Why Jonathan Frakes wasn't having fun in the early seasons of TNG

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

It's been 25 years since Jonathan Frakes first stepped onto the bridge of the Enterprise and became a geek icon in Star Trek: The Next Generation. But though he looks back fondly on his time with the rest of the TNG crew now, Frakes said the early years of the show weren't much fun for him, for one very specific reason.

When TNG was beginning its run, Frakes was honored to land a spot on a show so tied in to the vision of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, so honored that he spent the show's first few years worrying that he couldn't live up to what the creator wanted for Cmdr. Riker.

According to The Hero Complex's Geoff Boucher, Roddenberry wanted Riker to be a "taciturn, no-nonsense Midwest type, a Gary Cooper who exuded integrity and devotion to duty." Frakes said he's "a little more silly than that," but noted that he spent much of his time in those early seasons trying to live up to Roddenberry's vision of the character as a paragon of Federation ideals.

"I looked very, very stiff in those early seasons because I was so intent on living up to the vision that Gene had, and it was not real fun," Frakes said.

So, what changed Riker for Frakes? What finally allowed him to loosen up, settle in and actually enjoy walking around in Number One's skin? One day he mentioned to producers that he loves jazz, and suddenly it was time for the commander to play an instrument.

"All of a sudden, Riker was playing the trombone, and they let a little bit of the playfulness in. And it all changed for the better," Frakes said.

So if you're a bigger fan of Cmdr. Riker's later years, thank Jonathan Frakes' trombone.

(Via Hero Complex)

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