Jonathan Frakes: from Captain America to Starfleet’s Number One (video).
Step aside, Thor – there’s a new superhero in town, and he’s got a trombone. Jonathan Frakes has a résumé more varied than a buffet at Ten Forward. He’s best known for his portrayal of Commander (later Captain) William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but this multi-talented actor and director’s career is as vast and infinite as the final frontier itself. Join Dominic, Connor, Erica, and Mark as they engage in a conversation with the living legend himself – Jonathan Frakes, aka Commander/Captain William Riker. From his time as Captain America to directing Thunderbirds and Star Trek: Enterprise, Frakes discusses his prolific career in acting and directing. Tune in as they chat about Picard Seasons 1 and 3, Star Trek: The Next Generation, PANCAN, and more. Enjoy a round of Star Trek Trivia, fan questions, and being “Stuck on a Deserted Island with Connor Trinneer.” Don’t miss this banter with Star Trek’s first “gen-x” Captain and self-described nerd.
Before donning the iconic red and black Starfleet uniform, Frakes was already making his mark on the entertainment world. In the 1970s, he worked for Marvel Comics, appearing at conventions dressed as none other than Captain America. But Frakes didn’t stop at defending Earth from evil-doers; he also took to the stage, becoming a member of the Impossible Ragtime Theater, where he acted in Eugene O’Neill’s The Hairy Ape.
Frakes’ adventures continued when he made his Broadway debut in Shenandoah, and soon after, he landed a role in the NBC soap opera The Doctors. His character’s departure from the show didn’t slow him down. Instead, Frakes moved to Los Angeles and guest-starred in top television series of the time, including The Waltons, Eight Is Enough, and Hill Street Blues.
Star Trek: The Next Generation propelled Frakes to stardom in 1987, and he never looked back. As Commander Riker, he won the hearts of Trekkies worldwide with his charisma, leadership, and impossibly suave beard. His talent for directing also emerged, with Frakes directing numerous episodes of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Discovery, Strange New Worlds, and Picard. He even directed two Star Trek feature films: First Contact and Insurrection.
But Frakes’ ambitions weren’t limited to the realm of science fiction. He directed the family film Clockstoppers and the 2004 film Thunderbirds. While Thunderbirds wasn’t the box-office hit he’d hoped for, Frakes continued to direct prolifically for television, with credits including The Librarian, Roswell, Leverage, and Burn Notice.
As a voice actor, Frakes lent his talents to the Disney television series Gargoyles and even the video game Star Trek: Captain’s Chair. His illustrious career even includes a trombone performance on the 1994 Phish album Hoist, as well as singing in Brent Spiner’s vocal backup group, “The Sunspots.”
Frakes’ foray into the world of the paranormal began with hosting The Paranormal Borderline and continued as the host of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. He also narrated the History Channel documentary Lee and Grant, proving that his voice alone is a force to be reckoned with.