Wesley Snipes almost played Geordi La Forge in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Where previously surfaced documentation from the Star Trek: The Next Generation's pre-production listed Snipes as one possibility to play the role that ultimately went to LeVar Burton, Snipes confirmed it in a new interview with Collider for the release of Coming 2 America. According to Snipes, he remembers being close to claiming the role. But Burton's audition (his name is not on the same document that lists Snipes, suggesting he entered the process later on) seems to have changed the casting team's minds and landed him his role on the Enterprise.
"Yes, that is true," Snipes says, confirming his auditioning for the role. "I think that was in the eighties. Yeah. And was disappointed that I didn't get it. Not as disappointed as I was not getting the role in the first Coming To America, but that actually turned out pretty good. Because I think if I had gotten the role that I would have been in television more than film, and maybe would have been never got a chance to do everything else I've done."
As he says, missing out on that television role may have turned out to be for the best for his career. He also expresses nothing but respect for Burton's performance.
"Yes. That's how I remember it. Yeah. It was close," Snipe says. "But yeah, a greater actor than I went on to make it famous. I applaud him, my friend, great and wonderful."
Burton went on to play Geordi in seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, four films, and the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Timeless." In a previous interview, he expressed how much Star Trek meant to him.
"I felt a responsibility, having been an enormous fan of the original series, Star Trek," Burton said during a CBC radio interview. "I'm a huge fan of the science fiction genre, always have been. Science fiction is my go-to body of literature for just pure pleasure and enjoyment. When I want to read something for me, it's generally science fiction or fantasy.
"Star Trek was one of the very few representations of the future I encountered as a kid where people who looked like me were represented. So in an era in my and in America where it was rare to see black people on TV except on the nightly news during the Vietnam War era when most of the soldiers we were sending to the theater of were black kids, Star Trek was huge. What Gene Roddenberry, as a storyteller, was saying to me was, 'When the future comes, there's a place for you.' That was... it's hard to underestimate the power that seeing oneself reflected in the popular culture, what impact it has. It validates you. Absent seeing yourself represented, or people who are like you represented in popular culture, you are sent a very dangerous message, a message that says, 'You don't matter,' that you're not important. So you know, quite naturally, I clung onto that example of black people in the future."
Coming 2 America is streaming now on Amazon Prime.
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