

For LeVar to point out things in Roddenberry, that as a man, he has not resolved himself – is A CHEAP SHOT.

Again, GR is not here to comment back. Majel is not here to defend this.

So please think about the comments we say here and respect the living relatives that read this.

THE WOMEN!!

=h=

Sci
February 15, 2009 2:38 am
#25: First off, slander is spoken. In print, it’s libel. Secondly, he didn’t libel anyone. He didn’t accuse anyone of any crime. He was talking about fame, and realizing that people are people. I’m terribly sorry if it offends you that he apparently wasn’t as cynical about Roddenberry’s character as you would have preferred him to be, but I think his observations about realizing that you have to take the good with the bad in a person, even a childhood hero, is completely valid, and is in no way a libelous statement against that person. You call me racist and I submit to you, that the entire HUMAN RACE is racist and these issues will never – ever – be solved. Dude, you’re changing the topic. Burton talked about realizing that Roddenberry wasn’t perfect and then about realizing that it was unrealistic of him to expect Roddenberry to be perfect. At no point did he invoke the issue of race. You chose to attribute Burton’s feelings and behavior to Burton’s race, which is a deeply racist reaction. You should be ashamed. For LeVar to point out things in Roddenberry, that as a man, he has not resolved himself – is A CHEAP SHOT. You also apparently have no reading comprehension, because part of Burton’s point was realizing that he, himself, is as fallible as Roddenberry, and that therefore it had been unreasonable of his younger self to expect perfection. In other words, Burton is criticizing his younger self moreso than… Read more »

Sci-

I agree to disagree. Your counterpoints are compelling. Of course, not as compelling as mine… but I do appreciate that you took me to task. I like that you paid attention.

We can effectively leave this to the jury at this point. In doing so, I must remark that I do value what you have brought to the table. It was well thought out and although contrary to my POV, interesting nonetheless.

THE WOMEN!!

=h=

CmdrR
February 15, 2009 5:08 am

Good stuff, Levar. Keep it up!

horatio
February 15, 2009 5:14 am

Can we keep this here free of racist statements or to be frank free of racists respectively people who link to their racist statements somewhere else?

Dom
February 15, 2009 5:52 am

Wow! I love it when people start calling each other something’-ists’! My head is spinning from all the self-righeousness here!

Mr Burton was making a good point about flawed idols. We all know Gene was a better ideas man than a writer and producer. Notoriously, if an episode of Trek had a story problem, Gene was the fixer-upper.

Later on, a Cult of Roddenberry did develop and I found all the Gene-worship in the TNG era a little hypocritical. He was a man who worked to feed his family, just like the rest of us!

I found the contradictions Levar pointed out irritating in TNG. It almost seemed as if Mr Roddenberry was acting out some sort of denial onscreen. The decision to ignore religion among humans in TNG and the virtual eradication of people’s cultures in the show in order to create a rather robotic underplayed, passionless, self-righteous version of human beings made the show a real letdown for me! And, ironically, Levar Burton was one of the icons of black culture as Kunta Kinte!

Is this the great vision? That after Kirk’s time, humans lose thier humanity and become a faceless, mulched together, sexless, raceless society of automatons?

Anyway, I’m glad to see Mr Burton has moved on from Trek and is doing new things.

Good luck to him, especially with the quitting smoking. I fell off the wagon again last night – in fairness, being single on Valentine’s day is a good excuse!!

horatio
February 15, 2009 5:59 am

“Robotic underplayed, passionless, self-righteous version of human beings” ???
Were Kirk’s quarters bigger than that of other crewmembers? Was racism or sexism present during TOS? Trek has been an utopia from the beginning, that TNG started with this is one of the Trek myths like “beam me up Scotty” or Kirk being nothing more than a womanizer and space cowboy.

Schultz
February 15, 2009 6:17 am

On Roddenberry’s alleged sexism:

In this famous speech of his (also rereleased on the ST-MP film score double CD), he said that he had been reproached with being sexist, e.g. portraying the women in StarTrek as sex objects. His answer was quite disarming: He said that there was nothing wrong with being a sex object and that he enjoyed being regarded as a sex object himself from time to time. (And Kirk, who was not only a womanizer but also a “sex object” himself, is actually a prime example of “sexism against” a male character in Star Trek.)

I don’t know: If Roddenberry’s ways were “sexist”, it was sexism of the healthy kind. I rather see him as having been not as prudish as most other people, as a libertine, as someone who didn’t shy away from free and eroticized views, which must have been revolutionary in TOS-era television.

