is in possession of one of the worlds most famous faces. Fifteen
years portraying Enterprise first officer William T. Riker, a character
introduced on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation,
has placed his bearded visage on a long succession of TV episodes,
movies, book covers, cassettes, video games, and even theme-park attractions.
The fact that Frakes has been honing his directing skills is far less
well known, but that may soon change.
Having helmed the movies Star Trek: First Contact and
Star Trek: Insurrection (to say nothing of more than 20
hours of series television), Frakes, 49, has just completed Clockstoppers,
his first feature directorial effort outside the Star Trek
A family sci-fi adventure from Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon
Movies, Clockstoppers centers on a teen who stumbles upon
a special timepiece that allows him to enter hypertime,
where he can move at impossible speeds and become invisible to those
in real time. Everyone around him appears frozen, so hijinks naturally
ensue until he realizes that someone else is also searching
for the unique device. Hes soon compelled to deliver his family,
and the world, from evil forces.
Educated at Penn State and Harvard, Frakes can trace his onscreen
career back to guest parts on 70s TV fodder like Barnaby
Jones and Charlies Angels, and a year-long
stint on the NBC soap The Doctors. Soon after completing
his first season on Trek, Frakes married General
Hospital soap sensation Genie Francis, and the couple now has
two small children.
Trek not only brought Frakes international fame, it launched
his directorial career with a third-season episode titled The
Offspring. Frakes would direct seven more Next Generation
installments before the series concluded in 1994, as well as three
episodes each of its two spinoffs, Deep Space Nine and
In 1999, he became executive producer and occasional director of the
WBs science fiction drama Roswell, now concluding
its third season. Frakes also recently sold to UPN a pilot for a series
titled Sons of Liberty.
On Jan. 25, just days after Frakes In Focus interview, the Hollywood
trade papers announced that he would direct a big-screen Disney thriller
titled Illusion, about a stage magician framed for murder.
When we caught up to Frakes, he was busily reprising his signature
role on the set of Star Trek: Nemesis, the 10th installment
of the long-running motion picture series. Currently in post production
and slated for November release, Nemesis will see Will
Riker marry longtime love (and fellow Starfleet officer) Deanna Troi
and serve his last mission as first officer of the Enterprise.
would you compare your experience on Clockstoppers to
your prior directorial experiences? Were there different creative
opportunities for you since you werent building on a franchise?
Yes, it was exciting. Clockstoppers offered a whole new
canvas with no preconceived ideas of how things should be. It was
great to get off the Enterprise, to be honest. Star Trek
is always intelligent and challenging but its nice to get outside
of the family once in awhile. It was hard to get the studio to sign
off on it; but they did, and theyre pleased with the results.
We achieved a lot of amazing visual effects in Clockstoppers.
We have some great frozen water effects. Its like a big funhouse.
from the visual effects, what drew you to Clockstoppers?
I liked the sense of fun its like Back to the Future.
And its a father/son story. That attracted me. I liked the kind
of pop culture genre that I was able to go to instead of the pristine
24th century. Everything is always a certain way on the Enterprise.
you go after the project or did it come to you?
I was working with Nickelodeon on another script called Interstellar
Pig, which were still trying to get going. We already
knew each other, so when Clockstoppers got fast-tracked
it just happened to click.
you go into any specifics on how you shaped the material?
This was a movie that was in development for at least five years.
Gale Anne Hurd, of Terminator and Armageddon
fame, bought it originally and is the producer, along with Julia Pistor
of Nickelodeon. The script had at least three sets of writers before
I came on. After looking at all the different versions I suggested
we go back to the Rob Hedden version, which was the original one that
Gale had bought. It really had a great sense of fun and adventure,
and much of that had been squeezed out of it in some of the later
versions. So that was the template. Then the Rugrats writers,
who are now writing Shrek 2 theyre called
the Daves, Dave Stem and Dave Weiss wrote the shooting script.
It happened very, very quickly, I think because of the success of
Spy Kids. All the studios were clamoring to get family
how did you make the material your own?
It was very much a collaboration. There were a lot of hours spent
with the writers beating out the story and its become everybodys.
