Aug. 19th, 1952
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, USA
Jonathan Frakes' Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Jonathan Frakes was born August 19, 1952, in the small town of Bellefonte, in central Pennsylvania. His father, James, and his mother, Doris, soon moved with Jonathan and his younger brother Daniel to Bethlehem, in eastern Pennsylvania. There Dr. Frakes taught English at Lehigh University, where he held the Fairchild chair in American Literature until his death in 2002. While growing up, Jonathan was introduced to jazz by his father, and started playing the trombone when he was in fourth grade. As a child Jonathan was always friendly, funny and somewhat of an actor, according to a childhood friend.
In high school, he played in the band and ran track. He graduated from Liberty High in Bethlehem in 1970. The day after he graduated he started classes at Pennsylvania State University, enrolling as a psychology major. The next summer he worked as an usher for the local theater and observed his peers thoroughly enjoying acting. He was motivated to switch his major to theater arts and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1974. He then moved to Boston to attain his masters degree from Harvard University by 1976.
At this point, he decided to move to New York City and try to make it as an actor. The roles didn't come easily, so he had to take side jobs, such as a waiter, a furniture mover (where he injured up his back), and a stint as Captain America for Marvel Comics. Meanwhile, he won roles in the Broadway musical "Shenandoah" and on the soap opera "The Doctors" (1969) as Vietnam vet Tom Carroll from 1977 to 1978.
At his agent's urging, Jonathan moved to Los Angeles in late 1978 to try his hand at television guest appearances. He guest-starred on several of the big primetime shows of the time, including "Charlie's Angels" (1976), "Fantasy Island" (1978), "Barnaby Jones" (1973), "Quincy M.E." (1976), "Highway to Heaven" (1984), "The Waltons" (1972), and "The Dukes of Hazzard" (1979).
During the 1980s, Jonathan landed a starring role in a prime-time soap opera, "Bare Essence" (1983), which had spun off a successful miniseries of the same name. The show didn't take off with the viewers, however, and was soon canceled. He went back to guest appearances for two more years, until he got the part of Stanley Hazard in the Civil War epic "North and South" (1985). After spending more than six months filming all over the southern United States, he and his co-star, Genie Francis, fell in love (he had met her three years before when they co-starred in "Bare Essence" (1983)). During that time, he and Genie didn't have much to do with each other, other than his making fun of her hair, according to her. Three years later, however, they were an item.
In early 1987, Jonathan went to an audition for a new television series at the urging of his soon-to-be wife and her family. After six weeks, and seven auditions, he won the role that would bring him worldwide fame: that of Cmdr. William Riker on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987). It was at this time he and Genie announced their engagement. They would have to postpone their wedding twice because of his job but were finally married in the first-season hiatus on May 28, 1988. All of his new co-stars attended the wedding, along with "Star Trek" (1966) creator Gene Roddenberry. During the seven years Frakes starred on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987), he not only acted but discovered that he had a talent for directing. He helmed eight episodes in all and was invited to direct on the Next Generation spin-offs, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1993) and "Star Trek: Voyager" (1995).
The day after his 42nd birthday, on August 20, his son, Jameson Ivor Frakes was born. Jameson is named after both his grandfathers, the late James Frakes, and the late actor Ivor Francis, Genie's father. During this time, Jonathan actually turned down work, preferring to stay at home and raise his son with his wife. For the next two years, he did a few guest appearances on television.
In 1996, it was announced that he was to be the director of the next Star Trek film, Star Trek: First Contact (1996). He received critical praise for his work on the film, and it became the highest-grossing entry of the franchise to date. He formed a production company, Goepp Circle Productions, named after the street he lived on in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Just two days after his ninth wedding anniversary in 1997, Elizabeth Francis Frakes was born. Sadly, just two weeks prior, Jonathan's brother, Daniel, passed away from pancreatic cancer.
In 1998, he was asked to direct the ninth Star Trek film, Star Trek: Insurrection (1998). Following mixed reviews for this film, he continued to direct in movies and television, act in a few non-Star Trek roles, and starred in the tenth Star Trek film, Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).
- Is a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.
- In some of the first season episodes of _"Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987)_ (qv), his character, 1st officer William Riker, was called "Bill". In the seasons that followed, he was generally referred to as either Will or "Number One".
- Was interviewed and cast for Cdr. Riker personally by Gene Roddenberry. He told Frakes that he saw a certain, authoritative "glint" in his eye for that part which reminded him of his self, years ago, while in the LAPD and Air Force.
- Along with 'Marina Sirtis' (qv), 'Armin Shimerman' (qv), 'John de Lancie' (qv), 'Michael Ansara' (qv) and 'Richard Poe' (qv), he is one of six actors to play the same character on three different 'Star Trek' series. He played Commander William T. Riker in _"Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987)_ (qv), _"Star Trek: Voyager" (1995)_ (qv) and _"Enterprise" (2001)_ (qv). He also played the transporter double of this character, Lieutenant W. Thomas Riker, in _"Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987)_ (qv) and _"Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1993)_ (qv).
- Marched trombone in Blue Band at Penn State University.
- Godmother of his son Jameson is 'Elizabeth Berman' (qv) (wife of 'Rick Berman' (qv)-Star Trek producer/writer/creator)
- Calls 'Alfre Woodard' (qv) his "godmother". The two became friends as young actors in the 1970's.
- Along with 'Tim Russ' (qv), he is one of only two actors who have appeared in "Star Trek" to share scenes with four of the five captains: 'Patrick Stewart (I)' (qv) in every episode of _"Star Trek: The Next Generation" (1987)_ (qv), _Star Trek: Generations (1994)_ (qv), _Star Trek: First Contact (1996)_ (qv), _Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)_ (qv) and _Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)_ (qv), 'Avery Brooks (I)' (qv) in the _"Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" (1993)_ (qv) episode "Defiant", 'Kate Mulgrew' (qv) in the _"Star Trek: Voyager" (1995)_ (qv) episode "Death Wish" and 'Scott Bakula' (qv) in the _"Enterprise" (2001)_ (qv) finale "These Are the Voyages...".