By Chaz and Sherry Lipp
On the weekend of December 12-14, 2014, Jonathan Frakes – best known, of course, as Commander Will Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation – will tackle two Official Star Trek Conventions: San Francisco and the Seattle area (Bellevue, to be exact). He’ll be appearing as part of a special Next Generation reunion, along with Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Brent Spiner, Denise Crosby, and John de Lancie.
|Photo: Star Trek: Nemesis – CBS/Paramount|
We had the exciting privilege of speaking with Mr. Frakes about a variety of topics, including Trek conventions, his TV and movie directing career, and more. Our interviews were conducted separately and are very different. To check out Sherry’s full interview, visit Blogcritics. To read Chaz’s interview, visit The Morton Report. However, in the interest of crafting concise interviews, there was additional material from each of our discussions that didn’t make the final edit on those sites. Read on for more with Jonathan Frakes that you won’t see in either of the above interviews! And visit the Creation Entertainment website for further details about the upcoming Star Trek conventions.
Chaz: Can you share some recollections of the very first episode of Next Generation that you directed, season three’s “The Offspring”?
Frakes: I was so over-prepared in addition to being blessed with this fabulous script about Data building his daughter, written as a spec by the wonderful René Echevarria, who became one of our executive producers, and I went on to work with on Castle. It was his first script, it was my first directing episode, and it was a Data episode which is always – or about 90 percent of the time – fantastic. The crew and cast were, in spite of pretending to be difficult, incredibly supportive. It was the luck of the draw. If it had been a crappy episode I probably wouldn’t have had such a rapid trajectory into the opportunities to continue.
Chaz: How did your episodic directing experience give way to the opportunity to direct the theatrical release Star Trek: First Contact?
Frakes: The reason it happened, Sherry Lansing was the head of Paramount at the time and in her wisdom she said, “I don’t know about Star Trek.” She said this to Berman. She said, “So you produce the movie and you hire the director you want to hire.” So naturally they went after a lot of the big-name action guys. But Ridley Scott didn’t want to do Star Trek 8, right? So it came down to in-house and I was thrilled for that opportunity. I still thank him.
Chaz: You directed the Oscar-winning F. Murray Abraham in the next Trek movie, Insurrection. Were you nervous about working with him at all?
Frakes: The thing is, Murray had a reputation for eating directors for breakfast. Much like Sir Ben Kingsley, who I also had the privilege of directing [Thunderbirds (2004)]. And I’ve got to tell you, both of them couldn’t have been more like a pussycat. If you let them know that you know what you’re doing, they’re so happy to work for you. I think they get these reputations because they don’t suffer fools, you know? But Murray’s brilliant and he’s great on Homeland now.
Sherry: How did your appearance as Riker, along with Marina Sirtis as Troi, on the series finale of Star Trek: Enterprise come about?
Frakes: I always thought that was a well-intended idea that went terribly bad. If I had been Scott Bakula and my show had been cancelled and they had invited members of the original cast to come and participate in the last episode, I don’t know that I would have been able to be the gentleman that he was and is.
Rick Berman called me, I was working in London, and he said he wanted me and Marina to come in, as a ‘Valentine’ to the fans for the last episode of Enterprise. We jumped at it because we love working together. I mean, we’d still be doing the show if we had our way. It sounded good. And then it dawned on me that we were coming in on a show that had been cancelled prematurely. It was a real credit to Bakula about what a gentleman he was.
Sherry: Connor Trinneer [“Trip” Tucker on Enterprise] said he really loved working with you when I saw him at the Seattle Star Trek convention last year.
Frakes: Oh, he’s the best. He’s a wonderful actor – he needs a bigger career.
|Photo: Star Trek: Enterprise – CBS/Paramount|
Sherry: Aside from that aspect, what did you think of the Enterprise finale itself?
Frakes: I never saw it. I haven’t seen a lot of the shows. I find myself working in different cities and I sometimes I come across it on the hotel television. So, I watch it for a minute and I think, “I don’t remember that person, I don’t think I ever saw this episode, I don’t remember this storyline, I don’t remember this guest star.” I mean, there’s some I’m very fond of that I’ve seen a number of times and they’ll always be in my heart. I wasn’t a fan of science fiction until I got this job.
Chaz: You directed the season one Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode, “The Well.” Great episode, great guest-starring role for Peter MacNicol.
Frakes: I love Peter MacNicol. Although I was allegedly doing the Asgard-themed Thor tie-in, we were led to believe that we would actually get footage from Thor: The Dark World, which opened the week that “The Well” aired. What we were given was a shot of his hammer, a shot of his foot, and shot of a spaceship slitting down through London. [Laughs] I talked to some of the people this year about Agents and they assured me that they will, in fact, get some real Avengers in there. I’m afraid that the audience is going to lose their patience with being teased and not getting to see any of the real Avengers. But it seems to be surviving. They know what they’re doing. I love Jed Whedon and the rest who run the show in Joss’ absence. And that’s a great cast, too.
Sherry: I noticed you Tweeted about Whiplash, the new movie about a college jazz program. Seeing as you’re a trombone player, what did you think of the movie?
Frakes: Well, it was like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t stop. I gotta think J.K. Simmons is going to get a nomination for an Academy Award. It was tough. I was really surprised the filmmakers didn’t include any reaction from anyone else in the orchestra, except the other drummers who were competing for that position. I kept wanting the camera to pan over and see what the trombone player thought, or any of the other players. But I thought it was a very strong film. I also loved Birdman, which I just saw. It was brilliantly shot and wonderfully acted.
Sherry: You brought your jazz interest into the The Next Generation?
Frakes: I had a lunch with Maurice Hurley, who used to run the show. And we talked about what we liked to do and what our hobbies were. The next thing I know, scripts start to come out with Riker playing the trombone. I was thrilled.
Special thanks to Jonathan Frakes for taking the time for these interviews