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The View in Review

LeVar Burton Opens Up About His Relationship with Fred Rogers: He 'Encouraged Me to Be Myself'

"Fred and I met on the field of service," Burton said of the legendary host.
  • LeVar Burton on The View; Fred Rogers on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (Photos: ABC/Everett Collection)
    LeVar Burton on The View; Fred Rogers on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (Photos: ABC/Everett Collection)

    LeVar Burton received a standing ovation Thursday morning when he stopped by The View to discuss the new documentary about Reading Rainbow, Butterfly in the Sky. As Burton recalled his time on the iconic children's program, he opened up about his relationship with Fred Rogers, host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and the advice that has propelled him throughout his entire career.

    Though Burton says the idea of using television to educate children seemed "counterintuitive" in the early 1980s — "People at that time thought that television was the death-knell of educating America's kids — he was confident Reading Rainbow would work. "I believed [television] could be a really powerful ally, and that's kind of what I've built this part of my career on," he said. "Using the prevailing technology to promote literature, whether it's television — that engagement factor — tablet computers, this is kind of what I do."

    "When I first started doing Reading Rainbow, my son was very, very young, and I started talking directly to him when I was talking to the audience," Burton continued. "I really think that it helped me develop a rapport — that and Fred Rogers. Mister Rogers was a friend and mentor of mine."

    The Reading Rainbow host added that he and Rogers "met on the field of service," as Rogers was a Presbyterian minister, and Burton "studied with the Catholic priesthood" years prior. "Using our lives as fodder for something greater than ourselves is a key part of our DNA," he told The View's co-hosts. "Fred really encouraged me to be myself, share my authentic self with the audience, and establish a relationship with them that has paid off. I feel like I'm invested in all of y'all because I helped raise you, a little bit."

    This isn't the first time Burton has publicly thanked Rogers for his mentorship. Shortly after Rogers' death in 2003, Burton paid tribute to the icon in a eulogy published by Entertainment Weekly, writing, "Fred felt it was critical to acknowledge those who have helped us come into being. And Fred's legacy is that he is that person for so many of us."

    Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.

    TOPICS: LeVar Burton, ABC, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, The View, Fred Rogers