Star Trek: Jonathan Frakes Says Returning as Will Riker Was "Nerve-Wracking"

Fans were excited to see Jonathan Frakes return as Cmdr. William Riker in Star Trek: Picard, but the actor/director says the experience was nerve-wracking. Frakes reunited with Star Trek: The Next Generation co-stars Marina Sirtis and Patrick Stewart in the Star Trek: Picard episode "Nepenthe." He appeared again in the show's first season finale episode "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2." He recalled the experience while speaking to GalaxyCon. "It was a thrill to be asked back as an actor," Frakes says. "nerve-wracking, but a thrill. I thought Marina was astounding. When Patrick came to our home in “Nepenthe,” spectacular."

His comments echo those he may during a convention appearance in September 2019. “I hadn’t acted in a long, long, long time,” Frakes said. “I hadn’t played Riker in 18 years, and I’ve been very fortunate to be busy directing. I acted briefly in a movie in Winnipeg about 10 years ago. And I had a major anxiety attack because, for whatever reason, I’d forgotten to act. I forgot how to act. I was not a pretty picture for a few hours. I got my s--t together and ended up doing fine.

“I had just directed two episodes of Picard with Sir Patrick and, as I said, his acting muscle was well-toned. And Marina (Sirtis) had just closed having starred in a play in the West End in London. So, I knew she was going to be in good form. So, I was a nervous wreck. It ended up going very well. But don’t let anybody tell you it’s like getting back on a bike. That’s bulls--t. That’s acting bulls--t.”

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Frakes says he's happy to have Star Trek back in his life again after so many years. "It has been a blessing to have my career to be rekindled by the new Star Treks," Frakes said. "It didn’t hurt that I learned how to do another craft. The directing has been fantastic for me. When Discovery worked out and then Picard worked out and now there will be a new one, and another one."

Frakes directed three episodes of the upcoming third season of Star Trek: Discovery. “I can tell you this much about season three of Discovery: It is in fact much more optimistic,” Frakes said during a convention appearance. “They’ve gotten themselves out of the Mirror Universe... After Gene died, some of the writers decided that Deep Space Nine should maybe take a different tone, which, I think, it did to certain degrees of success. The optimism that Gene infused in all of his shows and in all of us may not be as obvious as it once was, but it’s certainly the driving force of his vision and the franchise and [Alex] Kurtzman and all the people who run our shows are very conscious that that canon is important to all of you and all of us. JJ [Abram]’s movies, I thought, were very uplifting and wonderfully told stories. There needs to be conflict to make drama. So I’m here to share that Discovery certainly is taking a more optimistic, traditional Star Trek approach in next season.”