Levar Burton Reacts to Being Named Host of Scripps National Spelling Bee

LeVar Burton at TCL Chinese Theater
David Livingston/Getty Images

LeVar Burton missed his shot to be Jeopardy! host, but he might have landed an even better hosting gig, as the longtime literacy advocate has been announced as the host of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The Star Trek actor, who served as host of the long-running children’s educational program Reading Rainbow, will helm the bee telecast as Scripps takes over production for the upcoming competition.

Speaking to The Associated Press on Thursday, Burton explained that he immediately said yes when offered the hosting role. “I want to normalize the pursuit of knowledge in this culture. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, would it?” Burton said. “Not just making stuff up and calling it a fact. Achievement through knowledge, scholarship, putting in the work to gain the reward.”

Earlier this year, Burton stepped in as guest host for Jeopardy! while producers looked for the late Alex Trebek‘s permanent replacement. Despite a passionate fan campaign, Burton did not receive the job, with the show ultimately choosing Mike Richards — who later stepped down amid controversy after past insensitive remarks came to light.

Burton revealed that he’s received many offers since his unsuccessful bid to become Jeopardy! host, and he’s “thrilled” to be hosting the National Spelling Bee. He also described his excitement watching Zaila Avant-garde become the first Africa American winner in the bee’s history earlier this year.

“Zaila was a surprise, and a bit of an anomaly,” Burton said. “I’m big for rooting for the underdog. As an underdog myself, I really identify.”

After ending its 27-year relationship with ESPN this fall, Scripps will air next year’s bee on the company’s own networks ION and Bounce. The competition will also stream online.

While exact details regarding Burton’s hosting duties have yet to be announced, the iconic actor said he hopes to serve as a bridge between the kids and the viewing audience. “Helping to tell the stories of these kids, that’s something that I know I can bring to the proceedings,” he said.

Scripps National Spelling Bee 2022, TBA, ION and Bounce