Director Jonathan Frakes Talks DISCOVERY, Compares Cast to TNG

Star Trek: Discovery returns this Sunday with an all-new episode “Despite Yourself”, which was directed by Star Trek: The Next Generation star Jonathan Frakes. Frakes, who played Cmdr. William Riker on TNG, recently discussed the episode, how it came to be and how the cast reminds him of TNG, with StarTrek.com.

On how he came to direct “Despite Yourself, Frakes said:

I’ve been lobbying to get on the show since the very, very beginning, back when Bryan Fuller had been attached. Fuller was attached to the Star Trek family, from Voyager, I think. Fast forward to Olatunde (Osunsanmi), who had shadowed me quite a bit on Falling Skies, becoming a producing director for Discovery. Olatunde is awesome, and he learned to direct episodic TV on Falling Skies and was a wonderful mentee of sorts. He went on to become the producer/director of that show, which Noah Wyle did. I did a few episodes of Falling Skies with Noah and The Librarians with him, too. Olatunde was on Discovery and said, “Well, do you want to do the show?” I said, “I would love to do the show, I’ve been trying to do it for a year.” So, the next thing you know, I got a slot and I got an incredible script.

Frakes pulls double-duty on the set of 'Star Trek: First Contact'
Frakes pulls double-duty on the set of ‘Star Trek: First Contact’

The seasoned director, who’s credits include work on Leverage, Castle and Falling Skies, NCIS: Los Angeles and The Orville in addition to Voyager and Deep Space Nine, said he got himself caught up on Discovery by watching what had already been completed.

I watched everything that had been cut together. I read all the scripts, coming in. It’s a big show, so it’s a 10-day prep and a 10-day shoot. The sets are built up at Pinewood Toronto, so I spent a lot of time getting a feel for these new bridges and corridors. It’s obviously a very familiar feel, but at the same time, it’s a much grander, grandiose, more spectacular production design. Stylistically, the camera movement and the action, the level of stunts, the beautiful costumes, all the aspects of the show are no expenses spared and the money is on the screen.

Jonathan Frakes at Rhode Island Comic Con in 2017
Jonathan Frakes at Rhode Island Comic Con in 2017

Frakes, along with his TNG costars are well-known for having a tight bond, since the show wrapped in 1994. Discussing how he saw the Discovery cast’s relationship, he said:

They reminded me of us, of Next Gen. They had unified for a number of reasons. One was the madness that’s part of the beginning of any show. The other is that most of them were from elsewhere and were now gathered on the bridge of Discovery — or the Shenzhou at first — in Toronto. Jason (Isaacs) was cooking dinner every Sunday for the entire cast, and they’d gather and debrief. They’d come in and watch each other work. It was so similar to the Next Gen family that it made me proud. And, from morning to night when I was there, they picked my brain about my Trek experiences.

This was all of them. Some of these guys had watched everything. Some of them were in the middle of watching the different shows and movies, and the key episodes. They’d watched a lot of Next Gen. They were working their way through Voyager and Deep Space and Enterprise, and there was a lot of discussion about what it was like on the set, specific things about the costumes and about ship shapes and about how the props work and makeup and hair. They asked about protocol and beaming and all the things that we did on our shows. They were fascinated by it all. Sort of like the people at a convention, they wanted to hear anecdotes about what happened with so-and-so, what happened off-camera, what happened when we did this. So, it was a joyous place to be, and by the time I got there, the show had found its legs and the train was running very, very smoothly.

You can read the entire interview at StarTrek.com.

The next chapter of Star Trek: Discovery begins this Sunday.

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