Jonathan Frakes: New Frontiers

The full text from the Starburst magazine preview.

More from this interview, as Jonathan Frakes talks more about Roswell, plus 3rd Rock, his towering Eiffel project, the alien comedy Steve Was Here, and his thoughts on new Star Trek, when you get Starburst 259.

New Frontiers

From second in command on the Enterprise to movie director and Roswell executive producer: Jonathan Frakes’s star is rising.

By Ian Spelling

Who’s the hottest hyphenate in Hollywood these days? Jonathan Frakes. That’s right. Frakes, the former co-star of Star Trek: The Next Generation is scoring as an actor- producer-director-host, and he’s scoring big.

Roswell, the Sci-Fi series he co-executive produces, (known as Roswell High in the UK) is a fledgling hit. He has also guest-starred twice on the series and has called the shots on two episodes thus far, with a third in his near future. Beyond Belief, the reality series he hosts, continues to serve as a top-notch pinch hitter whenever and wherever it gets placed in the television schedule. For his production company, Goepp Circle, Frakes just received a green light from Columbia Pictures to hire a screenwriter to pen a black comedy that he would direct. And, on the acting side, Frakes just popped up – with wife Genie Francis in tow – on 3rd Rock from the Sun, and he’s committed to return to the acclaimed cable comedy, The Lot, for a second batch of episodes.

“I am feeling good,” Frakes says. “I think that Roswell is going to make it. It seems to have the teenage girl demographic, which is what the WB has circled as their goal. So I have very high hopes that we will be back next year. I talked to Jason Katims yesterday. Jason is the show runner and he was told that the decision won’t be made until May. We have a big four or five-episode arc at the end of the season that will hopefully attract attention. I’m going to be directing one of those episodes. I’ve done one, I’m starting my second episode next week and I’ll probably do one after that.

“I think the success of the show is that the chemistry works. The writing does not talk down to the audience. The kids are smart. There’s comedy in it. There’s irony in it. There’s sex in it. The look of the show is great. John Bartley, who is the director of photography, has given us that great, hot-orange look.

“Where is there room for improvement? I have a feeling that we are going to have some regrets about letting the secret out so wide so soon. I think we need a new secret…”

Frakes turns up next as himself in a February sweeps episode entitled The Convention. Directed by Tucker Gates, the hour finds Max playing host to Frakes, who is in town for the 10th Annual UFO Convention, while Valenti deals with the arrival of the man (Tom Bower) who destroyed his father’s career… “I think you’ll see a little bit of William Shatner in me in this one,” Frakes says. “It’s self-effacing. In the opening scene I go to Max. I’m the guest moderator at this convention and I complain to him that Shatner and [Patrick] Stewart got suites at the hotel and I only got a regular room. That’s the tone of the piece. (But) it’s really unnerving to play yourself…”

But what of Frakes’s other projects.? Beyond Belief, believe it or not, is still on the air. Frakes, who narrates each episode with wrap-around commentary, tapes two or three shows in a day, standing before a camera one day every two or three weeks. Given its modest production costs, chances are Beyond Reality will be back next year. But Total Recall 2, to which Frakes has been long attached as a director, seems to have fallen victim to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to pursue other films. “That’s dead for now,” Frakes notes. “Maybe that’s for the best. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be…”

A day on Roswell
Roswell’s Maria (Majandra Delfino) – is she local?

In Roswell aliens Max (Jason Behr), Michael (Brendan Fehr) and Isabel (Katherine Heigl) deal with love, hate, friendship and fear while growing up as human teens in Roswell, New Mexico alongside locals including Liz (Shiri Appleby) and Maria (Majandra Delfino).

Since the launch of the show many people have wondered what it is precisely that Frakes and his producing partner, Lisa J Olin, do on a day-to-day basis…

“We give notes on the first draft of the script and on the first cut of the episodes, when the director’s cut comes in,” he offers. “We look at dailies every day and keep track of those. That’s my day-to-day, and then I direct a few shows. Obviously, I go and check in whenever I can, since my office is right there on the lot.

“I think the kids are fabulous. I’m very fond of them. I feel an affinity for them because it feels like the beginning of Next Gen, as I see these kids getting used to having a television series, having a full-time job and learning everything that goes with that, the good and the bad, including the fact that they have to build up their stamina to work our 15-hour days.”

Most fans of Roswell consider the episode Frakes directed, River Dog, one of the show’s best to date. Part two of a two-parter, it picked up where 285 South left off and involved the papers found in the geodesic dome, a theft, a mysterious necklace, an old Native American named River Dog (Ned Romero) and more romantic bickering between Michael and Maria (Majandra Delfino).

“I was very pleased with it,” Frakes reports. “I was freer with the hand-held camera than I had been on any other show I’d done. I tried to use a little stylistic license, which I wasn’t always able to do on episodes of Star Trek…”