Julia, Gale, the writers, myself
we spent, I cant tell
you how many hours in the Nickelodeon conference room working on the
beats and all those primary colors. It was a good team.
sort of audience do you anticipate youll reach with Clockstoppers?
Its a kids movie. It skews to about fourteen. The kids
in the movie are probably seventeen, so the audience aspires to be
seventeen. Its full of action but it doesnt have bad language
in it. Theres no gunplay, no gratuitous sex. Ive gotten
to the point where if Im going to spend a year on a project,
at the end of it I want to say to my kids, Heres where
Dads been. Thats why Star Trek is great
because you can be very proud of where youve been when youve
been gone for 80 hours a week. The same thing is true with Clockstoppers.
their brand and their philosophy are the same as
mine. They really are a family company. They believe in the family
and we shot in the United States because of that. We wanted to encourage
production to stay in LA because so many people we know grips
and make-up artists are losing their houses because of all
the production going to Canada. At Nickelodeon they put their money
where their mouth is, which I really respect.
aspect of Clockstoppers are you proudest of?
The pace its like a train. It takes off and doesnt
stop until the end of the film, I hope.
a bit of a change from the pace of Star Trek.
(Laughs) Yeah, in Star Trek we often have what we like
to call necessary breathers.
that youve directed a fast-paced action film your first
feature outside of the Star Trek franchise do you
think you like directing better than acting?
Ive started to say yes to that question. I find
doing both as Ive done for the last month since we were
shooting the Star Trek movie that Im enjoying
the directing part of my life more than the acting part. The best
part of acting for me now is getting together with my friends from
from playing Commander Riker, what sort of role would you like to
see come your way?
A musical comedy. That would be fun.
aspect of directing do you find most gratifying?
I like working with the actors. I like blowing stuff up as much as
anyone and I love the big days when youve got six cameras and
two thousand extras and explosions and all. Thats a blast, but
I think I still enjoy [working with actors the most].
is your method of working with actors?
I take each actors emotional temperature. I have a very playful
approach to the work and if an actor is willing to play Im happy,
but if theyre more serious or method-y Im
happy to approach it that way too. I approach actors the way theyre
do you think your years of experience as an actor has helped you as
I think thats one of the things that
I think actors make
good directors. I think that [a director] is crazy not to take the
input from the actors. Im always amazed at directors who so
staunchly believe that their way is the only way. Especially with
actors who have been playing roles for 15 years as its been
on Star Trek. We know these characters, just like on a
soap. Nobody knows the characters better than the people playing the
parts. In general their instincts about the part are at least worth
you find it more interesting to direct feature films or episodic TV?
I think you get to do more when you direct a feature. With episodic
TV its like fighting the clock from the moment you step on the
stage. And the characters, at least the regular characters, are already
in place, so theres not much you can do except to keep your
eye on them. Youre not creating any new characters, with the
exception of the guests.
are your filmmaking influences? Do you have any favorite directors
My favorite directors to watch are Martin Scorsese and Robert Altman.
Sydney Pollack. But when I was preparing [to direct] the Star
Trek movies I stole a lot from the great action directors. I
always steal from Spielberg and I steal from Ridley Scott.
not directing Star Trek: Nemesis, correct?
No. Stuart Baird is directing it.
you want to direct Nemesis?
I wasnt asked. It would have been nice to have been asked.
about in the future? Would you like to direct another Star Trek
I never say never. Therell be another Star Trek
feature after this one.
you find it strange that youre only offered sci-fi projects?
Are you compelled to take steps to move beyond the genre?
Absolutely. Its tough to get them to sign off on other things,
but we just sold a Revolutionary War pilot to UPN. Its called
Sons of Liberty. I like to call it Brother Jonathan,
which is the code word that they used to get into a safe house to
the cause. Like, to get into a tavern that was having a secret meeting
of the Sons of Liberty theyd say, Is Brother Jonathan
Yeah. So were psyched. We sold that a couple weeks ago, got
the notes and the script last week. The networks have all been trying
to find patriotic stories, so were hoping they say go ahead
and make the pilot.
genre is Sons of Liberty?
