Commander William Riker knew how to appreciate the finer things in life, from women to good jazz, while upholding his responsibilities as first officer of the USS Enterprise. Star Trek: The Next Generation may be his best-known project, but the story of Jonathan Frakes reaches far beyond, where few have boldly gone before. How did Frakes embrace the sci-fi genre even after leaving Starfleet?
Jonathan Frakes was born on August 19, 1952, in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, and showed an affinity for acting early on. By ’74, he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater Arts at Pennsylvania State University. That same decade, he began his close association with action and sci-fi fantasy by working for Marvel, before he transitioned from dressing as Captain America for conventions to ascending the stage on Broadway.
He started off stumbling, which helped him start off strong
Frakes had big dreams for himself from the start. At first, though, he worked in New York City as a waiter and furniture mover. An injury sustained while moving furniture threatened to derail his plans, but Frakes ended up seeing a doctor in the soap opera The Doctors in ’77 and ’78. His television filmography contains countless favorites like The Waltons, Eight is Enough, Dukes of Hazzard, and more.
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’87 brought his career-defining role in Star Trek: The Next Generation and he would be quite a defining force on the show too. Only he and Patrick Stewart have appeared in every single episode. Both also embraced their capacity to direct. It helped that Frakes could actually sit in on most executive meetings, which gave him a glimpse into that side of the creative process.
It’s a good thing his soon-to-be wife Genie Francis pushed him into auditioning because after six weeks and seven auditions, a ticket to international fame was his.