Jonathan Frakes Interviews & AOL Chats
Jonathan Frakes - Executive Producer
I don't have the dates of all the articles, but I tried to put them in roughly the correct order based on content.
(I wasn't always great with saving sources. If I know where and when the article came from it is listed)
Here is a list of the articles and interviews below
Click a title to jump to the article
Monday, April 10, 2000
Frakes to Guide Roswell Toward Older Generation
Television Star Trek star hopes an emphasis on science fiction will attract more adults to WB series about teen aliens.
By Greg Braxton, LA Times Staff Writer
Jonathan Frakes, one of the stars of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," is now heading up the WB's "Roswell: The Next Generation."
Actually, he isn't changing the title of "Roswell," the network's first-year drama about alien teens. But Frakes, who is an executive producer of the series, is helping move the show in a new direction as it re-enters the prime-time schedule tonight. It formerly aired on Wednesdays.
While "Roswell" has focused on the melodramatic trauma of three alien teenagers as they try to fit in at school while endeavoring to maintain the secret of their identities, Frakes and his fellow executive producer--series creator and head writer Jason Katims ("Relativity," "My So-Called Life")--are hoping to revamp the show, instituting a heavier science-fiction emphasis that they hope will attract a larger and more adult audience.
"We're really relaunching the series," said Frakes, who played Comdr. William Riker on the "Star Trek" spin-off and directed the two "Next Generation" films, "First Contact" and "Insurrection." He will be directing the season's last two episodes of "Roswell."
"We really want to deal now with the mythology of the aliens," he said. "When the secret that these kids were aliens got out, there was really little for them to do other than stand around their lockers and talk about it. There are certainly enough teen angst shows."
Frakes agreed with WB executives who felt that putting more of a sci-fi spin on "Roswell," which is produced by 20th Century Fox Television, would make the show more compatible with other WB youth-oriented series such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel."
Tonight's episode involves an alien hunter who tortures one of the teens. A future installment deals with the birth of the aliens. Twentieth Century Fox Television presidents Dana Walden and Gary Newman expressed confidence in the new direction, saying that Frakes and Katims were a potent combination to blend two distinctive genres. Said Newman: "Jonathan brings a real science-fiction credibility to the show." Added Walden: "Jason has a strong background with relationship-driven TV, and Jonathan has the edge on science-fiction. Together, they lift this show out of either of its individual genres." But Frakes has more than aliens on his mind. He's also working on another pet project--a spoof of "Star Trek." He's signed on to direct "Star Patrol!" a pilot for 20th Century Fox Television.
"This is what I've really been waiting to do," Frakes said. He compared the project to Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs" and said the timing for it is right.
"With the success of 'Galaxy Quest,' it's been shown that it's healthy to spoof one's self," he said. "We'll shoot it straight, so the dialogue will be really funny." Pointing to William Shatner's recent Internet commercial making fun of his image, Frakes said he didn't think "Star Trek" fans would be turned off by the satire: "The fans are not as blind as we sometimes make them out to be. They are loyal, and we won't be doing a disservice to them. However, if we don't offend someone, we haven't done our jobs."
And what about another "Star Trek" movie? "I hear in the rumor mill that there will be a movie for 2001," he said. "I'm thrilled about it if it's true."
Although he was pleased with 1998's "Insurrection," he called it a "smaller, romantic movie. I think we should go big again. We want galactic consequences this time!"
Romance is Not Dead
BY IAN SPELLING
Cult Times #63 (December 2000)
It has the combined staff of our American office sitting on the edge of the bed (it's a relaxed kind of office), but can a series that was sold on the strength of its romantic overtones win through as a Sci-Fi action series? We asked Roswell executive producer Jonathan Frakes.
