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Jonathan Frakes Interview

Jonathan Frakes Interview

In a recent interview with Sci Fi, Jonathan Frakes talks about directing Trek films, He's long loving marriage to Genie Francis, Thomas Riker, and the Riker Strut.

Let's start with something at the most basic end of the spectrum, for people who may not know Star Trek, but also for those who've been affected by it in some meaningful way. Why should people watch Star Trek?

The vision of the future is probably the pat answer. I would think you should watch Star Trek because it’s great TV entertainment. It’s something where you can sit down with your entire family and proudly know that what you are about to see is not going to embarrass you or humiliate you and that the message and the way the message is related are morally, ethically and visually sound.

How is Jonathan Frakes like Commander William T. Riker?

He’s tall. He walks funny. He’s losing his hair. He plays the trombone. He has, at least from the second season onward, a glint in his eye. I was told during the first season by the late, great Gene Rodenberry that he wanted Riker to have a Gary Cooper stance and presence and never to smile. It’s very hard for me not to smile so I spent the first season being very rigid – and you can see it in the show – Riker’s really stiff and rigid, trying desperately not to smile and finally I think Gene, and other people who leapt in, said maybe we should let a little more Frakes seep into Riker.

At that point we had a writer on the show named Maurice Hurley who was executive producing with Rick Berman and he was a big advocate of writing for the actors, so they put the trombone stuff in for Riker (because I play the trombone­), an appreciation of jazz and I think it was Maurice’s fantasty that Riker starts to hit on some alien women in the tradition of The Great Captain Kirk. There were interesting encounters with women with rubber glued to their heads.

What about Thomas Riker, the dark side? Do you ever feel like you could have been darker and let rip a bit more?

Let me tell you something about Thomas Riker. Thomas is William T. Riker’s doppelganger, or clone, curiously played by me in LeVar Burton’s directorial debut. Thomas Riker also appeared on Deep Space Nine – Nana Visitor’s character let him go to prison and never bailed him out. What I’ve always found interesting about Thomas is that he could have been more villainous and evil, I’m sure. It was a challenge.

I never really accomplished the division that Brent did with his split Data/Lore, those two wonderful Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde characters, but what I remember most about Thomas Riker was Marina Sirtis – who plays Counsellor Troi, my wonderful, favourite acting partner and TV and movie wife – said to me in all seriousness, “Jonathan, I think Thomas Riker is much cuter than Will Riker”. How she came to that conclusion I’m not sure. Why? I’m not sure. But she swears by it.

Were there any times when Genie might have been a bit perturbed by your on-screen chemistry with Marina Sirtis?

I don’t think Genie is ever perturbed by my on-screen chemistry. She and Marina are Frake-buds. What’s fun is to go out with the two of them and have people recognise how lucky I am to be with both of my wives. My wife has a relationship, a 25 year marriage to a character called Luke on the show General Hospital, so there’s a long history of our family being married to other people!

Let’s talk about your back. Everybody knows your back was hurt moving furniture but what I’d like to know is the full story.

People are interested in this?

Absolutely. That walk! People have got to know.

Well the walk is stolen from an actor named John Cullum but I think it might be a direct result of the pulled muscles behind the scapula. When I went to New York City I was arguably the worst waiter in the history of New York – as a struggling actor being a waiter is part of your “coming of age”. I was working lunches at a fancy-schmancy French restaurant on the Upper West Side and I had unfortunately opened a bottle of red wine into a woman’s lap, which was messy at best, but some time during that period I said to the owner of the restaurant, “I need to work nights here because I’m an actor and I need to go out an pound the pavement. I’ve got to try to get a job.”

And he looked at me in the eye and frankly said, “You’re not good enough to work here at night."

So I became a moving man and I signed up with the unfortunately named moving company The Walk-Up King & His Trustworthy Stepbrothers. I was one of the Trustworthy Stepbrothers with my dear friend, a songwriter named Tom Skyler, who’s in Nashville, and at one point in a walk-up on the West Side we were moving a small piano, which is something stupid to move with two people, and I remember hearing Skyler’s usual baritone change to a voice that sounded something like this (pained high-pitched whisper), “ Jona… Jonathaaan?” and I knew there was trouble on that end of the piano. So I tried to take the weight on my end of the piano and hence now we have what is Riker’s walk. Now there is much more information than you need! (source Sci Fi)

Read the full article here.

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