TrekMovie had a lengthy and exclusive chat with Star Trek acting and directing legend Jonathan Frakes. Yesterday we shared what he had to say about directing on Star Trek: Discovery season 3. Today we have Frakes’ thoughts about his work (as both actor and director) on Star Trek: Picard, which includes some talk of season 2.
Pivoting to Picard season two, you have been tapped to direct?
Yes, but everybody’s afraid to give people a start date because of COVID.
Didn’t the unions just work out a deal?
That was a couple of days ago. I read every tiny little detail of that… Picard’s not starting, allegedly, until January. Patrick [Stewart] is eager to get back to work.
Yeah, although I imagine he wants all those testing protocols, isolation, and all that jazz for shooting in LA.
He does, but he’s also dying to get back at it. He’s not a fragile man. He’s 80, but he’s fit and he’s healthy and he’s hardworking and he’s got energy and is used to working.
So in the first season of Picard, you obviously returned to the role of Riker.
Oh, yeah! Now that was peculiar how that happened.
In what way? They always said they would have some people back, so wouldn’t you be near the top of that list?
No. When the season was broken, we were sworn to secrecy that they were going to bring Data back, which I thought was great. And maybe more surprising for the fans and better for the show, was bringing Jeri [Ryan as Seven] back, who’s never been better. And Jonathan [del Arco as Hugh] too. There was no plan for anybody else. It was clear from the beginning of the season, it was clear from Patrick’s negotiation with them that he did not want this to be a reboot of Next Gen.
So I was directing episodes four and five. The nightclub episode and the one with the nuns, a couple of great episodes. And Patrick was in fabulous form. And there was no mention of this “Nepenthe” story, which ended up being episode seven. Then somewhere late in the shooting of those two episodes, I guess there was a meeting about it, and then they called and said, “What do you think about doing this?” And I said, “What do you think I think?” [laughs] But it was not part of the plan. When they broke the season, there was no Rikers-in-the-cabin thing. It happened somewhere during a re-break. I don’t know, but I’m so grateful. And it was such a great episode and so well received.
I think [showrunner Michael] Chabon said something about how they knew they had to give Picard a break and find him a refuge and they wondered where he could go and who would he trust? And that’s how they gravitated towards some of his old friends.
Yeah, that sounds like a very Chabon thing. He’s amazing.
And now they have Terry Matalas as showrunner.
Yeah, from 12 Monkeys.
But Chabon is still around right? I think he wrote some episodes.
I think he broke the whole second season.
But he’s not in the room as showrunner anymore, he has his new show [Kavalier and Klay], right?
From his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, that’s right. With his wife, Ayelet Waldman.
For “Nepenthe,” did you and Marina [Sirtis] do anything ahead of time? Maybe rehearse or talk about your characters to get back into it, or just jump in?
We just jumped in. We had to wait to shoot it, because Marina was starring in a play on the West End in London. So it was out of order in terms of the shooting schedule, based on her availability. I had a script early, because I was nervous about learning all the lines. And I knew, after having directed two episodes with Patrick, how his acting blood was flowing. And I rightfully expected that Marina, who was starring in a play and performing eight a week, would also be really up and running, she wouldn’t be rusty. I was rusty because I hadn’t acted in a decade. And I didn’t want to get shown up by my buddies.(laugh)
Chabon was great. He gave me the script and then we went through it. I had a couple of thoughts about how Riker might say things, and he was very receptive. There wasn’t much time to rehearse. But there’s a certain comfort in being on the floor with Marina and Patrick as characters that we did. I mean, we did 182 episodes and four movies together. So we’re pretty close.
Did Chabon or you develop anything besides what we saw on screen about the Riker backstory for the last 20 years?
The story about this son was explained to me. And that’s what motivated our move to that Nepenthe planet. And I’m hoping—I don’t have any indication the hope is going to come true—but I’m hoping that there will be more Riker/Troi family. Lulu [Wilson] was spectacular as our daughter.
So if we see Riker and Troi again, you are hoping we will see him behind a pizza oven, or on the bridge of a ship?
I like the pizza oven, but I’m afraid we’ve already seen him on the bridge of the ship. So he’s gone back to work.
So you see that as it wasn’t just temporary? Riker is back in Starfleet?
I don’t know. Frakes would rather be at the pizza oven.
So, you don’t know if you’ll be returning as Riker?
Yes. I don’t know that… I don’t know what the plan is for season two.
Riker has done some cooking scenes. So do you know your way around a stove too?
It’s funny, In the COVID times, my wife and I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, and we’re just looking at this morning at what we’ve got. I found a great recipe for ratatouille. I’m going to take some eggplant and some peppers and some zucchini and some yellow squash, and then throw it in with some of our homegrown tomatoes today. Ratatouille Louie.
On Monday we shared what Jonathan Frakes had to say about his work directing on Star Trek: Discovery season 3. In the coming days look for more updates from when our conversation turned to Short Treks, Strange New Worlds, the state of the film franchise, and even some of his least favorite episodes of The Next Generation.