Jonathan Frakes never had a doubt about it. The co-executive producer of Roswell figured that the freshman series would return for a second season. In fact, Frakes - who also directed several well-received first season episodes and guest-starred a couple of times (as himself) as well - never thought that Roswell was in serious danger of cancellation, despite the show's usually lethal combination of low ratings and high production costs. "I am an eternal optimist," the ever-genial co-star and director of Star Trek: The Next Generation says, laughing. "I think they held off until the end because they were trying to decide exactly where to put us. But once we moved to Monday I think it became clear that we were the best thing that had happened to the WB's Monday night slot in years. So I was quite confident that we were going to be a part of their future.
"We just got the pick-up for the rest of the second season, which I'm sure you've heard about by now. We are all very happy about it, obviously. So I think Roswell will be around for a while; that we will be a part of the TV landscape. I think the move to Sci-Fi, the addition of [scriptwriter] Ron Moore, the way that the cast has gelled - just like The Next Generation cast did years earlier - and the loyalty of teenage girls to Roswell have all contributed to our coming back and to, what looks to me like, a promising future." It's quite true that young females make up a huge chunk of Roswell's modest, but steadily growing, viewing audience. That tidbit makes the changes in the show all the more intriguing and risky. Though it may very well be a clich� to say so, girls tend to like romance and boys usually prefer Sci-Fi. Thus, Roswell's late first-season transition from romance/Sci-Fi show to Sci-Fi/adventure/romance series was a huge gamble. "The single biggest marching order, from all of us down in the trenches through the higher-ups at the studio and the network was, `Do not lose sight of the relationships, because that is what sold the show'," Frakes notes. "So, it's a matter of finding the balance. That's where we are now. Obviously, some scripts lend themselves to the balance better and more efficiently than others.
"I think that the human-alien relationships, which are personified mostly by Max [Jason Behr] and Liz [Shiri Appleby], are what drew everybody in. It certainly intrigued me. By putting Max with Tess [Emilie de Ravin] - his destiny from the pod days, as it were - we are breaking up the A-story love team. We've got the comedy team intact, even though they've broken up, too, and that's Michael [Brendan Fehr] and Maria [Majandra Delfino]. But I think we need to be very careful about completely losing our two lead lovers. We always need to come back to them."
The day-to-day responsibility of guiding Roswell falls not to Frakes, but rather to Jason Katims and former Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager scribe/producer Ron Moore. Frakes recalls that when it became clear to all involved that Roswell would follow the Sci-Fi route, it was he who suggested Moore for the job. "I put Ron and Jason in the same room," he says. "Ron was thrilled. He was looking for a steady gig. He and his wife are having another baby. People like steady work. I just needed to know that Ron and Jason could collaborate, because they are both used to being leaders. That was my biggest contribution to the show probably, besides directing The White Room, perhaps�"
Contrary to what one might assume, Frakes insists that he was not responsible for placing another piece into the Roswell puzzle. That piece was Genie Francis, Frakes' wife and the actress who portrayed the vision of the aliens' mother at the end of the first season. "You know whose idea that was?" Frakes asks. "That was [producer-writer] Thania St. John's idea. She was a huge Laura [of Luke and Laura from the heyday of the soap opera General Hospital] fan. She and Toni Graphia, who's still with the show, called me and said, `Do you think Genie would do Roswell?' I said, `I think she'd be thrilled'. So they called Genie and I was so happy she did it. Also, Katie [Heigl] sort of looks like she could be Genie's daughter, so it works great."
Anyone checking out this season's episodes on a regular basis probably has noticed that none of them features a `directed by Jonathan Frakes' credit. And, unfortunately, none of them are likely to. Frakes has been too busy ramping up the family-oriented Sci-Fi adventure film Clockstoppers - not to mention hosting Beyond Reality, acting in two episodes of the cable TV series The Lot and vacationing with Francis and their two children - to helm any hours of Roswell. "Right now, I look at the cuts before they go to the network and I look at the scripts before they get shot," notes Frakes, who has his hat in the ring to direct Star Trek 10, which is currently being scripted by John (Gladiator) Logan. "I'm doing what I can. I liked The End of the World a lot and also Summer of `47. I liked Summer of `47 because I loved the way the kids looked in that period. I thought The End of the World worked because it had what we've just been talking about, which is that balance of Sci-Fi and romance. And I just read a script that Jason [Katims] wrote, which will be our Christmas episode. It's just delicious. There are good shows coming up. We've got a whole arc for Sheriff Valenti [William Sadler], which should be very good.
