Jonathan Frakes

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Jonathan Frakes
Jonathan Frakes cropped1.jpg
Frakes at a convention in Germany in 2005
BornJonathan Scott Frakes
(1952-08-19) August 19, 1952 (age 62)
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, U.S.
OccupationActor, author, director
Known forCommander William T. Riker
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Jonathan Frakes
Jonathan Frakes cropped1.jpg
Frakes at a convention in Germany in 2005
BornJonathan Scott Frakes
(1952-08-19) August 19, 1952 (age 62)
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, U.S.
OccupationActor, author, director
Known forCommander William T. Riker

Jonathan Scott Frakes (born August 19, 1952) is an American actor, author, and director. Frakes is best known for his portrayal of Commander William T. Riker in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation and subsequent films. Frakes also hosted the television series Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, challenging viewers to discern his stories of fact-based phenomena and fabricated tales. In June 2011, Frakes narrated the History Channel documentary Lee and Grant. He was also the voice actor of David Xanatos in the Disney television series Gargoyles.

Frakes directed and also starred in Star Trek: First Contact as well as Star Trek: Insurrection. He is also the author of a novel called The Abductors: Conspiracy.[1]

Frakes married actress Genie Francis, who portrayed Laura Spencer on General Hospital, in 1988.

Personal life[edit]

Frakes was born in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, the son of Doris J. (née Yingling) and James R. Frakes. He is of mostly German, and some English descent.[2] He grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley region of the state. A 1970 graduate of Bethlehem's Liberty High School, he ran track and played with the Liberty High School Grenadier Band.[3] Frakes received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Theater Arts at Penn State University in the early 1970s, where he was a member of the Thespians.

His father was a critic for the New York Times Book Review, a book editor, and professor of English literature at Lehigh University from 1958–2001, where he was the Edmund W. Fairchild Professor in American Studies. James R. Frakes died in early 2002.[4] Frakes had a younger brother, Daniel, who died in 1997 from pancreatic cancer.[5]


For a time in the 1970s, Frakes worked for Marvel Comics, appearing at conventions in costume as Captain America.[6] Frakes moved to New York City and became a member of the Impossible Ragtime Theater. In that company, Frakes did his first off-Broadway acting in Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape directed by George Ferencz. His first Broadway appearance was in Shenandoah. At the same time, he landed a role in the NBC soap opera The Doctors.[7] When his character was dismissed from the soap, Frakes moved to Los Angeles, California and played guest spots in many of the top television series of the 1970s and 1980s, including The Waltons, Eight Is Enough, The Dukes of Hazzard, Matlock and Steven Bochco's Hill Street Blues.

He played the part of Charles Lindbergh in a 1983 episode of Voyagers! titled "An Arrow Pointing East". In 1983, he had a role in the short-lived NBC prime time soap opera Bare Essence (which also starred his future wife Genie Francis), and a supporting role in the equally short-lived primetime soap Paper Dolls in 1984.[7] He also had recurring roles in Falcon Crest[7] and the miniseries North and South before signing for the role of Commander William T. Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation.[8] Frakes appeared in the 1986 miniseries Dream West.

He has done animation voice acting, most notably voicing the recurring role of David Xanatos in the animated series Gargoyles, and he provided the voice of his own head in a jar in the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". He had a small, uncredited role in the 1994 movie Camp Nowhere. He also reprised his role of Riker for a Next Generation cutaway on an episode of Family Guy that also featured his co-stars Patrick Stewart and Michael Dorn as their respective roles of Picard and Worf. Later, he again played himself on another Family Guy episode, where all seven main TNG (plus Denise Crosby and Wil Wheaton) actors made voice appearances. He is also one of six Star Trek actors (the other actors being Kate Mulgrew, Michael Dorn, George Takei, Avery Brooks and Majel Barrett) to lend their voices to the video game Star Trek: Captain's Chair reprising his role as Commander William T. Riker when users visit the Enterprise-D bridge featured in the game.

Frakes is one of only two Star Trek regulars to appear on four different Star Trek series (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise). (The only other regular to match or exceed that number is Majel Barrett-Roddenberry who appeared in all five television series.) He has also directed episodes in three of them (TNG, DS9 and VOY) and was a popular and innovative director on the Star Trek set, often finding completely new ways to shoot the show's familiar sets. His directing career has included the films Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection. Additionally, Frakes was an executive producer for the WB series Roswell, directed several episodes and guest-starred in three episodes. His relationship with Star Trek is made light of in the episode "Secrets and Lies", in which the alien character Max auditions for a guest role as an alien for Star Trek: Enterprise.

Frakes appeared on the 1994 Phish album Hoist, playing trombone on the track titled "Riker's Mailbox". Frakes would occasionally perform on the trombone during his tenure as Commander Riker, drawing on his college marching band experience. He was also a member of "The Sunspots", a vocal backup group of Star Trek cast members that appeared on Brent Spiner's 1991 album Ol' Yellow Eyes Is Back.

Frakes hosted The Paranormal Borderline, a television series at Fox, which dealt with the paranormal and mysterious happenings and creatures. In one episode, Frakes presented an interview of reporter Yolanda Gaskins with veteran astronaut Gordon Cooper, where they discussed the possibility of aliens having visited the Earth in the past.[9][10] Overall, the show was criticized and pulled off the air after it was found out that footage showing a yeti from the Himalayas was purposely faked by the show and its producers. The "Snowwalker" footage, as it is known, purportedly shows a yeti as it is crossing through a valley in the Himalayas, walking in front of a Belgian couple who are traversing the area on skis. The network finally admitted the hoax, and Frakes distanced himself from the show. He hosted Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction which also dealt in the paranormal world.

