Frakes Calls Star Trek 'Best Job In the World'By Michelle
July 28, 2004 - 11:57 PM
"I'm sure you've heard this before, but it's the best job in the world," said Jonathan Frakes of his years playing Will Riker and directing episodes and feature films in the Star Trek franchise. Despite some problems with typecasting and disagreements with the producers in recent years, Frakes expressed no regrets about his involvement.
In a long interview with IGN FilmForce covering his career from college through the present, Frakes discussed his initial desire to be a theatre actor and the development of his interest in directing, which led to his latest project, a feature film remake of the television show Thunderbirds. But as for Star Trek, which was the first job that gave him long-term career stability, "I haven't heard any talk of another film, and I've seen all of the parties involved."
A psychology major in college, Frakes said he "saw how much fun the actors were having" and switched departments, studying classical theatre and contemporary American dramatic techniques. When he started to be cast on television shows, "the guest spots were invariably the villains...it always seems ironic to me that everything that I did until Cmdr. Riker on Star Trek was...the villain." He joked that he could not have been typecast, however, because "I don't think that you get typecast until you've been cast," and before Star Trek: The Next Generation, his roles were not widely-known.
Frakes knew co-stars Michael Dorn (Worf) and Brent Spiner (Data) as well as frequent guest star John de Lancie (Q) from other work and auditions before being cast on The Next Generation, and speaks with fondness of most of his eventual co-stars, several of whom he considers good friends. Executive producer Rick Berman is a friend as well, though Frakes admitted that he clashed at times over Star Trek: Insurrection, which Frakes directed after the very successful Star Trek: First Contact.
"One of the great things that Rick did with Nemesis was go outside of the family and hire a proper A-level movie writer in John Logan," Frakes said, expressing frustration with the Insurrection script although he had admired the work of screenwriter Michael Piller on Deep Space Nine, for which Frakes also directed and upon which he appeared as a guest star. Frakes thought that First Contact "was a tough act to follow, and I think that ultimately - I said, 'We're only as good as what's in the script.'"
The last film, Nemesis, felt to Frakes "like a fabulous episode. 'Let's do the episode about cloning [Picard].'" He noted that "the marching orders were to go back to action blow-em-up, because that's what the core fans missed," but "Picard was a diplomat, as opposed to Kirk." Saying that he felt it was a missed opportunity not to have had a film involving Q, Frakes revealed that he had made the suggestion several times but the producers chose different directions.
Frakes sounded pleased with the advance buzz on Thunderbirds, stating that "word has been good" among viewers and in the London papers, noting that the comments were from "skeptical readers and writers" who were nearly as protective of the original Thunderbirds as Trek fans were with Kirk and Spock when The Next Generation went on the air. "But, it turns out, you know," he laughed, "we were better."
The full interview, in which Frakes spoke about many other aspects of his career and personal life with his wife and children, is at IGN FilmForce.