I guess LeVar Burton—as much as I like him—has fallen into the trap of looking at past events through modern eyes, from our times that are to some extent ruled by anti-libertarianism, political correctness and (maybe a little too much) anti-defamation initiatives, something that apparently also influenced TNG. Just because Roddenberry would in today’s interpretation be diminished as a “sexist”, doesn’t mean that he actually was one.

Dom
February 15, 2009 6:24 am
31. horatio. Nonsense! Of course officers have bigger quarters than crews! Did you see TUC where Excelsior crewmen slept in bunks? TOS was never a utopia. Utopias can’t exist. Kirk would certainly have been paid more than his crew (we know there was still finance in TOS) and owns a very fancy apartment overlooking San Francisco bay. I doubt his next door neighbour was an ensign! Kirk was a womaniser, in part from the stress of his job. He was in a position of power, had a good income, was a damn fine starship captain, so why wouldn’t he have plenty of women cozying up to him? Kirk was a passionate man, as was Spock, as he desperately tried to keep control of his emotions. McCoy was also one of the most compassionate characters portrayed on Trek. Yet these guys still sat around drinking alcohol while listening to nervous Mr Bailey’s performance on the bridge and still liked to party. TOS was a red-blooded era, where humans had all their passions while trying to better their worse aspects. But the TOS era could still as easily create monsters like Dr Adams and Kodos the Executioner. TOS was a hopeful future (not the much-mooted ‘positive’ future) and remained a valid extrapolation our world where we learned lessons each week, along with the crew. TNG existed in a separate fantasy universe that had a crew swagger around space, arrogantly telling other races, along with the viewers, how much better they are than… Read more »
horatio
February 15, 2009 6:39 am

Ah and TNG never had an Admiral Satie? TOS never Russians and Japanese on board? If you don’t like TNG, that is fine, yet I am still irritated by “faceless, mulched together, sexless, raceless society of automatons”. Last time I checked there were people of all species, genders and skin colours in TNG as well as TOS, the difference to today being that gender or race or whatever does not matter anymore.

“Kirk was a womaniser, in part from the stress of his job. He was in a position of power, had a good income, was a damn fine starship captain, so why wouldn’t he have plenty of women cozying up to him?”

I am irritated again by this. That might be your view upon Trek, but TOS never was about that. Kirk did not work for money or to get the interest of woman, he worked because he loved his job.

Dom
February 15, 2009 6:58 am
34. horatio ‘Ah and TNG never had an Admiral Satie?’ She was old and she was there so Picard could lecture us! ‘TOS never Russians and Japanese on board?’ Yes they did and they brought their national culture with them. Keiko O’Brein was the only human character with any real national identity in TNG and unfortunately she was the second most irritating b@st@rd in TNG after Wesley Crusher! ‘If you don’t like TNG, that is fine,’ I don’t much and yes that is fine! Everyone’s entitled to their opinion and I entirely respect that some people love TNG. But many of things that they see as positives in TNG, I see as negatives! ‘yet I am still irritated by “faceless, mulched together, sexless, raceless society of automatons”. Last time I checked there were people of all species, genders and skin colours in TNG as well as TOS, the difference to today being that gender or race or whatever does not matter anymore.’ It’s not that it didn’t matter. It was ignored. You could pretty have changed the race and country of origin of any human character in TNG without having to rewrite a single line. Part of what made TOS cool was that Chekov went on about Russians doing things first, Sulu was a cool Asian guy who could wield a scary samurai sword and Uhura was a beautiful woman of African descent who was completely treated as an equal, yet brought her African origins with her. ‘I am irritated… Read more »
horatio
February 15, 2009 7:08 am

I did not intend to become personal, sorry if I sounded aggressive.

Last time I checked it was Kirk who lusted after Rand, not vice versa.

My nationality has little to do with the books I read, the movies I watch, the food I eat, etc. Cultures mix and everyone is free to pick out what he or she likes, so why should this trend not continue, especially in the fictional world of Trek where Earth is united for nearly 200 years already during TOS?
But you are right, that was more clear in TNG where we had a french Captain drinking english tea and reading english literature. By the way, Picard never lectured anyone, especially not an alien culture, the Prime Directive prevents that. And Picard neither lectured us in “Drumhead”, those things stand in the constitution of any democratic country and should be self-evident to anyone but those who still life in the Dark Ages.

