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Actor and director Jonathan Scott Frakes (born 19 August 1952; age 71) portrayed Commander William T. Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and in four Star Trek films. He also appeared as Riker in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (as an okudagram only), Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Star Trek: Picard, and Star Trek: Lower Decks, and portrayed Thomas Riker in an episode of The Next Generation, and an episode of Deep Space Nine.

He also directed a number of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Star Trek: Discovery, and Picard episodes, along with two Star Trek films, Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection. He and David Carson are the only people to have directed Star Trek television and film productions.

Along with Marina Sirtis and John de Lancie, he is one of only three actors to play the same character in four different live action Star Trek series as of 2023.

He and Tim Russ are the only actors to appear on screen with four Star Trek captains. (Frakes also appeared with William Shatner in Star Trek Generations, but did not share any scenes with him).


Frakes, whose father was a college professor who taught English and literature, was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, and raised in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He began acting at a young age in junior high and high school plays.

Following high school, Frakes enrolled at Pennsylvania State University as a psychology major, and during his time at Penn State became involved with an off-campus professional theater group; this experience eventually led to Frakes changing his major to theater arts. Upon completion of his studies, a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Theater Arts, Frakes spent two summers studying drama at Harvard University, where he performed at the Loeb Drama Center.

On 28 May 1988, he married the actress Genie Francis (Laura Spencer on General Hospital, on which a pre-Spock Leonard Nimoy starred in 1963 and on which Corbin Bernsen starred long after playing Q2) after working together in the television mini-series North and South. Francis is the daughter of the late character actor Ivor Francis, and the colony mentioned in Star Trek: First Contact, Ivor Prime, may have been named after Frakes's father-in-law. Frakes portrayed the brother of fellow Star Trek actors Kirstie Alley and James Read in North and South and North and South: Book II. The sequel also starred DS9 guest star Jim Metzler. Frakes previously met Francis filming the drama series Bare Essence in 1983.

Television career[]

Prior to Star Trek: The Next Generation, Frakes appeared in numerous TV roles. In 1977, he co-starred on the medical soap opera The Doctors and between 1978 and 1985 held numerous guest roles on various shows such as Fantasy Island, The Dukes of Hazzard, Quincy, M.E., Highway to Heaven, The Waltons, and The Fall Guy.

Frakes also held a guest role in a 1982 episode of Hill Street Blues. The series featured many Star Trek personalities including James B. Sikking in the recurring role of Lieutenant Howard Hunter and Barbara Bosson as Fay Furillo. The series also featured guest roles by Jonathan Banks, Merritt Butrick, Miguel Ferrer, Larry A. Hankin, Tim Culbertson, and Chris Doyle. Brent Spiner also appeared in the 1985 episode "The Life and Time of Dominic Florio Jr.".

Jonathan Frakes on Cybill 1

Frakes in Cybill

In 1985, Frakes was cast as Damon Ross on the prime-time soap opera Falcon Crest, a role for which he became very well known. Later that year he starred as a villainous steel industrialist in the 1985 mini-series North and South. The series co-starred Kirstie Alley as well as a cameo role by the famous country music singer Johnny Cash. In 1994, while working on Star Trek, Frakes returned to his previous role in North and South: Book II. From 1998 to 2002, he was the host of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction.

In 1994, Frakes portrayed himself in the Cybill episode "Starting on the Wrong Foot", giving a parody on Star Trek. The episode also features Stephen Root.

Star Trek[]

Frakes auditioned seven times over six weeks for the part of Riker. (TNG Season 1 DVD special feature "Selected Crew Analysis - Casting") He was cast in the role, first appearing in the pilot episode in 1987. Frakes portrayed the role of Riker for the next seventeen years in various Star Trek series and films, before returning to the franchise again in 2020 portraying Captain William Riker in the series Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks.

