The Pasadena Tournament of Roses selected actor, director and literacy advocate LeVar Burton as the 2022 Grand Marshal at a ceremony on the steps of the city’s famed Tournament House, on Tuesday, Oct. 5.
The veteran actor is known for portraying Kunta Kinte on the landmark TV series “Roots” and Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and other Star Trek endeavors.
Burton is also a tireless advocate for literacy who hosted PBS’s beloved ”Reading Rainbow” series. He’s also a podcast host, producer and winner of myriad awards for both the arts and public service.
Burton is also an accomplished director who held the record for the most number of episodes of the TV series directed by a Star Trek actor.
According to his bio on IMDB, Burton has been married to Stephanie Cozart Burton since October 3, 1992. They have one child.
Burton grew up in the Sacramento area and graduated from Christian Brothers High School in 1974. He went on to graduate from the University of Southern California School of Theatre.
Burton’s quest to become the new host of “Jeopardy!” made headlines this year — a confident, upbeat effort by the actor and those who buoyed him with a nationwide petition drive.
Burton wasn’t able to snag the tole of replacing longtime host Alex Trebek, but he did get to serve as a guest host and said the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime affair.
“Being at home, it feels like a really relaxed half-hour, but it’s not relaxed at all,” he told the Associated Press. “You can’t let your focus drop for a nanosecond.”
“Being at home, it feels like a really relaxed half-hour, but it’s not relaxed at all,” he said. “You can’t let your focus drop for a nanosecond.”
Although Burton had made the show’s producers aware of his interest in being considered, his addition to the roster came after a petition backing him as the new “Jeopardy!” host caught fire (drawing hundreds of thousands of signatures).
The Canadian-born Trebek held the role from 1984 to shortly before his November 2020 death from cancer at age 80. Art Fleming was the quiz’s show’s original and only other host, in the 1960s and ’70s.
LeVar Burton, 2020 Rose Parade Grand Marshal, is embraced by parade President Bob Miller on Tuesday, Oct. 5. Photo: YouTube screenshot
Burton’s choice was certainly in line with this year’s parade theme: “Dream. Believe. Achieve.”
“I’ve been about education my entire career, and I definitely believe in the medium (of television) as one where more than simply entertaining is the order of the day” Burton told the Associated press recently. “I try and use the medium in a way that brings something else to the table as often as I can. I think that ‘Roots’ and ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Reading Rainbow,’ they all have that commonality about them, that common thread of entertainment, yes — and informational, inspiring, enlightening, educational, uplifting. We can do so much more than just sell each other stuff with the medium.”
Past Tournament of Roses Parade grand marshals included presidents, movie stars, astronauts, athletes, Tournament of Roses spokeswoman Candy Carlson said last week. In the early years, however, politicians around town and prominent businessmen were usually selected alongside military leaders.
In the early 1930s, Carlson added, things changed when Mary Pickford ushered in a new era of celebrity marshals.
Shirley Temple, who was elected three times in her lifetime, still holds the record for most appearances with three, but even Temple’s starpower would have a hard time competing with the trio of marshals selected in 2020 who represented three generations of Latina powerhouses.
The trio of Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez, actress Gina Torres and enduring entertainer Rita Moreno were the most recent marshals to grace the stage
Hernandez, the youngest of the three at 19, won team gold as part of the “Final Five” at the 2016 Summer Olympics. That same year, she individually won a silver medal on the balance beam, then went on to win Season 23 of “Dancing with the Stars” with partner Val Chmerkovskiy.
Being part of the Rose Parade was a “dream come true” for Moreno, who said last year she watched it on television since she was a child, however she was especially thrilled to led to meet Hernandez, who she danced with during the most recent ceremony.
Torres, the third grand marshal, is known for many television roles, including “Suits” and its spin-off “Pearson,” where she plays the main character. She’s also had roles in “Westworld,” “The Shield” and “Xena: Warrior Princess.” During the 2020 ceremony, she remembered being a little girl in the Bronx, watching parades with her mother.
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The year prior Chaka Khan became the first marshal to participate in the parade’s opening number, an act that was fitting for 2020’s theme: “The Melody of Life.”
It’s unlikely this year’s marshal will repeat the feat since this year’s selection is an acclaimed literary advocate, but that doesn’t mean this year’s marshal won’t ride the 5 1/2-mile route through Pasadena in a 1919 Dodge Brothers Touring Car — just as Gary Sinise did in 2018.
Like years prior, this year’s grand marshal is expected to conduct the coin toss at the 108th Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day.
The Associated Press contributed to this report