And we've also got a couple of episodes in which we'll see duplicate versions of our alien kids. That should be interesting.
"If I think about it, we had the same problem, the same challenge, on Star Trek, which was to find good stuff for the other members of the ensemble to do. I think that Nick Wechsler [as Kyle Valenti] is underused. He's a fascinating actor. I love Colin Hanks [as Alex]. But we've got to keep the leads busy. Fortunately, they've finally put Katie Heigl in some major stories. I thought she really blossomed last year and I'm glad to see that she's getting so much to do." This season's shows have been nothing if not eclectic, from the discoveries of Skin and Bones to the time-tripping aspects of The End of the World and from the dress-up fun of Summer of `47 to the skins-shedding shenanigans of Harvest. If there's been any complaint, beyond the shift from romance to Sci-Fi/adventure, it's that the show has been revved up to such a degree that plot lines that might have been explored over the course of three or four or five episodes are now being crammed into one or two or three episodes. It's quite possible that Katims and company felt compelled to cram as much into the first 13 episodes for fear that Roswell might end when that 13th episode aired, the thinking being that the fans would get their money's worth and that many of the questions the fans wanted answered about the characters, their history and so on, would be addressed or at least touched on. Now that the WB has green lit the back nine, and it's a certainty that Roswell will get the chance to finish out the season, might things slow down a bit? "Katims can probably speak to this more than I can, but it probably does give you some room to breathe, so your arcs aren't just two episodes but maybe three episodes," Frakes replies, bring the conversation to a conclusion. "It's a very good question. Let's say yes. That would be my instinct. I'm sure everybody's breathing a little easier now that we know we're going to be around, and that may be reflected in the storytelling."
Frakes Offers Roswell Spoilers
Roswell co-executive producer Jonathan Frakes told SCI FI Wire that the SF show will have a new look and feel as it kicks off its third season Oct. 9. "We can't pretend most of these kids are in high school anymore, which I think is a blessing," Frakes said in an interview. "Isabel [Katherine Heigl] is in college. Max [Jason Behr] is on the run. I just directed an episode ["Secrets and Lies"], and it's Max in L.A. looking for the second shapeshifter [to be played by Joe Pantoliano of The Matrix]."
Frakes added, "We've really upped the ante in terms of the setting and characters. Half of my episode was shot in the streets of L.A. Michael's [Brendan Fehr] got a job at a high-tech firm as a security guard. It's going to end up revealing that there's stuff going on there that's going to help Max understand the mystery [surrounding his son]. The kids are not standing around lockers much anymore. Liz [Shiri Appleby] and Kyle [Nick Wechsler] are still in high school, because Shiri and Nick can still play that age. So we can occasionally tell stories that take place in a classroom. And we'll still have that wonderful SF underpinning. The surfacing of the second shapeshifter will provide cool optical opportunities, but the strength of [executive producers] Jason Katims and Ron Moore as writers is [that] they lean more on character than [on] visuals. As someone once said, `If it ain't on the page ... .'" Roswell moves to UPN at 9 p.m. ET/PT Oct. 9.
Jonathan Frakes' Take on Roswell
Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2001
From Soap Opera Digest
By Marc Wilkofsky
UPN�s sci-fi soap Roswell hopes to engage brand-new viewers by boldly incorporating the network�s new Star Trek series, Enterprise, into its October 30 episode.
Roswell Executive Producer and Star Trek veteran Jonathan Frakes� directing � and appearing in � this special installment is his latest contribution to the series; however, contrary to popular belief, his wife Genie Francis� (Laura, General Hospital) ethereal appearance as the alien teens� mom in the first season wasn�t his idea.
