LeVar Burton never thought he’d play Geordi La Forge again.
He never even thought there’d be an onscreen “Next Generation” reunion after “Star Trek: Picard” was announced four and a half years ago. On that day, August 4, 2018, when Patrick Stewart took the stage at the Star Trek Las Vegas convention to say that the later life of his beloved captain would be explored in a follow-up series, Burton and Jonathan Frakes were excitingly peering out from backstage to support their friend as he had his moment. But Burton never expected to get in uniform as La Forge once more.
“In fact, quite the opposite,” Burton said in a new interview with IndieWire. “We were quite certain that we would not be a part of ‘Picard.’ This was Patrick’s opportunity to play the character, but to play stories that were in large measure unrelated to that part of his life in terms of how close we were on the Enterprise-D. So this came as a huge surprise, but mostly because we had all believed that that ship had sailed, that the opportunity to close the circle, if you will, had passed a long time ago.”
It was about 10 years ago that Burton gave up hope of a proper “Next Gen” sendoff. Now, he and his fellow castmates, not seen all together onscreen since the 2002 film “Star Trek: Nemesis,” finally have one on “Picard.” And he’s made his return to Starfleet alongside his actual daughter, Mica Burton, who’s cultivated a following in the geek and gaming world herself as a host and professional cosplayer. Mica Burton plays Geordi’s daughter, Alandra, on the show alongside Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut as his other daughter, Sidney.
“The more I talk about it the more I realize just how much it means to me that my career has come to the point where I felt comfortable sharing space with my dad in a way that I didn’t feel like I would be looked at as the ‘nepo baby,’ when ‘Picard’ Season 3 came around,” Mica Burton said.
“I mean, what are the odds that these stars have aligned that way? Because my whole purpose in my career when I started out in the geek world was to not be LeVar Burton’s daughter. I wanted to be Mica Burton. Mica Burton the gamer, Mica Burton the cosplayer, Mica Burton the host. But now being able to feel comfortable having this acting role with him as I pursue my acting career to its fullest, it’s just so freaking cool. The universe really gave us a present. I’m a happy little nerd.”
The stars aligned also in having Terry Matalas as showrunner for Season 3, since he’s a self-described fan of the “Berman-verse”: the astonishing explosion of “Star Trek” from the late 1980s through 2005 overseen by producer Rick Berman once Gene Roddenberry handed him the keys to “The Next Generation.” Matalas and his writers’ room know their “Trek” lore so well that the very names of La Forge’s daughters, Alandra and Sidney, actually come from the alternate future presented in the “Next Gen” series finale “All Good Things…” in which he mentions being the father of daughters named… Alandra and Sidney.
“I will tell you that Mica gave me for Father’s Day a framed picture,” Burton said. “And there are two images, one of Geordi and one of Alandra, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
“It is my favorite part that we are both in Engineer Gold,” Mica added.
LeVar is quick to settle a question that fans have raised: Given the age of Geordi’s daughters, was the character a father by the time of “Nemesis” 20 years ago? Or even by the time of “First Contact” or “Insurrection”?
“No, I believe that this part of Geordi’s life came after ‘Nemesis’ and ‘Insurrection,'” Burton said. “That it was when Geordi made a decision to get out of the skies and teach that he settled down long enough to establish roots in a family situation, to get married and to have kids.”
Season 3 really has become a “Next Gen” reunion, but more than that: not about reliving the past, but about seeing where beloved characters are in the present after a long absence.
The Burtons make their debut in the sixth episode of the season, “The Bounty,” the title of which has a very unexpected inspiration from another part of “Trek” lore. Geordi is now Commodore La Forge, the officer in charge of the Fleet Museum — the old Spacedock turned “final resting place” for some of Starfleet’s most iconic starships — and he’s a teacher. He’s still an engineer at heart, though, and there’s a funny moment where Todd Stashwick’s Capt. Shaw, a former engineer himself, geeks out over meeting Geordi the way Donald Glover did on “Community” about meeting LeVar.
The reverence fans hold for LeVar is powerful, beyond that of usual celebrity: it’s a testament to the powerful effect of not just “Next Gen” but “Reading Rainbow” and “Roots” on viewers’ lives. That he’s revered as an educator and communicator, someone who people looked up to when they were growing up, as well as an actor. So he knew just how to react to Capt. Shaw’s unglued fanboy moment.
“In the acting profession we call it sense memory. And I was able to draw on my experiences as LeVar Burton while being LeVar Burton playing Geordi La Forge in that moment with Todd.”
Season 3 has been a dream come true for “Next Gen” fans, with many now hoping that their sendoff in “Picard” isn’t that final, final sendoff after all. But if it is, LeVar says it will be satisfying.
“We went into this thinking this is the chance to close the circle that we didn’t get decades ago, right? We didn’t know that our last film was going to be our last film. And so this is an unexpected gift. And yeah, I feel like I can absolutely walk away satisfied, really satisfied. I feel full.
“And the response to this season of ‘Picard’ has been clamorous in its affirmation that this is pretty special TV. They don’t want to let go of this new cast of the next generation of ‘The Next Generation.’ And so, one never knows, do one? I’m absolutely fine with this being the end.
“And if it isn’t, that’d be cool too.”
One can dream.