In part 1 of our exclusive interview with TNG’s Levar Burton, we focused on his new acting, directing and blogging projects. In part 2 (below), it is all Star Trek, with LeVar’s thoughts on Geordi LaForge, the last Trek movie (Nemesis), JJ Abrams new Star Trek movie, his hopes for a future TNG movie, and more.
TrekMovie.com LeVar Burton Feb 2009 Interview (Part 2)
TrekMovie.com: In our recent interview with Jonathan Frakes, he talked about how Star Trek stays with you and is intertwined with his life, and he said that he and Michael Dorn were just talking about a couple of weeks ago. Do you feel that way as well, or with all of your other big projects like Roots and Reading Rainbow and directing, is Trek just one of many things you have done?
LeVar Burton: Star Trek will always be a big part of my life. You read in my blog that I was a huge fan of The Original Series. I love being a part of this universe. I love being a part of this history.
TrekMovie.com: Looking back on your time with Trek, what are you most proud of, of the work you did?
LeVar Burton: I think all the directing, on all of the shows, directing on our show, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise. I think I am most proud of the directing. That and in terms of the acting, I am most proud that Geordi takes himself the least seriously. I think Geordi is the loosest of the family, and I am proud of that.
Burton directing episode of "Deep Space Nine"
TrekMovie.com: How do you feel about the arc that Geordi went through in the series, and into the movies. Were you satisfied with his arc or were there angles they never tapped into?
LeVar Burton: Oh, there were so much that was left on the table, it is not even funny.
TrekMovie.com: What are the top things left on the table?
LeVar Burton: The VISOR was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing for the storytelling because it spoke to the technology of the 24th century, but it was a real curse because we never used it. We never saw what Geordi sees.
TrekMovie.com: We saw a little bit in Generations, when the Klingons took over his VISOR.
LeVar Burton: I guess, but Geordi seeing is like our hearing. You can be in a room full of sound and isolate certain frequencies or certain tones or tonalities, yet you are hearing it all simultaneously. And that is the way Geordi sees, he sees all the electromagnetic spectrum simultaneously, but whenever we depicted what we saw, once in the series and once in a movie, we were only looking at a specific band of information. We never saw what he sees. Geordi sees sound, and he sees it along with the whole other range of the spectrum. It was such a huge storytelling device that was never used.
TrekMovie.com: I know some Star Trek actors — Bob Picardo tells me he did this all the time — would go to the writers and pitch ideas for their characters. Is that something you did?
LeVar Burton: No, they didn’t listen. Rick Berman didn’t want any input from us. That is the truth.
Burton feels Geordi’s VISOR was under-utilized
TrekMovie.com: As a fan of The Original Series, looking back at how it went from TV to the movies and how that was perceived, and looking at how Next Generation transitioned to movies, do you thing that TNG never met its full potential in feature films?
LeVar Burton: Yeah, I think if one were able to turn back the hands of time and have the ability to make different choices, the whole thing could have been done differently, and I dare say, better. If I had a magic wand to wave I would go back to the end of the seventh season and I would do what it took to create an eighth season and maybe a ninth season. It was the seventh season when we were nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Drama. We were doing the best work of the run when we were taken off the air. We were taken off the air because the powers that be at Paramount didn’t believe that the audience would go see the Next Gen cast in movies if we were still on TV. What we now know is that we could have sustained both simultaneously, at least for another year or so. I would also have pulled the plug on the over-proliferation of Trek, and never would have launched Enterprise when they did. I would have shut it down after Voyager and let it rest for a while, in forced retirement.
TrekMovie.com: So not do Nemesis either, or do it differently?
LeVar Burton: Do it differently.
TrekMovie.com: How so?
LeVar Burton: Different director.
TrekMovie.com: Anyone in mind?
LeVar Burton: Jonathan Frakes is a pretty good director.
TrekMovie.com: In our interview he did say that he thought he could have saved that one.
LeVar Burton: I think he could have too.
TrekMovie.com: It is hard for people to understand, [Nemesis screenwriter] John Logan is a great screenwriter and Academy Award winner, how did that happen?
LeVar Burton: It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?
TrekMovie.com: So you think it is as simple as flipping from [Stuart] Baird to Frakes and you get a totally different result.
LeVar Burton: Yes, absolutely. Anyone would know more about Trek than Stuart Baird.
TrekMovie.com: Well [Wrath of Khan director] Nick Meyer didn’t know anything about Star Trek…
LeVar Burton: Nicholas Meyer is an adept storyteller. Stuart Baird was an editor.
TrekMovie.com: How would this ‘betterness’ manifested itself?
LeVar Burton: I have no idea.
TrekMovie.com: You are a director, what if you had the chair?
LeVar Burton: Nah. I just think the whole shebang was lacking in a vision that was appreciative of the field of play. Mr. Baird didn’t get Star Trek and Mr. Baird didn’t appreciate Star Trek, unlike JJ Abrams who is excited to get his hands on the franchise. He is a smart man.
Burton as Geordi La Forge in "Nemesis" – feels it had the wrong director
TrekMovie.com: So did you have a chance to see the trailers for the new Star Trek movie?
LeVar Burton: I was intrigued by the first trailer and the second trailer looked pretty good too. I am going to see the movie. I love Star Trek.
TrekMovie.com: As a long-time fan, do you get concerned over things that are different?
LeVar Burton: What do you mean?
TrekMovie.com: Some fans are concerned about canon and continuity or things looking different, that kind of thing.
LeVar Burton: No. [laughs] I am not a nitpicker.
TrekMovie.com: Last year you created some buzz when you told Star Trek Magazine, that if JJ’s movie is successful, that it could some how lead to another Next Generation film. I am trying to follow how that would happen.
LeVar Burton: Well here is what I believe to be true. If there is any chance of us doing another movie, it will only be as a result of the success of JJ’s movie. I did not mean to infer that one would lead to another.
TrekMovie.com: Don’t you think that if this one is successful Paramount would want to do another like it, with the same team? Or are you envisioning where some of the Next Gen people get wrapped in with Pine, Quinto and the new gang?
LeVar Burton: No. In being an observer of corporate behavior over the years, if this one is successful, then sooner or later Paramount is going to start looking around for where else the can make some money.
TrekMovie.com: So you think they might do multiple movies, like JJ Trek and Next Gen Trek?
LeVar Burton: What is to say that JJ wouldn’t do a Next Gen movie?…I believe — and I know the rest of the cast does as well — we believe we have unfinished business, and we would like one more shot to go out well. And this is the franchise that brought Kirk back to life how many times? And Spock a couple times as well. And anything is possible, isn’t it?
Burton looking forward to new "Star Trek" – thinks success may lead to return of TNG