LeVar Burton Celebrates 'Roots' Anniversary With Production Anecdotes

LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte in 'Roots' (1977).
Everett Collection

LeVar Burton as Kunta Kinte in 'Roots' (1977).

"Thank you, Alex Haley for fulfilling the fullness of your destiny and sharing your family’s story with all of us," the actor says.

LeVar Burton on Saturday celebrated the 44th anniversary of Roots by pulling back the curtain on the production.

Based on the late Alex Haley's 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, the renowned television miniseries premiered on ABC on Jan. 23, 1977.

Burton, who played young Kunta Kinte, began to reminisce via Twitter by saying he was only 19 years old and a theater major at the University of Southern California when cast in the role.

"My first day on the set the legendary @IAmCicelyTyson played my mother, Bings Kinte. @DrMayaAngelou played my grandmother, Nyo Boto. I was in the big leagues, fo’ sho!" Burton wrote. "I was in absolute, reverential, awe of the company I found myself in. The sole reason I wasn’t intimidated was the actor’s certainty that I KNEW who the character was. I knew that kid. I was that kid! #KuntaKinte #ROOTS. Thank you, #AlexHaley for fulfilling the fullness of your destiny and sharing your family’s story with all of us."

For his iconic performance, Burton was nominated for an outstanding lead actor for a single appearance in a drama or comedy series Emmy.

"I owe a debt of gratitude to the inimitably majestic, @LouisGossettJr and so many more, for taking me under their wing and teaching me how to fly. #myROOTSstory #bydhttmwfi," the actor wrote.

Burton also shared an interesting story about his scene with O.J. Simpson, who played Kadi Touray.

"Fun Fact: In the first take of this scene with O.J., I ignored the blocking and during the chase, at the point he was supposed to catch me, I took off. He couldn’t catch me! The director, David Greene, scolded me for wasting everyone’s time. The Juice needed a 10 min breather," Burton wrote.

Roots was an enormous hit that produced massive ratings. The series received 37 Emmy nominations and won nine. It also won a Golden Globe (Best series - drama) and a Peabody Award.