Burton Goes Back To His 'Roots'

By Caillan
January 18, 2002 - 6:12 PM

Twenty five years after he shot to fame as Kunta Kinte in the mini-series Roots, LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge) will tonight present a special retrospective on the acclaimed African-American family saga.

The programme, entitled 'Roots: Celebrating 25 Years,' will take a look at the impact of the mini-series on the African-American community. It includes interviews with high-profile celebrities such as Michael Jordan and cast members Leslie Uggams, Richard Roundtree and Ben Vereen, who later appeared as Geordi's father on The Next Generation.

Burton earlier this week reflected on the mini-series which, at age nineteen, was his first professional acting role. "I wasn't aware that Roots was on its way to becoming the ratings juggernaut and social phenomenon that it became as it unfolded," Burton told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena (via StarTrek.com).

"I kind of liken the experience now, looking back on it, as having walked through fire," Burton continued. "And not that I didn't get singed around the edges and significant burns on the outer extremities, but I feel like I did come through that fire like a tempered piece of steel. The old Nietzsche saying 'That which does not kill me makes me stronger' certainly held true and fast for me in that case."

But despite the high ratings and critical praise, Burton felt the series never really changed the way African-Americans were perceived in the entertainment industry. "I remember there was a huge sense of anticipation in the African-American community inside of Hollywood that there would be some huge sea change post-Roots. And that never materialized," he said. "I know for my own part that, in large measure, that sense of disappointment fuelled my commitment to becoming a producer and a writer and a director, and ensuring that my voice was heard. And knowing full well that no one was going to hand me the opportunity, I had to carve it out for myself. That's always been true for people of colour in this country and in this culture. Hollywood's no different."

'Roots: Celebrating 25 Years' will air at 8:00pm tonight on NBC. The full interview with Burton can be found here at StarTrek.com.

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