LeVar Burton Sets Stakes High for 'Jeopardy!' Hosting Stint, How He'll React to Losing Permanent Job

Actor LeVar Burton really wants to become the permanent host of Jeopardy! after he wraps up his guest stint in July. The Reading Rainbow star quickly became the favorite for the job among fans after Alex Trebek's death in November 2020. Burton, 64, wants the job so badly that he told The New York Times Magazine it "will hurt" if Jeopardy! producers do not pick him.

Jeopardy! fans still have a few weeks to go before seeing Burton as host. CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta begins his hosting gig on Monday, with Good Morning America anchors George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts hosting during the weeks of July 12 and July 19, respectively. Bruton will host the week of July 26. The last two guest hosts of the season are CNBC's David Faber and Fox Sports broadcaster Joe Buck.

When asked why he believes he should host Jeopardy! permanently, Burton said there was "something inside me that says this makes sense." He feels this is something he is supposed to do. Burton said it would be "significant" for a Black man to host, and he noted that he has the pedigree. Burton has an Emmy nomination for Roots and has a shelf-full of Daytime Emmys for Reading Rainbow. The beloved PBS series also earned him a Peabody Award in 1993. Burton also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

"I'm a storyteller, and game shows are tremendous stories," Burton told the Times. "There's a contest, there's comedy, there's drama. If you don't know your [expletive] on Jeopardy! you're sunk in full view of the entire nation. The stakes are high. I love that." Burton acknowledged that his influence on viewers leads to an obligation, but that will not stop him from being "authentic to myself." He also seeks to build "a real relationship with those that I come in contact with through storytelling. That's the nature of who I am."

Later, Burton said he would be very disappointed if he was not picked as the new permanent Jeopardy! host. He might get over it, but it will take some time. "It will hurt. I'm not going to lie," he told the Times. "But if that happens, I will get over it. I will be fine. Remember: Everything happens perfectly and for a reason. That is my default. It's all going to be OK. Because it always is."

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Jeopardy! viewers have seen several guest hosts from various backgrounds already. Former champions Ken Jennings and Buzzy Cohen have hosted, while journalists Katie Couric, Bill Whitaker, Anderson Cooper, and Savannah Guthrie took turns. Burton will be the second actor, as former The Big Bang Theory star Mayim Bialik hosted from May 31 to June 11.

"It's something I did with tremendous humility and respect for [Trebek] and just, I mean, I had an unbelievable time," Bialik told PopCulture after filming her episodes. "My brain really works the way Jeopardy! brain needs to work," she said, adding that a Jeopardy! host needs to "think fast and think on your feet." Hopefully, Burton can do both in his pursuit to host full-time.