‘Jeopardy!’ hosting snub taught me ‘perfect nature of all things’
LeVar Burton looked like a strong contender to replace Alex Trebek as host of “Jeopardy!” after the death of the longtime frontman in November 2020.
The 66-year-old ‘Reading Rainbow’ star ended up not winning the gig, which was a stunning rejection at the time – but he apparently doesn’t hold a grudge anymore.
“It really cemented me that everything happens to me for a reason, right?” Burton told the AV Club in an interview published Monday.
He said the layoff sent him into a period of self-reflection – and he now believes the experience taught him “the perfect nature of all things.”
He had even tried out the job for several episodes before calling “Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards scored a short-lived stint as the show’s lead in August 2021, defeating a surprised Burton.
Ken Jennings and Mayim Bialk landed the gig permanently in July 2022 and Burton was officially out of the running.
“I thought I had a good chance of getting the job,” Burton told AV Club. “What I didn’t know at the time was that it really wasn’t an audition.”
Richards’ hosting stint lasted just three weeks as he stepped down after accusations of sexist language and his self-declared “insensitivity” in the past were raised.
“The executive producer, the guy who was hired to teach me how to play the game, who said he didn’t want the job, but his job was to help them find the right person for the job, who person gave himself the job,” Burton recalled Richards, but did not name him.
“I was disappointed – I’m not going to lie. I really had to sit down and try to figure it out: so what – what happened here? What went wrong?” he added.
But Burton found other projects to prop up his career.
In November 2021, he was named the host of the game show “Trivial Pursuit” based on the Hasbro board game.
He also hosted the 2022 Grammys pre show in March, as well as the Scripps National Spelling Bee in June 2022.
“I think sometimes in life we have to be willing to get into the discomfort of things before you get to the reason before you get to the goodie,” Burton said. “And sometimes just being willing to be uncomfortable is the goal. Because the gift is on the other side.
He also executive produced the new documentary “The Right to Read”, released last month, highlighting the nation’s literacy crisis through the eyes of an NAACP activist, a teacher in Oakland, California, and two families currently struggling with access to literacy education.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck emergency because if a kid doesn’t reach his reading skills by the time he’s in fourth grade, chances are he won’t finish high school,” Burton said. said about the matter.
“You cannot reach your full potential in life unless you are literate in at least one language,” he added. “That’s a national crisis.”