More than once, LeVar Burton has worked on projects that were unexpectedly successful.
When Burton worked on Roots, no one anticipated that the miniseries would be so successful. “I seem to continue to fall into situations that exceed and succeed beyond anyone’s expectations,” said Burton of his roles in both Roots and Star Trek: The Next Generation. “No one thought Roots would be the success that it was, in fact there’s a great story that the network executives at ABC, once they had assembled the twelve hour miniseries, they thought it was good but they did not know that America would watch, in a country and a society where 80% percent of the population is white and less than 20% is black, they did not believe that a series where whites were the villains and blacks were the heroes would play very well so they decided ‘We’ll put it on in eight consecutive nights programming.'”
“…the audience kept growing exponentially every night and the final episode of Roots is still the third most watched event in the history of the medium in America, so no one anticipated that sort of success, and I think the same is true for Star Trek,” said Burton. “You can’t orchestrate that kind of popular appeal, if there was a formula to it then everybody would be able to do it, you just never know when you’re going to strike lucky.”
Being cast in The Next Generation was strange for Burton, who had grown up as a fan of the original series. “It’s very difficult to put into words, having grown up really embracing Gene Roddenberry‘s vision of the future and then finding myself as a part of it later on in life. I like to say to young people all the time I’m living, breathing proof that dreams do indeed come true, in fact, had I been able to dream up the perfect life for myself I would have made it this good, you know what I mean? I’m so lucky, I’m so enormously blessed and I don’t take any of that for granted.”