LeVar Burton Recalls His 'Tense' Discussions with “Reading Rainbow” Producers Over His Earring and 'Different Fads'

The longtime host explained how changes to his appearance during the course of the show became a sore point, but he was "more interested in my authenticity"

<p>Amy Sussman/Getty</p> LeVar Burton in Los Angeles, CA in March 2024.

Amy Sussman/Getty

LeVar Burton in Los Angeles, CA in March 2024.

Reading Rainbow may have inspired generations of children to read, but hosting the beloved show wasn’t always smooth sailing for LeVar Burton.

Burton, 67, remembers in the documentary Butterfly in the Sky how his evolving appearance, which included the addition of an earring, became a sore point with Reading Rainbow’s creators and producers, including Larry Lancit and Cecily Truett Lancit.

“I think that at some point, their decision to hire me might have, you know, bitten Larry and Cecily in the a-- a little bit, because I became very adamant that since they had hired me, then what they got was me,” Burton said.

Cecily, for her part, explained her frustrations with Burton growing facial hair in between the show's pilot and first season.

Related: LeVar Burton's 'Power' in Being 'Himself' on Reading Rainbow Ascends in New Doc Trailer (Exclusive)

<p>Everett </p> LeVar Burton on 'Reading Rainbow.'


LeVar Burton on 'Reading Rainbow.'

“We produced the pilot, and LeVar did not have any facial hair,” she said. “The first season came around, and I think it was Jill [Gluckson] who called, and she said, 'Okay, LeVar's got a mustache.' 'Well, tell him to shave it!' Ding ding ding ding! LeVar doesn't want to shave the mustache."

Gluckson, a producer on the series, added that every season, Burton came to set with a “different look,” which was an issue for Cecily, who wanted the actor to “look the same.”

“That's not the same guy who was in the season last time,” Cecily continued. “We're talking about children. He's a host. It makes me crazy thinking we have three seasons and you look different in each one.”

Burton said his changes to his looks eventually became the subject of “tense” discussions with Larry and Cecily.

Related: LeVar Burton Immortalized with Figurine Designed to Encourage Kids to Read

<p>Everett </p> LeVar Burton on 'Reading Rainbow.'


LeVar Burton on 'Reading Rainbow.'

“They were very tense. They were not inconsequential,” Burton explained. “And I was young and I was going through different fads. I had this earring. I had fallen in love with this woman, and she talked me into getting my ear pierced. At the time, it was problematic to Larry and Cecily, because they saw the changes that I was going through physically and the choices I was making as an impediment to the continuity."

"I was more interested in my authenticity," he continued. "I didn't care how anybody else perceived it. I was very, very insistent upon all the outward manifestations of myself being okay. I'd been told my whole life by society that there was something intrinsically wrong with me or undeserving of me because of the color of my skin, and I think that made me recalcitrant to give in.”

It's fair to say that Burton and Reading Rainbow’s producers eventually came to a mutual understanding, as the actor went on to host the children’s show for 21 seasons, from 1983 to 2006. During that time, it received 26 Daytime Emmy Awards for categories including outstanding children’s series and outstanding performer in a children’s series for Burton's inspiring performance.

Reading Rainbow also featured celebrity guest stars like Maya AngelouAngela BassettJames Earl JonesMartin Short and Whoopi Goldberg.

Related: 'Reading Rainbow' 's LeVar Burton Reads for Kids and Adults on Twitter Livestream amid Pandemic

<p>Everett</p> LeVar Burton (sporting an earring) with Whoopi Goldberg on 'Reading Rainbow.'


LeVar Burton (sporting an earring) with Whoopi Goldberg on 'Reading Rainbow.'

Goldberg, who appeared in the season 11 episode “Amazing Grace,” explained in Butterfly in the Sky her personal reasons for participating in the series.

“Now you may ask why would you do something like Reading Rainbow? I mean, you’re not making any money,” she said. “What is the pull? I can tell you why it was for me, because I’m dyslexic. So I learned to read long after I should've. Reading opens everything.”

Reflecting on Reading Rainbow’s legacy decades later, Cecily spoke warmly of Burton and his contributions to the show.

“The reading and the books is wonderful,” she said. “But I think the impact that LeVar had on the audience over years of being there and being who he was… These are his children.”

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer​​, from celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Butterfly in the Sky is available to watch through video on demand on services including Prime Video and iTunes.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.