sean
February 15, 2009 7:31 am
Hitch…oh Hitch. You’ve come so far out of left field we couldn’t even see you coming. Levar is really talking about his own flaws, not those of his ‘idol’. We *all* do this, to some degree. Heck, Trek has explored it on more than one occasion, so clearly the producers & writers (Rodenberry included) felt it was an important lesson for all of us, not just ‘a fifth grader’. He’s merely talking about Rodenberry AS A MAN, something I feel should be encouraged. Just because you acknowledge the flawed nature of a man doesn’t mean you’re ‘biting the hand that feeds’, ‘taking out a legend’ or ‘have a black chip on your shoulder’. And it’s wonderful that you’ve grown past such imperfections, but many people have not. It’s very easy to engage in hero worship without even realizing that’s what you’re doing. Just look at the so-called ‘Cult of Rodenberry’ that began in the 70s. I still see proponents pop up on these same message boards, and I assure you most of them are grown adults. Blind devotion is hardly limited to children, unless you want to ignore that last few thousand years of recorded history. I normally get a kick out of your commentary here, but dragging race into this just because Levar is African-American *is* offensive, no matter what spin you put on it. You talk about him slandering Gene Rodenberry, yet you accuse Rodenberry of using the ‘N Word’ to spark this whole issue. I think you… Read more »
Dom
February 15, 2009 8:18 am
36. horatio: ‘I did not intend to become personal, sorry if I sounded aggressive.’ ‘scool! No sweat. I had people here be really offensive to me, but I’ve survived! ;) ‘Last time I checked it was Kirk who lusted after Rand, not vice versa.’ No, Rand did her best in eps like Miri to give Kirk a woody! Kirk did lust after her as well, cos he liked pulling anything in a miniskirt, so that’s probably why it was better for all concerned that she get shipped off somewhere else! ‘My nationality has little to do with the books I read, the movies I watch, the food I eat, etc.’ Well it certainly influences mine! I’d love to pick up a French book or a Swedish one, but at best I need an English-language writer to translate it for me! And I like Asian food because I’m interested in it from both a taste and a cultural/historical point of view! In TNG, you’d simply get a computer to pre-fab a bland wasabi sauce with alcohol-free sake and not be interested in where it came from! ‘Cultures mix and everyone is free to pick out what he or she likes, so why should this trend not continue, especially in the fictional world of Trek where Earth is united for nearly 200 years already during TOS?’ You’ve answered your own question. In TNG, cultural identity has died in favour of an amorphous . . . thing! Cultures haven’t so much mixed as… Read more »
horatio
February 15, 2009 8:44 am

Bitch, bastard, a lot of ‘colourful metaphors’.No wonder you don’t like Picard.
Anyway, I take the airlock out of this ridiculous discussion, soaked with anti-intellectualism and sexism. If there ever is a bright new future, some people have to say behind. (yeah, now you can call me self-righteous again)

sean
February 15, 2009 9:00 am
#38 I find myself siding more with Horatio in this particular debate. Kirk may not have been prone to as much speech-making as Picard, but he absolutely looked down his nose at many cultures-of-the-week, and often went so far as to change their society ‘for the better’ (see: A Taste of Armageddon, The Apple, Return of the Archons, A Private Little War, The Cloud Minders), something the Picard character would have vehemently objected to. In terms of cultural identity, it was still present in the TNG-era (Picard’s French origins are explored in more than one episode, Riker being from Alaska, Crusher’s Scottish heritage, O’Brien’s Irish ancestory, etc.). I’d say it was more subdued, which only makes sense in the face of so many alien societies and races being encountered. Right now, our ‘universe’ is Earth. So we identify ourselves in relation to that. But in the Star Trek era the Universe *is* our universe. The scale increases dramatically, so it would be likely that identifying ourselves as Human or from Earth would make more sense than identifying ourselves as Asian or being from Russia. It’s not that those identifications become meaningless, they just become secondary to our planetary origins. In terms of TNG ‘snickering at Data’s computer-like behaviour, Barclay’s mildly dysfunctional behaviour or anything to do with the Ferengi…”, come on! How many times did Kirk or McCoy use Spock’s race/mannerisms as the butt of a joke? Then look at how bemused they all are at Bele’s description of racism… Read more »
JoBlo
February 15, 2009 10:03 am

He’s actually my least favorite Star Trek guy ever.

A couple of years ago I picked up a book in the sci-fi section of someone’s immense personal library and it was written by Levar Burton. It was about a future race war sparked by the death of the first black president and was absolutely PROFOUNDLY racist.

Apparently, in the book, a bunch of people died on both sides, but mostly the blacks killed a bunch of whites, took a bunch of land and finally felt equal by the end.

I was disgusted. I was disgusted by the concept of the book. And I was disgusted by what that said about his character, and him as a racist.

Christine
February 15, 2009 10:27 am

Why is everyone blowing this out of proportion?

LeVar’s opinions are just what they are – opinions. There’s no need to defend what he said, or to put him down for what he said… This has turned into a topic not about Star Trek or anything related, but a huge political… affair!

