TrekMovie had a chance to talk to Jonathan Frakes this week as he is out raising awareness for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Earlier in the week, we posted the first part of our interview where he talked about his personal connection to the cause as well as discussing directing the upcoming Strange New Worlds/Lower Decks crossover episode. In the second half of the interview, we talk about his return as William Riker for the third (and final) season of Star Trek: Picard as well as his desire to keep on Trekking into the future.
You are all over the latest Picard trailer, how much Riker are we going to get?
Ten Rikers! There is one episode where I only have a brief scene, but I’m in all ten. Terry [Matalas] came to me during season 2 and he said, “How do you feel about playing a lot of Riker?” I had already done it in season 1 and said, “Yeah, I’m psyched. I’m looking forward to it.” I had no idea he meant like full Riker [laughs]. But I got to say, it was a blast. It was a blast to work with Patrick [Stewart] again, as an actor. It was kind of emotional. And I had great stuff with Marina [Sirtis] again, who I adore. It was all I could have hoped for and I think the fans are going to go cuckoo. I think season three is going to crush. I had plenty of good Riker stuff during seven years and certainly on First Contact, but the Riker stuff [Terry Matalas] wrote for the character is denser and more interesting. It has a greater sense of irony. There’s a lot of levity. I mean, he just gets the characters in such a positive way.
But yet he isn’t beholden to write them exactly as they were back in the ’90s?
Exactly. They are not. I have a very strong conflict. Riker has a big conflict with Picard as part of the arc of this season. A kind of “f— you, you’re wrong!” kind of conflict.
Yeah, Terry has said there is a kind of Crimson Tide moment, so I guess you are Denzel and Patrick is Hackman.
Exactly! That’s what his reference. I got the better gig [laughs]. They are so dogged and they’re both right at the peak of their acting careers.
Have you had a chance to see many of the final versions of the episodes?
I am about to see a couple of episodes before I do The Ready Room with Wil Wheaton. I directed episodes 3 and 4, so I have seen those, or at least the versions that I turned in.
Terry has described this as a “proper sendoff” for you guys, a kind of do-over for Nemesis. Does it feel like it wraps up things for Next Gen and Riker?
It is much more exciting for us collectively than Nemesis was. But it doesn’t feel so much as an ending as the possibility of moving forward. I think there’s a future.
At New York Comic Con you guys seemed to be pitching for more, including Patrick.
I was really impressed with Patrick’s New York Comic Con appearance on the panel. He was speaking right into the lens to Paramount, “I’m ready to do another movie.” That was thrilling. Remember when Picard first was conceived, the public concept was that it was all about Jean-Luc Picard. It was not going to be a Next Generation reboot. It was not going to be next next generation. It was going to be Picard’s story having left Starfleet. And that’s what Patrick signed up to do and that’s what the first two seasons were. We had a little snippet where Riker and Troi were in the first season and then the wonderful heroic moment with Riker in episode 10 of season 1. So there was a taste of the Next Gen people being involved in his life. But somewhere along the line season 3 became–as you’ll see–all the essential parts of the Next Generation were kind of reassembled.
At Comic-Con you made a joke about Paramount having room in their schedule, coming right after the news about removing the latest J.J. Abrams movie from the 2023 schedule.
I actually wrote to J.J. to say “If you need an experienced guy to take over Star Trek 4, I’m available. [laughs] He said, “You are certainly experienced.”
So how serious is this? Are you ready to suit up again for a feature film behind and/or in front of the camera?
Why wouldn’t I? It changed my life, this job. Both of my alleged careers have been blessed by having been part of this Star Trek family starting 35 years ago.
So any real talks with JJ?
Well no, that’s not going to happen, but I was fascinated when Tarantino wanted to do a Star Trek movie. And Noah Hawley too, I am a huge Fargo fan. His brain with our characters in our world, and what would Tarantino do? Just the idea of it is wild.
With Tarantino, it would have certainly been different, although it almost certainly would not had fit with the JJ movies or the TOS and TNG movies, but it could have been a wild standalone thing.
What’s changed a lot of this is the Deadpool world and the tongue deeply embedded in the cheek of a lot of the Marvel movies now.
Right, and with all the multi-verse stuff, there is much more understanding of how things don’t need to always fit.
No, and I think the studios are not afraid of self-depreciation, and irony, and a really good dose of levity inside of these franchises.
Back to the Paramount+ TV side, Terry talked about wanting to do a Picard spinoff series and how he has sort of set up the next Next Generation, which could also include the legacy people. Is that something you are interested in?
He and I discuss it every time we talk. As you’ll see, the place we are at the end of episode 10 of season three sure feels to me like it could continue into the next next story.
If something like that happened, how deeply involved would you want to be? A recurring character, executive producer, producer-director?
All of the above. I would love to be involved with him as an executive producer, certainly. And I really like working with Terry. I would love to have the producing director role like [Olatunde Osunsanmi] has for Discovery, especially if it would shoot in LA. My wife is here on General Hospital so it’s a long time to be away if you do a producing-directing job in another city, like Toronto, where the studios are built and waiting for more Star Treks to come in.
The final season of Star Trek: Picard premieres on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023, exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., with new episodes of the 10-episode-long season available to stream weekly on Thursdays. Picard streams exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S. and is distributed concurrently by Paramount Global Content Distribution on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories, and in Canada it airs on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.
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In the past two decades, PanCAN has invested $174 million in groundbreaking research. This past year alone, PanCAN awarded more than $10.5 million in research grants as part of the largest-ever, single year total research investment of $25 million. People can support the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network by visiting pancan.org. They can also participate in a free, virtual event on World Pancreatic Cancer Day (Nov. 17), when survivors, caregivers, and researchers will bring to life some of the incredible stories about the impact pancreatic cancer research and PanCAN has made on their lives. To register for free, go to pancan.org/WPCD2022.
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