LeVar Burton‘s hard-fought Jeopardy! guest hosting stint got off to a terrifying start Monday — and we’re not referring to that unfortunate record that was set in the episode. In an interview with The Associated Press, the beloved Reading Rainbow vet said he came down with a severe case of first-day jitters.
“I’ve jumped out of airplanes, I’ve walked over hot coals… [but] this was a real challenge,” he admitted. “I came backstage after taping the first episode and I said to [my wife] Stephanie [Cozart Burton], ‘Well, how did I do?’ She said, ‘Ehhh.’ Now, this is a woman who loves me enough to tell me the truth. She said it wasn’t me.”
Burton says that grew more comfortable with the job as the week wore on. “I made it my business for the next four chances at bat to just be myself, to forget about the procedure, to forget about the process, stop trying, stop focusing on the wrong thing,” he told the AP. “You’re not going to be smooth as Alex [Trebek], let go of that. But what you can bring to the table is you. So that became my point of focus. And when it did, I started having fun.”
Burton recently confessed to New York Times Magazine that “it will hurt” if he gets passed over for the full-time gig. “But if that happens, I will get over it,” he added. “I will be fine. Remember: Everything happens perfectly and for a reason. That is my default. It’s all going to be OK. Because it always is.”
A final decision on who will permanently succeed the Trebek as host is expected to be made next month.
“Our goal has been to present a wide variety of guest hosts with different skill sets and backgrounds on our path to finding a permanent host,” EP Mike Richards, who served as an interim host himself, recently said. “Our passionate fans are telling us what they like, and we are listening. All of the guest hosts have brought individualism, energy and an authentic love of our show to each of their episodes.”
Ahead of Burton’s’ July 30 swan song, we gotta ask: How does he stack up against his guest host rivals, which, in addition to Richards, includes GOAT contestant Ken Jennings, ex-Today host Katie Couric, polarizing health guru Dr. Mehmet Oz, NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Sanjay Gupta, 60 Minutes‘ Bill Whitaker, Jeopardy! champ Buzzy Cohen, Big Bang Theory vet Mayim Bialik, Today‘s Savannah Guthrie and GMA co-hosts George Stephanopoulos and Robin Roberts? (For the record, the remaining guest-host roster includes CNBC’s David Faber and sportscaster Joe Buck.) Vote below!