LeVar Burton burst on the scene in the starring role of Kunta Kinte in the blockbuster television miniseries "Roots," and feared that his success might make it impossible to ever establish any other identity as an actor. He need not have worried: He moved on to even greater fame portraying Geordi La Forge in the syndicated TV science-fiction series "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
Born in 1957 in Landstuhl, West Germany, and raised in Sacramento, Burton was an unknown USC acting student when he was tapped for "Roots," one of the seminal TV events in recent decades. Adapted from the book by Alex Haley, the 1977 series dramatized the African American experience from the time of slavery onward. Playing a young African tribesman abducted from his homeland, Burton won rave reviews and an Emmy Award as the outstanding lead actor in a drama.
Major roles for blacks were relatively rare at the time, but "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry chose Burton in 1986 to play La Forge, a lieutenant and helmsman—and later the chief engineer—of the starship USS Enterprise. Burton excelled in the multicultural crew and played La Forge in every movie based on "Next Generation," beginning with "Star Trek Generations" in 1994. The erudite Burton also began directing occasional episodes of the series throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, and is the author of the futuristic 1997 novel "Aftermath."
Now living in Sherman Oaks, Burton was formerly married to actress Loretta Devine and is known as an avid poker player.