Frakes and Francis appeared together in Lois & Clark in the episode "Don't Tug on Superman's Cape" as a creepily too-good-to-be-true couple. He narrated the History Channel's That's Impossible.

Frakes has directed episodes of Burn Notice, Castle, NCIS: Los Angeles, Leverage,[11] Falling Skies and most recently Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Frakes works with the Workshops, the Waterfall Arts Center and the Saltwater Film Society, all located in Maine, where he teaches classes on film direction. He and Francis owned a home furnishings store in Belfast, Maine, called The Cherished Home which closed in August 2012 due to Francis being too busy with her acting to spend adequate time at the store.[12]

Frakes was also the voice of Finn the Human's adult version in the episodes "Puhoy" and "Dungeon Train" on Adventure Time.

Selected acting filmography[edit]

1994Camp NowhereBob Spiegel
1994Star Trek GenerationsCommander William T. Riker
1996Star Trek: First ContactCommander William T. RikerNominated-Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated-Saturn Award for Best Director
1998Star Trek: InsurrectionCommander William T. Riker
2002Star Trek: NemesisCaptain/Commander William T. Riker
2011The CaptainsHimself/Commander William T. Riker
1978Fantasy IslandKirk WendoverEpisode: "The War Games/Queen of the Boston Bruisers"
1979The WaltonsAshley Longworth Jr.Episode: "The Lost Sheep" and "The Legacy"
Eight Is EnoughChapperEpisode: "Separate Ways"
1980Beulah LandAdam Davis
1981The Dukes of HazzardJamie Lee HoggEpisode: "Mrs. Daisy Hogg" in a 4th Season episode entitled
Harper ValleyClutch BreathEpisode: "Low Noon"
1982Hill Street BluesDrug dealerEpisode: "Of Mouse and Man"
Quincy, M.E.Leon BohannonEpisode: "The Face of Fear"
Quincy, M.E.SurgeonEpisode: "Ghost of a Chance"
Voyagers!Charles LindberghEpisode: "An Arrow Pointing East"
1983Bare EssenceMarcus MarshallSeveral episodes.
1984Highway to HeavenArthur Krock, Jr.Episode: "A Devine Madness"
Five Mile CreekAdam ScottEpisode: "Gold Fever"
The Fall GuyConnorsEpisode: "Always Say Always"
1985The New Twilight ZoneSingle GuyEpisode: "But Can She Type?"
The White Shadowuncredited as Basketball PlayerEpisode: "One of the Boys"
North and SouthStanley Hazard
1986MatlockD.A. ParkEpisode: "The Angel"
1987–1994Star Trek: The Next GenerationCommander William T. Riker/Lt. Thomas Riker
1994WingsGavin RutledgeEpisode: "All's Fare"
Star Trek: Deep Space NineLt. Thomas RikerEpisode: "Defiant"
1994–1996GargoylesDavid Xanatos, Coyote (voice)
1995Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanTim LakeEpisode: "Don't Tug on Superman's Cape"
CybillEpisode: "Starting on the Wrong Foot"
1996Star Trek: VoyagerCommander William T. RikerEpisode: "Death Wish"
1998–2002Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction?Himself (presenter)45 episodes
1999RoswellHimselfEpisode: "Pilot"
20003rd Rock from the SunLarry McMichaelEpisode: "Gwen, Larry, Dick and Mary"
2000Ghosts: Caught on TapeHimself (narrator)
2002FuturamaHimself (voice)Episode: Where No Fan Has Gone Before
2005Star Trek: EnterpriseCommander William T. RikerEpisode: "These Are the Voyages..."
Family GuyCommander William T. Riker (voice)Episode: Peter's Got Woods
2009Family GuyHimself (voice)Episode: Not All Dogs Go to Heaven
2009Leverageuncredited as patient in neck brace in season one episodeEpisode: The Snow Job
2010Criminal MindsDr. Arthur MalcolmEpisode: "The Uncanny Valley"
NCIS: Los AngelesNavy Commander Dr. StanfillEpisode: "Disorder"
2011The Super Hero Squad ShowThe Devil Dinosaur You Say!Episode: "High Evolutionary" (voice only)
2013Adventure TimeAdult FinnEpisode: "Puhoy" and "Dungeon Train"

Directing filmography[edit]

Feature films[edit]



  1. ^ Jonathan Frakes; Dean Wesley Smith (1996). The Abductors: Conspiracy. New York: Tor. ISBN 978-0-312-86208-4. 
  2. ^ "1". Retrieved October 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ Sylvia Lawler (September 25, 1988). "Jonathan Frakes's career beams up Bethlehem actor scores as 'Star Trek' commander". Allentown, PA: The Morning Call. pp. T.01. 
  4. ^ "James R. Frakes". Allentown, PA: The Morning Call. March 15, 2002. pp. B.10. 
  5. ^ "Daniel M. Frakes". Allentown, PA: The Morning Call. May 19, 1997. pp. A.09. 
  6. ^ Brian Cronin (2006-07-04). "Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #58". Comics Should Be Good!. 
  7. ^ a b c Nemecek, Larry (1992). "Rebirth". In Stern, Dave. The Star Trek The Next Generation Companion. 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020: Pocket Books. p. 18. ISBN 0-671-79460-4. 
  8. ^ Sylvia Lawler (May 5, 1986). "Making history: "North and South's" Jonathan Frakes is crafting his future– History yields a good part for Jonathan Frakes". Allentown, PA: The Morning Call. pp. D.01. 
  9. ^ Video on YouTube
  10. ^ UFO Folklore Center – Transcript of Interview
  11. ^ Turner Network. "Leverage Season 3 Episode Synopses" (Microsoft Word document). Turner Network. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  12. ^ [1]"The Cherished Home Facebook post announcing the store's closure"

External links[edit]