Wesley Snipes came close to playing Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation before LeVar Burton ultimately landed the role. Though Burton was already famous for hosting Reading Rainbow and starring on Roots, Geordi became a career-defining role for Burton with the actor reprising the role in a series of movies after the TV show ended its run. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role at this point, but if Burton hadn’t auditioned, the visor-wearing engineer could very well have been Snipes.
In a recent interview with Collider, Wesley Snipes was directly asked about the rumors that he was up for the role of Geordi La Forge. He confirms that he had in fact auditioned and was “disappointed” that he wasn’t cast, but looking back at it now, he’s grateful for the way things ultimately played out. From the interview:
“Yes, that is true. I think that was in the eighties. Yeah. And I 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 [Geordi] 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.
Snipes was then asked just how close he came to getting cast as Geordi La Forge and if he was in the final few.
“Yes. That’s how I remember it. Yeah. It was close. But yeah, a greater actor than I went on to make it famous. I applaud him, my friend, great and wonderful.”
Geordi isn’t the only role Snipes missed out on in the 1980s. As mentioned above, he also auditioned for Eriq La Salle’s role as Soul Glo heir Darryl Jenks in the original Coming to America movie. While he missed out on that audition, he was able to shine more than three decades later in the sequel Coming 2 America as General Izzi. Many fans say Snipes steals the show in the sequel, so maybe this makes up for losing the role of Darryl to La Salle in the original movie.
If Snipes had been busy playing Geordi La Forge in the Star Trek universe, he may never have gotten the chance to star in the Blade movie trilogy. That role had become synonymous with Snipes as a career-defining role of his own. For years, Snipes had been trying to get a new Blade movie off the ground before Marvel opted to reboot the series with Mahershala Ali taking over the role. Still, as we’ve already seen with Coming 2 America, Snipes will again have more opportunities to shine elsewhere.
As for Burton, the Geordi actor stands among the most popular candidates to serve as a new permanent host for Jeopardy! after the death of Alex Trebek. A popular fan petition has called for this to happen and Burton himself recently said he’s been preparing his whole life for the job. Several other celebrities have been named as interim guest hosts until a permanent host is named, but Burton wasn’t among them. You can read the full interview with Snipes at Collider.