When a show is on the air for a long time, it can offer opportunities to its regular cast members to try their hand at directing. For example, someone who’s been puttering around Hollywood since 1978, with early appearances on Fantasy Island and The Waltons might end up spending more time after their appearance on that show directing, once given the opportunity, and might spend quite a lot of their acting time afterward making references to their famous show. Sure, he’s acted on nearly twice as many TV series as he’s directed on, but he’s played the same character on a surprising number of those appearances and did glorified cameos on many others.
Now, it is no secret that Jonathan Frakes, as a young man, found a lot of jobs to supplement his income. His distinctive method of sitting came from dealing with the long-term effects of the back injuries he suffered as a mover. Less well known is that he briefly, in those days, worked for Marvel Comics, appearing at cons dressed as Captain America. Image to follow; you’re welcome. And, yes, he puttered around acting. His first TV appearances were in 1978. For a while, his most noteworthy performance was on all three sections of North & South.
And then, he was Riker. Riker’s a good character. He’s intelligent. He’s supportive. He’s compassionate. He fulfills the requirements for courting green-skinned alien space babes that Kirk did without actually having all of Kirk’s failings as a character. Arguably, he was a Kirk for the ’90s, with all that’s good and bad about that. He was the one who led away missions, because by then they’d recognized that risking the captain on all those missions wasn’t the world’s best idea.
There are two roles he did after Riker that are of particular note. One is voice work—he joined the Old Star Trek People’s Home that is Gargoyles and was the magnificent and clever David Xanatos, arguably the catalyst for the entire series. He’s a lot of fun in the role, and it’s clear he’s having a lot of fun while he does it. The other, of course, is the host of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. Is it a role? Sort of. Either way, it’s wonderfully silly and worthy of notice and don’t believe a word of it when Riker tells you, over and over again, that things are true.
Of course, Frakes is on the list of people who’ll never have to work in Hollywood again. He could just go on the convention circuit for the rest of his life, one assumes not as Captain America. (For one thing, he’d have to shave.) He hasn’t been offered a feature film since the disaster that was Thunderbirds, but I’d be hard pressed to blame him for it; I dare anyone to make a good Thunderbirds movie. But he still works in directing TV, and we always have supercuts on YouTube.
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