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Reading Rainbow's LeVar Burton Used To Ask To Be Called "Bob"

He also shared some choice words for the white writers on Star Trek and told a story about the time Dr. Maya Angelou put him in his place.

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You may remember him from the series Reading Rainbow where he read to us every day after school.


He also played iconic characters Kunta Kinte in the original Roots mini-series and Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Just casually acting through space and time, no big deal.


LeVar is actually short for Levardis, a very black name. So, we asked him if he ever considered changing it in order to have access to more acting jobs.

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His answer? “I go by LeVar because when I decided to become an actor I was 17. And I thought ‘LeVar...rhymes with ‘star’!’”

We learned that, as a kid, he used to go by Bob instead of Levardis or LeVar and our minds were blown.

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"When I was in the first grade at Holy Angels Elementary School in Sacramento, CA, I went in as Levardis. It was difficult to pronounce. The nuns were not feeling it. The nuns doted on this blonde-haired blue-eyed white kid named Bob Bankey. My middle name was Robert, so I decided in that moment that I was going to go by my middle name. I got home from my first day of first grade and announced to my family that I was to be ‘Bob.’ I was Bob for the first 16 years of my life. Bob Burton.”

Speaking of nuns, he was almost Father Bob Burton!


"I was studying for the priesthood when I decided to become an actor, but I was projecting forward in my life to the time when I would be referred to as Father Bob."


He told us about how shook he was when Dr. Maya Angelou dragged him for killing a bug while they were filming Roots.

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"Dr. Maya turned to me with that look and said, 'Don't you ever think that because you are larger than a thing that you have the power over life and death of that thing. That was a living creature.'"

We also asked why his character, Geordi La Forge, never got any on Star Trek. Here's what he had to say to the white writers that never let that happen.

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“You all are white men and have no clue about the sexuality of a black man and how that dynamic has been bashed in white normative culture for over 200 years. And the fact you are unwilling to see the sexuality of Geordi only tells me that you have bought into that bashing and I want you to open your eyes and see beyond your own conditioned limitations.”

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