Tag Archives: LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton in Double Time With ‘Reading Rainbow’ App, New Series

LeVar Burton is in a whirlwind of activity as he prepares for the launch of his “Reading Rainbow” app.

“This has been my life for the last few years, every single day along the way,” enthuses the actor, who helped countless kids develop a love for reading as host and executive producer of PBS’s 26 Emmy-winning, 1983-2006 “Reading Rainbow.”

“This has been one of my life goals.  I’ve been wanting to get ahold of the ‘Reading Rainbow’ brand for a long, long time and take it in a direction that would work for today’s kids.  I’m a big technology fan.  What we have today affords a level of engagement that’s tremendous.  We’re all captivated by these tablet devices.”

LeVar tells us his daughter graduated from high school over the weekend and his granddaughter graduates from high school this week.  And after that, he’ll be throwing himself into promotion for the project.

“We’ll be launching the 19th in New York.  The app will be in stores on the 20th.  I’ll be on Jimmy Fallon that day, and do a radio press tour.  I’ll be online with mommy bloggers, talking to reporters.  We’ll really be making a full court press,” says the amiable actor, who rose to fame as Kunta Kinte in the groundbreaking “Roots” mini series.  “I think this might be the first time a celebrity is going on a press tour for an app, not a movie or television show.  It’s a sign of the changing nature of things in this time.”

It doesn’t hurt that Burton is also stepping back into the TV series spotlight come July 9, in TNT’s “Perception,” which has Eric McCormack as an FBI consultant/genius neuroscientist who has a uniquely enhanced view of the world — by way of his barely-controlled schizophrenia.

“Star Trek: The Next Generation” veteran Burton became involved due to his past association with show creators Ken Biller and Mike Sussman.  “They worked on ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ and I was a director on a lot of those.  Ken is one of the smartest writers I know.  I knew that he would handle mental illness and how this man’s brain operates in a really sophisticated and compassionate way — and he has not disappointed.  The episodes have not disappointed,” says Burton, who plays a dean at the university where McCormack’s character works on the show.  “And Eric — he’s one of the most talented actors we have in the business.  I think his fans from ‘Will & Grace’ will be really amazed.”

Belinda Carlisle counts on yoga and chanting for ‘Dancing With the Stars’ assist

Belinda Carlisle

Belinda Carlisle


Many of this year’s celebrity “Dancing with the Stars” contestants have youth on their side, but the Go Go’s Belinda Carlisle tells us she has her own secret weapons. “I chant every day and do a ton of yoga. Besides keeping you flexible, it really does change you emotionally and keep you calm,” says Carlisle, who is a dedicated Buddhist. “I’ve been practicing heavily for four years, and I just know from experience it makes a big difference in everything. I think if I didn’t have that, I’d be a lot more crazed.”

Carlisle, who certainly had her wilder days with the Go Go’s, says she’s also being assiduous when it comes to taking care of herself. “Everybody knows that I have to be in bed by 8:30. It takes precedence over everything else. I’m 50,” she points out. “I’m one of the oldest contestants, so I have to take extra care. Plus, this is a unique experience, so I might as well give it my all. I don’t want to do anything half-assed.”

With the new season of “DWTS” launching tonight (3/9), Carlisle tells us she’s just trying to enjoy the ride as long as she’s lucky enough to be on it. “I started the first couple of weeks feeling like I was 100 years old, but now I’m adapting physically. I’m finding the salsa pretty easy. I learned it in three days. The waltz took two weeks to learn because it’s about restraint, and that’s something that I don’t do very well,” she adds with a laugh.

Luckily she has a good partner to keep her in check. “I don’t think I could have a better partner than Jonathan [Roberts]. We have great chemistry, and we have a lot of fun, which I think is the main thing.”

THE BIG SCREEN SCENE: “We don’t have a clue yet what she’s got,” says filmmaker Johnathan Demme — referring to his “Rachel Getting Married” star Anne Hathaway.

“I have to laugh because people have the perception that Anne is really good at certain kinds of things, and then every time she does something new, she redefines herself. Did you see her sing and dance on the Oscar show?” he asks. Of course, Hathaway was a nominee this year for Demme’s movie — which gets its DVD release Tuesday (3/10) — for playing the difficult, fresh-from-rehab sister of the title character played by Rosemarie DeWitt. He says of Hathaway, “She’s my new daughter — don’t tell her father. If she chooses her parts well, she’s going to blow our minds again and again and will create a body of work up there with the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Denzel Washington — any of the greats. Now she’s playing the White Queen in Tim Burton‘s ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and I can’t wait to see what she does with that.”

In fact, he says, it was the prospect of making the movie with Hathaway that convinced him to do it. The “Silence of the Lambs” Oscar-winning director, whose credits also include “Philadelphia” and “the Manchurian Candidate,” has been sticking to documentaries for a while, because that’s the way he likes it.

He’s soon to debut his “Neil Young Trunk Show” concert movie at the SXSW Film Festival — and is currently filming a documentary about the late Bob Marley for which he’s been traveling to Jamaica. “This is a healthy place for me to be. I don’t function that well in kind of formalized situations. I’ve done all that,” Demme says. “I like doing things where you don’t have to worry about opening up in 1,000 theaters. You don’t have to return a kajillion dollars. What I’m doing is a blast without the stress.”

HERE ‘N’ THERE: Country star Big Kenny Alphin is biting off an awfully big acting challenge for himself with his “Free Like Me” independent feature that’s set to roll next month. He’s playing an alcoholic, depressed rock star who can’t stand to let anyone touch him, and who goes off to the Caribbean to drink himself into oblivion. Casting is underway for subsidiary characters, including the housekeeper he encounters who starts him on a turnaround.

LeVar Burton is getting ready to do a staged reading of a piece called “The Caterer” at the Whitefire Theater in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. It’s described as the story of a man who “sells you your appropriate death.” Shivers! Cynthia Watros is also aboard.

And you have to wonder about a casting breakdown that went out for a new celebrity-pranking reality show. Forces involved were supposedly looking for stars interested in pulling pranks on friends and fans — with a nice little fee to go on top of it. And we do mean little: $100. Maybe the notice itself is a prank.

With reports by Emily Feimster.

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.