Jonathan Frakes Interview On 'Leverage,' Brent Spiner, J.J. Abrams, 'Star Trek'
Johnathan Frakes was Star Trek’s Commander Willian T. Riker in the epic science fiction franchise. Now, he’s directing his former Trekkie cast mates on TBS’s new hot show, Leverage, alongside Mark Roskin. “They asked me if I’d like to direct and episode on Leverage, and I said I’d love to,” he told Uinterview exclusively. “And I got the chance to work with some people I’ve worked with before!”
Frakes grew up in Bellefonte, Penn., where he also majored and earned a degree in theater at Penn State. His career began with working at Marvel Comics where he dressed up as Captain America for the conventions. Frakes appeared in his first Broadway play, Shenandoah in 1975. Frakes appeared in Star Trek: Generation in 1984 and later starred in the rest of the Star Trek franchise as the Enterpise’s first officer.
In Leverage, Frakes finds himself reuniting once again with a couple of his former Star Trek family, Brent Spiner and Armin Shimerman, reminiscing old galactic times. When asked what it was like to reunite and work with familiar faces again, Frakes deadpanned: “Impossible! Brent and I have only worked together 18 years!”
- Q: What attracted you to directing this episode of Leverage? - Uinterview
- A: They asked me if I’d like to direct an episode of Leverage, and I said I’d love to. If you are a director on episodic TV, it’s the luck of the draw, but I got a good hand with this one. And I got a chance to work with some people I’ve worked with before!
- Q: The episode co-stars Star Trek alums Brent Spiner and Armin Shimerman. What was it like reuniting with them? - Uinterview
- A: Impossible! Brent and I have only worked together for 18 years. So there’s a bit of a short hand there. Armin has never forgiven me for cutting him out of Insurrection, which is the second Star Trek movie I did. So I was glad to actually give him a part where he made it to the screen. They are wonderful, reliable, clever actors. I was glad to give them something that didn’t involve rubber ears and gold painting!
- Q: Tell us a little about the episode. It revolves around an attempt to rig a court trial, right? - Uinterview
- A: One character is assigned jury duty as one of their Leverage aliases. He discovers that there is, in fact, more to the case than it appears. So, in true Leverage fashion, he takes on this huge corporate entity. With all different points of leverage, they find a hook. This is a courtroom drama taken over by our heroes. There’s always a bit of tongue-in-cheek which is always a big part of the show.
- Q: Working with Brent Spiner again, did you ever recall your Star Trek days together? - Uinterview
- A: He did do quite a few impressions of Patrick Stewart. I think he does the best Patrick Stewart of any of us. It's really part of the package when you hire Brent.
- Q: You are known as Two-Takes Frakes as a director. Why do you like speed in directing? - Uinterview
- A: I like to move fast. I think you have to move fast on TV. I know you have to if they are going ask you back. As important as telling the story well, is getting it done on-time and on-budget. I believe if you prepare well in advance, you can recognize what you want and move on and do the next set up. The cast and crew love to move fast.
- Q: With the rise of reality television do you think it is harder now to get a network to take a chance on innovative, scripted programming? - Uinterview
- A: That’s a great question. The rise of reality shows has made it difficult for audiences to latch on to a new drama. People have such short attention spans that it is hard to get people to watch a new show, which makes Leverage all the more successful for having done that. You need a cast that people can hook on to and Leverage has got it.
- Q: What do you think of J.J. Abrams’ radical shift in style and tone for the upcoming Star Trek movie? - Uinterview
- A: I’m actually very pro-J.J. Abrams. I had the privilege of visiting him on the Bridge. We also have a Maine connection: I live in Maine, he’s married to a women from Maine. J.J. is a huge fan of the Star Trek franchise. He’s a great storyteller as you can tell by Lost. He knows how to use a camera. He’s the hottest thing in town right now. And they gave him a fortune [laughs] — not that I’m bitter!
- Q: How do you think about the future of the movie franchise? - Uinterview
- A: I think if J.J.'s film is successful, and I believe it will be, then four years from now they will do another one.
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