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LeVar Burton says he’s no longer pursuing ‘Jeopardy!’ gig after campaign to be permanent host

Amy Haneline
USA TODAY

LeVar Burton is no longer vying for the job as permanent host of "Jeopardy!" – even though the slot is technically still open.

In an interview Thursday on "The Daily Show" with Trevor Noah, the "Reading Rainbow" star says he has moved on from trying to land the role famously helmed by the late Alex Trebek and is focusing on other opportunities.

"I made it public that I wanted it for myself, that it made sense to me," he told Noah, adding that his loyal fans also backed his pursuit.

"The crazy thing is that when you set your sights on something, they say 'be careful of what you wish for,' because what I found out is that it wasn’t the thing that I wanted after all," he said.

"What I wanted was to compete. I mean I wanted the job, right? But then when I didn’t get it it was like 'OK well what’s next?' "

The 64-year-old actor filled in as a guest host on the beloved game show in July following a vocal social media campaign from Burton and his fans to make him the next host. A Change.org petition supporting his bid has nearly 300,000 signatures.

Latest:Mayim Bialik, Ken Jennings to fill in as 'Jeopardy!' hosts for rest of 2021 after Mike Richards exit

Actor and host LeVar Burton serves as the guest host of "Jeopardy!" from July 26-30.

Ultimately, "Jeopardy!" named executive producer Mike Richards as the next permanent host, but that quickly fell through after past offensive comments made by Richards resurfaced and he was fired from both the hosting job and as executive producer. The game show has since tapped actress Mayim Bialik and former "Jeopardy!" champion Ken Jennings to split hosting duties for the remainder of the year. A new permanent host has not been named.

Burton told Noah he is now thinking about another game show he could host, possibly one that involved literature.

"('Jeopardy!') went in a different direction with their show, which is their right. And now I’m thinking, 'Well this does kinda make sense. Let me see what I can do.' So we’re trying to figure out what the right game show for LeVar Burton would be."

Just who is Burton? Here's everything you need to know:

More:LeVar Burton on lobbying to guest-host 'Jeopardy!' and why he thought he'd blown rehearsal

Hosting 'Reading Rainbow' was one of Burton's biggest roles

Take a look, it's in a book – a reading rainbow!

If you were in elementary school any time between 1983 and 2009, chances are you've still got those lyrics and the rest of the "Reading Rainbow" theme song lodged away somewhere in your brain.

Burton hosted the PBS show for 26 years, winning several daytime Emmy awards in the process.

LeVar Burton attends the "Reading Rainbow" software preview at Studio 450 on June 19, 2012 in New York City.

He had a couple run-ins with Alex Trebek

Burton told USA TODAY that winning "Celebrity Jeopardy!" in 1995 is one of his proudest moments. Up until then, he didn't have much interaction with Trebek, but recalled a time he ran into the beloved host backstage at a taping in Las Vegas.

"He was unbelievably smooth. You sense that on TV. In person it’s even more apparent just how comfortable he was. And relaxed. And very, very, very, very smooth. Just effortless. And I know how much work it takes to make it look that easy," he said of Trebek.

More:The best and worst 'Jeopardy!' guest hosts, from Mike Richards to Joe Buck

He loves 'Jeopardy!'

Beyond his experience playing "Jeopardy!," Burton is a huge fan of the game.

"I’ve watched it almost every night my entire life, or since (I was) in the fifth grade. Like everybody else in America, I just think the world of the game. Because I think we all just love to measure ourselves against what we know is a very high pressured situation. That’s why it’s as popular as it is," he said.

ABC miniseries 'Roots' was his breakthrough role

In 1977, the landmark ABC miniseries brought the horrors of American slavery to the forefront of pop culture and shattered ratings records in the process. Tracking the lives of enslaved protagonist Kunta (Burton) and his family, the century-spanning drama was anchored by themes of identity, heritage and confronting one's past in order to move forward. 

"Roots" was revived in 2016 with Burton serving as co-executive producer.

"If you are living in America right now, then the story of slavery is relevant to you, because it's shaped the country and the culture in which you live, whether you want to admit that or not," Burton told USA TODAY at the time of History's four-part remake.

A scene from the final episode of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" with LeVar Burton, Left, Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, Brent Spiner.

He also starred in 'Star Trek'

Burton starred as Geordi La Forge when "Star Trek: The Next Generation" debuted in 1987.

Contributing: Patrick Ryan, Haley Blum, Gary Levin, Brett Molina, Brian Truitt, Kelly Lawler, Cydney Henderson