Jonathan Frakes — best known to Trek fans as TNG’s Commander Will Riker — has been directing television dating back to the middle of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and this weekend makes his debut helming an episode of the newest incarnation of the franchise, Star Trek: Discovery.
In an interview with StarTrek.com today, Frakes detailed a bit about how he came to the Discovery project and what we can look forward to in “Despite Yourself,” the tenth episode of the season.
How did it work out that you’re directing an episode of Discovery?
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…
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.
How did you prep [for the episode]?
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.
Make it so, Number One! #StarTrek #TNG alum @jonathansfrakes directed the next new episode of #StarTrekDiscovery streaming this Sunday on CBS All Access: https://t.co/6Lija2zWWZ pic.twitter.com/tJHPImgzZI
— Star Trek: Discovery (@startrekcbs) January 5, 2018
On how the Discovery cast reminded him of his Next Generation colleagues:
[The cast 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…. 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.
Finally, on the subject of “Despite Yourself” as an episode:
You know I can’t tell you much, right? Lorca’s depth of character continues and there’s this wonderful business with L’Rell, Mary Chieffo’s character.
It’s beautifully shot, it’s a great story, and there’s lots of loose ends tied up. Lots of questions are answered, and it’s a… cliffhanger. I think I can tell you that.
You can read more of Frakes’ thoughts on Discovery, the cast and crew, and “Despite Yourself” at StarTrek.com.