"Thania St. John, one of the executive producers in the first season, is a huge fan of hers, and she asked me if I thought Genie would do it," Frakes explains of how the key cameo was conceived. "Genie enjoyed it immensely; it�s always nice to do something different." Aside from hoping she�ll return to his show, he says, "We�re always looking for stuff to do together; we�d like to do a project where I would direct her." Having met on the set of the �80s soap Bare Essence and married in 1988, they shared the screen again in an 1995 episode of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, about which he says, "It�s a blast; it�s a real gift. It�s nice to go to work in one car." For now he has a regular role in her soap life: "I break the [GH] scripts down every night before she goes to work."
The former Star Trek: The Next Generation actor (ex-Will Riker) has been connected to Roswell since its inception � "The project was brought to me, as a series of teen novels called Roswell High, since I am the official spokesperson for all things paranormal" � and is very pleased with the Enterprise episode, which he arranged. "I�m obviously in the Star Trek family, so I asked Rick Berman, who�s the arbiter of all things Star Trek, if we could do it, and he said, �Sure.� And the availability allowed us to use [Enterprise�s] Dr. Phlox, John Billingsley."
The way Enterprise is involved is far from forced: "Max is on a quest to find his son; the clues lead him to California. He needs to get some information out of some film vaults, which are on a film lot in Paramount, where they�re shooting Enterprise. So he gets himself an audition." Playing himself as the Enterprise director, Frakes tells Max he doesn�t make for a believable alien. Joe Pantoliano (Ralph, The Sopranos) guest stars in the episode as an alien shapeshifter named Kal Langley; look for him to have an important role in Max�s life in the weeks to come.
Frakes had his own take on the Enterprise installment: "Roswell is a show in which you can do anything you want stylistically, and I tried to shoot the L.A. version of the episode with a little more pace and quick cutting than the Roswell side of it � part of the story takes place in Roswell, part takes place in L.A. � so I tried to make the two different towns feel different stylistically."
The multi-talented actor has nothing but praise for his series, and commented on the reasons for its popularity: "As with most successful shows, certainly the stories are well-told, and that comes from Jason [Katims, co-creator and executive producer] and Ron [Moore, writer/producer], and then we have an attractive and talented cast � that helps. And I think people are really intrigued by the possibility that there are aliens.
"Ron is fabulous; he is very gifted," Frakes adds of Moore, who scribed several episodes of Star Trek: TNG, where the two met. "He wrote a wonderful memo in light of the [terrorist-attack] tragedy that he distributed to all of us on Roswell. It was really encouraging and uplifting; he�s one of the genuinely good ones."
Frakes Talks ROSWELL
v Producer talks about series survival.
Dateline: Monday, December 24, 2001
By: FRANK KURTZ
For those who have been paying attention, UPN's ROSWELL has been getting a thrashing in the ratings. Now, series co-executive producer Jonathan Frakes has weighed in on the matter.
While talking to CINESCAPE's Scott Collura, Frakes spoke of the program's difficulties, saying, "I think we've suffered for being in what the L.A. TIMES calls the most competitive hour on television. 9 o'clock on Tuesdays is wicked and because we were partnered with BUFFY it wasn't realistic to move ROSWELL to another slot. So I'll be curious to see how we survive."
He adds, "But somehow the show from the beginning when the pilot was made has managed to have a very interesting life, cause it was made for Fox and at the last minute it was sold to the WB where it ran for two years and then after the WB lost BUFFY, UPN decided to buy ROSWELL as well. So it's really been on three networks. [But] I like going over there. I like those kids. I think they're all really talented and I like to keep my hand in it."
JONATHAN FRAKES on Roswell's Success
He'll forever be known as Number One to generations of Star Trek: The Next Generation viewers--but actor Jonathan Frakes has branched out to other genre franchises. His successful post-Trek directing and producing career now includes the WB's Roswell, which returns for its sophomore season this fall. The series explores the angst and antics of three survivors of the Roswell, N.M. crash of '47. When we last saw local Roswell high-schooler Liz (Shiri Appleby) and aliens Max (Jason Behr), Isabel (Katherine Heigl) and Michael (Brendan Fehr), the group had opened up a Pandora's box on the aliens' past. That's something Frakes promises will be explored in more detail this coming season.