Seriously, guys, is all this bickering necessary? Maybe you should set up a forum elsewhere to argue.

I seriously do not mean to offend anyone, I’m just thinking in the best interests of the site.

February 15, 2009 10:57 am

It never fails to amaze me how many people here deify Roddenberry without ever having met the man. Some people have such preconceived notions of who the man was based upon the nature of his show.

It’s cool to defend your heroes, but not at the expense of another man’s character. Burton was simply making an observation in regards to what he thought as a young man, and how his view changed once he met the man. Nothing more. Nowhere does he say he didn’t like the guy. It sounds to me more like he let himself down with his own preconceived notions.

41. JoBlo
As far as Burton being a racist goes, if you’re going to call the man a racist, don’t base it off a piece of science fiction he wrote that you apparently didn’t even read if you have to describe the book as “apparently” in regards to it’s content. It’s ignorant. Go meet the man and get to know him, and then character assassinate him. That or read the book and write an honest review.

Nathan
February 15, 2009 11:08 am

Gee whiz, guys… you’d think Gene Roddenberry was your patron saint or something. Mr. Burton’s comments were not even remotely libelous, insulting, or anything else that should raise the dander of Trekkies.

Personally, I agree pretty much entirely with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Burton…in a way, I went through kind of the same thing in discovering Gene Roddenberry’s faults, though he was never really that much of a hero to me to begin with. To be honest, my opinion of him right now is fairly low–but he did make a darn fine television show, and for that alone, he has my respect. Everything else beyond that is secondary…

GaryP
February 15, 2009 11:10 am

There WAS an apparent feud going on between Levar Burton and Wil Wheaton as Levar stated above. I read about it in People Magazine a few months back. People Magazine actually retracted that article this month as they discovered it wasn’t really a feud at all. It was actually Sarek of Vulcan unwillingly projecting Bendii syndrome onto the both of them.

I’m a dork

JoBlo
February 15, 2009 11:59 am

#43.

I meant “apparently,” in context with what the future would hold should we ever have a black president and that application to the book.

And it wasn’t the story alone that I deemed racist, it was the authors note, or foreword, that talked about how none of the TV heroes growing up looked like him so in writing his own book the heroes would be people he identified with. Which is fine by me, so long as the heroes aren’t heroes for killing white people. Hearing this, coupled with some of the other racial crap that he’s been involved in leads me to brand him a racist and I simply don’t see how I could ever be a fan of the guy, let alone want to get to know him.

Don’t call people ignorant because you don’t understand the point they’re making or don’t agree with them. We’re all entitled to our pet-peeves prejudice and annoyances, including Levar Burton. All I’m saying is that I cannot reconcile the two perspectives, his and mine.

Dr. X
February 15, 2009 12:24 pm

Personally, I loved LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow, and am only just now getting into TNG.

Oh, comment wars, how you entertain me. People getting mad at each other over the internet makes my day that much better.

Dom
February 15, 2009 1:11 pm
39. horatio: ‘ Bitch, bastard, a lot of ‘colourful metaphors’.’ Yeah, well we have a rich language and it’s fun to fling around metaphors! ‘No wonder you don’t like Picard.’ Actually, I like Jean-Luc a lot and I like Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of him. I just don’t think the character always got the writing he deserved. The Inner Light remains one of my absolute favourite Picard stories and one of my absolute favourite TNG episodes. But Jean-Luc didn’t need to spout homilies. It was lazy writing IMO to get jean-Luc to start spouting the PC aganda of the week. Picard is the sort of guy I would love to seek wise counsel from, even though I wouldn’t necessarily agree with him! ‘Anyway, I take the airlock out of this ridiculous discussion,’ I was quite enjoying it! ‘soaked with anti-intellectualism and sexism.’ Um . . . where exactly? Please elaborate! FYI, people who start wagging fingers and citing racism, sexism and so on are usually just afraid of the discussion! And I didn’t call you self-righteous! :) ‘If there ever is a bright new future, some people have to say behind. (yeah, now you can call me self-righteous again)’ I refer you to Bill Adama’s earlier remark! ;) 40. sean: ‘I find myself siding more with Horatio in this particular debate.’ Fair enough! There’s room for all opinions here even for a ‘sexist, anti-intellectual’ prone to ‘ridiculous discussion’ like me! Kirk may not have been prone to as much speech-making as… Read more »
Swollen Ballz
February 15, 2009 1:44 pm

Aye Carumba!! I dont know what to say considering the extreme point of views from my colleagues here.

All the best!

Dom
February 15, 2009 1:56 pm

Ah! It’s all fun! It’s not worth getting het up on a website about a TV show!

wpDiscuz