Jonathan Frakes

Jonathan Frakes was born on 19 August, 1952 in central Pennsylvania. In 1978 he moved to Los Angeles and made several guest appearances on television shows including
Charlie's Angels, Highway to Heaven, The Waltons, and The Dukes of Hazzard. He landed the role of Stanley Hazard in the civil war epic, North and South, where he met his future wife Genie Francis. In early 1987, Jonathan auditioned for the role that would bring him worldwide fame, that of Commander William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Over the next seven years he also discovered his talent for directing. He directed eight episodes in total, as well as episodes for Deep Space Nine and Voyager. In 1996 he was announced as the director of Star Trek: First Contact. He received critical praise for his work on the film, which became the highest grossing movie in the franchise to date. In 1998, he was asked to direct the ninth Star Trek film, Insurrection, which received mixed reviews. Darren Rea spoke with him as the Special Collector's Edition of Star Trek: Insurrection was due to be released on DVD...

Darren Rea: Star Trek: Insurrection is release this month (August 2005) how do you view the DVD market? Are you happy to go back and visit something that you finished years ago, or once you've completed a project do you just want to leave it behind and move onto the next thing?

Jonathan Frakes: I'm proud of it and thankful that it happened... and may it live long and prosper.

DR: Which do you get the most satisfaction from acting or directing?

JF: Directing, for me, is a little more fulfilling, in that it's 24/7 and you're a little more involved in the project.

DR: The Thunderbirds movie wasn't received as well as expected. Why do you think that was? And, if you could go back, is there anything that you would do differently?

JF: I've struggled with this question for a long time. I think perhaps making our heroes so young - Alan in particular - didn't sit well with the English audience who were familiar with the original show. That, I think was what we weren't prepared for. I'm very proud of the movie. It's wonderful. It plays well, was well shot and well acted. I think it was a very aggressive anti-Thunderbirds campaign that we fell victim to. The press over there is pretty wicked, very evil - much more than I think than in the States. I have this feeling in the back of my head that as the years go by and families will by this for their kids, that kids will grow up loving this movie and so it will have a long shelf life.

DR: What part of the movie industry would you say you least like?

JF: The politics. The talking out of both sides of the face. It's not everyone, but when it does happen, it's embarrassing. I'm in a situation now where I'm working for a producer called Dean Devlin who is working independently of the studio. We are making the movie directly for the network, who have been incredibly supportive. In the trenches it's just us making the movie. It gives us a great sense of creative freedom.

DR: Do you think the industry's worse or better now than in the days when the producer was king?

JF: Worse or better? Do you know, I don't know. That's a good question. Is it worse or better? I think from day to day the answer to that question would change [laughs].

DR: If you could play any historical character in a movie, or if you could direct a film about any character that you admire who would that be, and why?

JF: I'm fascinated by the musician Duke Ellington and I'd love to see a bio pic about his life and his influence. Again though, It's a hard genre to get the studio to get behind.

DR: For the rest of your life Star Trek will follow you around. How do you feel about that?

JF: I have no qualms about talking about it. I'm very proud of having been a part of it, and it is what has allowed me to do what I'm doing now. It was 18 years of our lives and it has given all of us some wonderful things, not the least of which is our friendships.

DR: What do you think about the current state of the Trek franchise - there are no plans for a new movie and Enterprise has been cancelled...

JF: I think it's just a period of regrouping. I think the market was saturated with Star Trek. I'm sure that was one of the problems with Nemesis - that there was a Star Trek on TV. One of the problems with Enterprise was that there has been four Star Trek series' before it. Even the strength of the real hard-core Trekkers isn't strong enough to carry a show in this marketplace. I have a feeling that some time will allow everyone to have a little more hunger for a new Star Trek endeavour.

DR: Riker has his own ship in Nemesis and he's also the main character in the Titan book series. Have you read any of those books?

JF: I haven't but I've heard about them and it would be great to see Riker and Troi go out and have their own event. I'd be thrilled. Marina [Sirtis] and I had always talked about doing a half hour Star Trek sitcom - an idea we were half kidding about. The Riker's in Space.

DR: If Paramount ever decided to make a Titan TV series or movie would you be interested in reprising Riker?

JF: Sign me up!

DR: If you could plan Riker's death scene, how would you have him go out?

JF: Heroically! Riker would go out heroically in an exhibit of incredible loyalty. Riker is a very strong, honourable, loyal, devoted character and his death should reflect that.

DR: A lot of people are fanatical about Star Trek, is there anything in your life that you are just as fanatical about?

JF: My kids [laughs]. Do they count? There's nothing that I care about more than my family. I see people who I think may have substituted a family with Star Trek. But, I suppose, that's not such a bad thing.

DR: If you weren't working in this industry, what would be your ideal job?

JF: When I was younger I fancied the idea of being a jazz trombone player - playing all those wonderful standards night after night - and before that I wanted to be a psychiatrist. But now, I'd be happy to just have a bait shop [laughs].

DR: What are you working on at the moment?

JF: I'm currently in South Africa directing a telefilm called The Librarian. It stars Noah Wyle, from E.R., and Bob Newhart and the beautiful English actress Natascha McElhone. We'll finish that at the end of August or beginning of September.

DR: Thank you for your time.

With thanks to Kate Dauman at Greenroom Digital

Star Trek: Insurrection - Special Collector's Edition is available to buy on DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment from the 01 August 2005

Buy this DVD for £18.74 (RRP: £24.99) by clicking here

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