You have no idea how badly I wanted to break into a serenade of the “Reading Rainbow” theme song while sitting across from LeVar Burton. No idea. Bad like Hungry Hungry Hippos wanting the last white marble thingy bad. Like I said, no idea. Play along with me here so that you can feel some semblance of what I felt — sing the first verse of the “Reading Rainbow” theme song. I’ll start you off: Butterfly in the sky… Go ahead and sing it — I’ll wait. Now completely refrain yourself from singing the rest of the song. You can’t do it! Now imagine sitting across from LeVar Burton himself, a thespian widely known for playing Geordi La Forge in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Kunta Kinte in “Roots,” and most importantly, for being THE PHYSICAL EMBODIMENT OF YOUR CHILDHOOD MEMORIES OF “READING RAINBOW” while the song is stuck in your head. And now you have some insight into the agonizing internal struggle that played out within my very being while I sat across from LeVar Burton, attentively listening to him expound on the instant gratification mentality of the new media generation. I just wanted to sing, damn it. Read on to learn what LeVar Burton had to say about Twitter, the prospects of a “Star Trek: TNG” reunion, video as a “one-way distribution system” and why he’s brought “Reading Rainbow” back as an app. I can go twice as high…
What’s a typical day look like for you these days?
LeVar Burton: I’m traveling a lot right now. I’ve been on the road all summer, really; this is the summer of travel. Just a bizarre convergence of all of these intersecting points in my life — this is the summer we relaunched “Reading Rainbow” as an app for the iPad tablet computer, it’s the 25th anniversary of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” so I’m going to a lot more cons than I normally would during the course of a year. Also, I’m back on TV this summer with a TNT series called “Perception” with Eric McCormack, and I love being a part of that group of people, that family; it’s a great cast. I love watching Eric work, and he’s also one of the producers of the show, so it’s just been a really busy summer. I’m traveling every weekend. This weekend coming up is the first weekend I don’t have to travel in — I can’t remember when.
We’ll get around to all of that — I’m curious about your status as a top social media celebrity. How does Twitter affect your day when you go out? Do you ever have to remind yourself to tweet?
Sometimes I do. If I’m really, really busy, like I just did a con in Las Vegas over the weekend, when I’m doing a con it’s sitting at a table signing, talking to fans or doing a photoshoot or an onstage appearance, and I have to remind myself to tweet. I generally like to say, “Good morning,” you know, when I wake up no matter where I am — “Good morning, y’all. Good morning y’all.” “Good morning, y’all” — that’s my first tweet of the day generally. But there are days like today that I haven’t tweeted at all today. I just haven’t had a chance. No tweets from meets today, no tweets from me.
How do you feel about Twitter?
I love Twitter! Here is what I love about Twitter is that it is a conversation that I get to have with my fans, and there is no publicist in the middle, there’s no studio, there is no network — it’s just me, it’s what I want to say, how I want to say it in 140 characters or less.
So for you it’s just a conversation.
It is! It’s a conversation.
Because for some people, like author Jonathan Franzen, Twitter is a disaster. The 140 character limit is like writing a novel without the letter ‘P.’ It’s reflective of something bad for him.
That’s a point of view, you know. I wonder what his tweets are like.
Hates Twitter, hates Facebook.
Wow! Well, I suppose, but I’d much rather embrace what’s going on rather than rail against it, you know? Sounds like “Don Quixote,” right? It’s like, you know what, why don’t you just leave the windmill alone and you don’t have to engage it, but you don’t have to slam it either. And I’m not saying that the technology is perfect. In fact, too much of anything can be a really destructive force, and there is certainly a lot of reason for us to be cautious as we allow our lives to be taken over by our addiction to technology and connectivity. But in balance, it can be a really wonderful relationship, and it actually can in an odd way — it’s kind of a conundrum in that it brings us together, yet electronically we are separated, and it’s all the 1s and 0s that are in the middle, right? I mean, I see people, I have an 18-year-old daughter — she will text the person next to her, or you know, IM one of her girlfriends in the same room. It’s like, “What? Really?” [laughs] And it’s a generation that doesn’t really like to use the phone; my kid hates using the phone. Ask her to call some place and make reservations, you might as well have asked her to commit suicide! So at least I don’t think I’m that bad. I have a Twitter account, you know, so I think that in balance, technology can be a really good thing. It can be fun, it can add value to our lives, but like anything, if it’s out of balance, if we are out of balance in relationship to us, then it can but end in a no-good way.
Very good thoughts. So getting back to you mentioning the 25th anniversary of “Star Trek” earlier.
Yeah, “Star Trek: the Next Generation.”
One of my favorite shows. Watched that as a kid with my mom.
Bonding time with you and mom.
Over “Star Trek: the Next Generation?” Very cool, I like that.