Meanwhile, even as Frakes continues as an executive producer on Roswell's second season, he's readying a genre feature film, Clockstoppers, that he'll direct for Paramount. His duties on that film may limit his opportunities to direct future episodes of Roswell (he directed three in the series' first season). Plus, Frakes is closely following the talks for a 10th Star Trek movie, which he says could be ready by winter 2001.
Roswell's renewal was touch-and-go there for a while. Did it really go down to the wire?
Frakes: Well, they led us to believe that it went down to the wire. I personally feel that we were in a pretty good position, because the last six shows of our season were so strong, and it was such a new direction [for the series]. But I don't know--I wasn't in the room with the network.
Were you taken aback by the support Roswell received from the fans at the end of the season, right down to the Tabasco sauce campaign?
Frakes: I thought that was great. I wasn't surprised, because I know that there's been that kind of loyalty about Star Trek, historically, certainly in the original seasons; the original series was picked up partially because of fan support. So I was a cousin to that kind of phenomenon. I must say I was thrilled that that happened for Roswell; that was kind of a treat.
What about the rest of the cast and crew? How did they react?
Frakes: I think people who had not been around it had been quite amazed by it. First of all, our kids are all new--except for Bill Sadler, they're all relatively new to this whole phenomenon of being TV stars. So they all reacted with excitement, obviously. Some of them, I think, were surprised by how rapidly their lives have changed.
Will the positive word of mouth on the show help as you head into the second season?
Frakes: There's a nice history of second seasons [being when a show really starts] kicking in. Hill Street Blues certainly comes to mind, [and] The X-Files, and I certainly think that Roswell is going to follow in that lexicon of television. I think people who haven't seen it will catch up with it this summer. There is great word of mouth, and I think it's going to do much better on Monday than it ever did on Wednesday. The competition was too stiff between West Wing, which was arguably the best new show last year, and Voyager, which is a sci-fi audience, which is what part of our audience is now. So that was certainly tapping off some of our potential audience. And now 9 o'clock on Monday is not as brutal.
Roswell has actually evolved into a show with a high degree of crossover appeal between sci-fi and straightforward drama. Was that your goal?
Frakes: Well, originally the plan was to partner us with Dawson's Creek, because it was perceived as another teen angst drama. And now it's something that's certainly more than that. We're getting a really nice cross section [of viewers].
Metaphorically, you ended the season with a bang. Did you have a plan to end up that way?
Frakes: It evolved, in all honesty, into a show much more about the mythology of the aliens than about the angst about teen romance. It's really become, in a lot of ways, about Max, who is, as [creator] Jason Katims likes to refer to him, not unlike Michael Corleone--he tried to get out, but he's always brought back. He is the leader, he is the number-one alien; and it's a great character for that. In the beginning of this coming season, all of the aliens in the show, certainly, are going to have to lead their lives in a different way; their lives have been changed forever. Which is exciting and challenging and I think is going to make for some great stories. There is going to be a great [revelation] of something that I'm not supposed to divulge in the first episode, which will help. And I think, at the end of the last episode, we certainly let them know that our aliens are not the only aliens out there, which is also an appeal--and fuel for a lot of the season next year.
What is the path the aliens are on now?
Frakes: They have begun to find out where they came from, and they've begun to understand who the character Nacedo is. And in the beginning of the second season, there will be an event that will alter the way our aliens lead their lives. So it's no longer going to be just between humans. We now have human-alien relationships, alien-alien relationships, and the fact that there are other races of aliens here on Earth with us, so it's a pretty cool sci-fi concept, I think.
There's a new producer on board this season as well, someone who's quite familiar to genre fans - Ron Moore
You encouraged Jason Katims to bring Moore on staff as a co-executive producer?
Frakes: Yes. Ron Moore was the leader in creating the Klingon mythology that became such a big part of [Next Generation] and Deep Space Nine.
Back to Main|