Jonathan Frakes’ stature in the “Star Trek” Universe just keeps rising.
The affable actor, author, producer and director continues to distinguish himself behind the camera in past projects like “Star Trek: First Contact” and “Star Trek: Insurrection” or helming pivotal episodes in newer Paramount+ series like “Star Trek: Discovery,” “Star Trek: Picard” and most recently for “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”
No matter where Jonathan Frakes appears in the credits, one can expect a healthy dose of humanity, heroics and humor and nowhere is this more evident than in the amusing “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” Season 2 crossover with “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” “Those Old Scientists.”
In a new interview with Variety, the Pennsylvania-born filmmaker discusses his 45-year Hollywood career as it concerns the Gene Roddenberry-conceived sci-fi world of “Star Trek” and its many variations on the big and small screens over the decades.
From his co-starring gig as Commander Will Riker in “Star Trek: The Next Generation“, then onto TV directorial duties on “The Next Generation” as well as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager” while graduating up to big-budget feature films, Frakes is omnipresent.
When all tallied up, Frakes has been a part of 221 different “Star Trek” episodes over the course of 36 years and he’s still going strong with unbridled creative energy and a collaborative spirit.
Episode 7 of “Strange New Worlds” was his 222nd “Star Trek” endeavor that found “Star Trek: Lower Decks” animated characters Brad Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Beckett Mariner (Tawny Newsome) entering a strange portal to merge back in time as live-action refugees encountering “Strange New Worlds” Captain Christopher Pike and his legendary U.S.S. Enterprise crew.
“I didn’t campaign for it,” Frakes told Variety. “But I’m told that the philosophy on ‘Strange New Worlds’ is that they try to assign a director to an episode that would be a good fit. And I think because of all the ‘Star Trek’ canon involved and because I knew the tone of ‘Lower Decks’ because I played Riker on that show, it made sense.”
With a galaxy of experience on his four-decade “Star Trek” resume, it’s no surprise Frakes had previously directed Anson Mount, Ethan Peck and Rebecca Romijn when those major roles were first being developed on “Star Trek: Discovery” Season 2.
“I knew from having done ‘Discovery’ for a year with Anson that he is really sneaky funny, even though you don’t see much of that with Pike,” Frakes adds. “Rebecca, she’s a singer as well as a comedian. And Ethan has a delightful sense of humor. So I secretly knew that this was going to be a playground.”
According to the interview, Frakes was extremely excited at the prospect of allowing Quaid and Newsome free rein to improvise some of their exchanges, an idea eagerly supported by executive producers Henry Alonso Myers and Akiva Goldsman.
“Which doesn’t happen a lot on ‘Star Trek,’ as you probably have heard,” notes Frakes. “I mean, especially in our f***ing show, [“The Next Generation”] they were so strict. It was like we were doing Shakespeare or Chekhov.”
One of those awesome improvs had Mariner revealing to Boimler that, “Look, I’m gonna keep this like 100 percent profesh, but I was thoroughly unprepared for how hot young Spock was going to be,” delivering the funniest line in the entire episode.
“It was just fantastic,” Frakes says. “Maybe this will open some eyes.”
“Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” streams exclusively on Paramount+.