Its straight ahead action. We hope it gets made. Thats
the next step. They have to sign off on it and spend the money to
make it. It wont be cheap to do a period piece.
they sign off, will you star in the series?
I doubt it. Its mostly young people in Sons of Liberty.
I dont fit that role anymore. But Im hoping to put Genie
in Sons of Liberty.
of your wife, would you like to act with her in a project?
I would love to. Were looking for something now that we can
item at the Aint
It Cool News Website suggested youre contemplating
a Roswell feature. How far along is that?
Well, theres a two-hour Roswell episode coming at
the end of this season which will certainly play like a feature. I
think I probably said that thinking it would be a cool idea.
you havent played around with scenarios yet?
No. I think that the cast and the premise would make a great feature,
word of a fourth season for Roswell?
Were what they euphemistically refer to as on the bubble.
(Laughs.) That means were waiting to see.
executive producer on Roswell; how has that experience
I like that show. I havent had as much to do on it since Clockstoppers
because Ive been busy elsewhere. I think Roswell
has a really dense, interesting combination of voices the teen
angst and the alien mythology. Im very proud of that show. I
wish more people watched but its in a very tough timeslot. Its
a wicked timeslot.
theyll move it.
Well, we were taken to UPN as a partner to Buffy the Vampire
Slayer, so its going to be tough to separate the two.
Well see what happens. One never knows, do one.
happened to Steve Was Here, a project you mentioned you
were working on in the past?
Dean Devlins got a new deal at Paramount. He and I and Lisa
Olin, whos my partner, and Norm Steinberg who wrote My
Favorite Year, were working on it when Dean was at Centropolis.
So now Im hoping that, because of my relationship there and
his new relationship that we can rekindle that movie. I think its
a wonderful black comedy that I think would do very, very well. Its
every [film] that Im attached to seems to have
some alien bent.
the alien bent in the Steve Was Here?
Well, its a long story, but a man creates an alien in his mind
and it turns out to be real.
described getting cast on Star Trek 15 years ago as a
life-altering event. Any interesting stories about this?
Did you beat out any now-famous actors for the part of Riker?
Bill Campbell, whos now on Once and Again, was the
other Riker. He and I were the ones who went head to head for Riker.
He guested on the show. He played the Outrageous Okona.
Now hes got a wonderful hit series so I dont think we
have to worry about Bill.
you ever considered for any roles other than Riker?
I dont think so. Not that Im aware of.
Nemesis your character is preparing to leave the Enterprise
to take on his own command. Will you still be a part of the features
I certainly hope so.
the best thing about being a part of the Star Trek phenomenon?
The best thing has been the friendships.
do you stay in contact with the other cast members now that youre
not on the show every week? Are you still close?
We go to dinner and talk on the phone. Thats been the best part
of doing Nemesis is that they were there family.
are they doing?
LeVar [Burton] is all over the place. Patrick [Stewart] all over the
place. Brent [Spiner] does movies all year long.
there any downside to being a part of Star Trek?
If there is a downside its the pigeonhole that we constantly
try to fly out of and weve been very fortunate.
so than the original cast.
Nemesis script was written by John Logan, who received
an Oscar nomination for writing the Gladiator screenplay.
How do you think Nemesis holds up in contrast to past
I think it may be our best script ever. Wonderful, big, action-adventure.
Some great Star Trek themes.
it take us in a new direction?
Oh yeah. Its a return to some of the classic Star Trek
roots, but it also has an imaginative new element.
we expect some surprises?
(Emphatically) Oh yeah!
you wont give them away, will you.
You got it.
does it come out?
Thanksgiving, I think.
when is Clockstoppers being released?
Clockstoppers is Easter weekend, man 29th of March!
last question, since youve been so successful in parlaying your
role as Commander Riker into an accomplished directing career, could
you share the most useful professional advice youve ever received?
A number of pieces of advice have stuck with me. Some as simple as
tell the truth. Others
Make sure you do something
you love. Of course the golden rule always applies, especially
in this business where you see the same people on the way up as on
the way down. Oh, and make sure that your shoes fit.