For the Deep Space Nine episode "Defiant", Frakes filmed his scenes between Wednesday 5 October 1994 and Tuesday 11 October 1994 on Paramount Stage 4, 17, and 18. According to the call sheet, he received a hair and beard cut prior to filming on 5 October 1994. The call sheets also distinguish the parts of "Will Riker" and "Tom Riker" in the cast section by using the numbers 9A and 9B.

He recorded an audio commentary for the Star Trek: First Contact DVD, a film in which he both starred and directed. His efficient filming style on the set earned him the nickname of "Two-Takes Frakes".

Several of his costumes from his appearances in Star Trek were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay, including the episodes "Yesterday's Enterprise", "The Host", "Violations", and "True Q". [1]

He personally feels that the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Code of Honor" is the worst segment of Star Trek that he worked on, [2] while "The Offspring" is his favorite Next Generation episode that he directed. [3]

Frakes pitched his own spin-off Star Trek show, but CBS rejected it due to the perceived over saturation of the franchise. [4]

Frakes returned to direct episodes of Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. For the former series, he directed the first season episode "Despite Yourself", and the second season episodes "New Eden" and "Project Daedalus". For the latter, he helmed "Absolute Candor" and "Stardust City Rag". He also directed two episodes of the third season of Discovery, and will return to direct episodes of the second season of Picard. [5]

Frakes appeared in a promo for the DS9 documentary What We Left Behind. [6]

The Riker Maneuver[]

Riker sits with date

Riker sitting down, by swinging his leg over the chair top

During his role as William T. Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jonathan Frakes developed an unusual habit of sitting in chairs by swinging his leg over the chair top, essentially "mounting" the chair in order to sit down. [7]

Riker Standing

Riker's unique way of standing, often called the "Riker lean"

According to Jonathan Frakes, the manner in which he sat in chairs began in the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, specifically due to the chairs in Ten Forward being very low and difficult to sit in, due to Frakes' large stature of being over six feet tall. Eventually, this method of sitting simply became habit and stuck with him for the remainder of the series. [8]

Related to his manner of sitting, fans also noticed the frequency of Riker placing his leg up on consoles, often when standing to overlook a crewman, most often Data when sitting at the operations station. This way of standing, often referred to comically as the "cock-a-leg" or "Riker lean" was attributed for many years to Frakes having a back injury, supposedly due to working as a furniture mover in his early life and severely straining his back muscles. This story went unconfirmed for many years, until Wil Wheaton confirmed Frakes had admitted the same to him during their time together on the series. [9]

The Riker Maneuver actually later became an established Star Trek reference when it was mentioned in Star Trek: Insurrection.

Further work[]

His non-Star Trek feature film directing credits include Clockstoppers, Thunderbirds, and all three of The Librarian movies. He directed the Star Trek spoof Star Patrol! in 1999 which was planned as a potential pilot for a series but not picked up by 20th Century Fox.

He has also directed various television episodes, including shows such as Roswell, Dollhouse, Castle (including an episode, "The Final Frontier", that featured a large number of Trek references), The Good Guys, and NCIS: Los Angeles. He has also directed several episodes of The Librarians, a spinoff of the film series, which films in the Portland, Oregon area. [10] In these works, he frequently makes cameo appearances. He has also directed episodes of The Orville, a science fiction series which is largely inspired by The Next Generation.

He has also co-written a book, The Abductors: Conspiracy.

Frakes was later a member of The Sunspots, along with Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, and LeVar Burton. They appeared as the background vocals for "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" on Brent Spiner's 1991 album Ol' Yellow Eyes is Back.

Frakes is also credited with playing trombone for "Riker's Mailbox" on the 1994 Phish album, Hoist.

Star Trek appearances[]

Appearances as William T. Riker[]

Jonathan Frakes is the only Star Trek regular cast member to appear in six Star Trek television series.

Additional roles[]

Aftershow appearances[]

Star Trek directorial credits[]

Jonathan Frakes has directed many Star Trek episodes, and two movies. As of 2024, he has directed the most episodes of any Star Trek actor.

Other Trek connections[]

Star Trek interviews[]

External links[]

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David Carson
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Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: Insurrection
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Stuart Baird