LeVar Burton went down memory lane on Saturday (Jan. 23) as he reminisced about the groundbreaking TV mini-series Roots on its 44th anniversary.
Alex Haley’s novel, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, about the enslavement of his ancestor and his American descendants, was published in 1976 and premiered on TV Jan. 23, 1977.
Burton was a 19-year-old theater major at the University of Southern California when he landed the lead role of the young Kunta Kinte.
Burton said he owes “a debt of gratitude to the inimitably majestic” Louis Gossett Jr. and many others who “took him under their wing.”
He also shared what happened behind the scenes with O.J. Simpson. The former NFL running back played Kadi Touray, a man traveling through Kunta Kinte’s village in Africa. Touray chases Kunta after he runs into Touray’s daughter during his Mandinka warrior training.
Roots was a ratings hit. More than four decades later, it still holds the record as the second-most watched series finale on American TV, according to TVWeb.com.
Hollywood Reporter noted that the series won a Golden Globe and Peabody Award, as well as nine Emmy awards.