Jonathan Frakes has been entertaining fans for decades as Captain William T. Riker in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and most recently on “Star Trek: Picard.”
The actor has played the role of Riker for 35 years and remains one of the most beloved characters among Trekkies. Frakes calls the long admiration “the gift that keeps on giving.” However, he says legendary television screenwriter Gene Roddenberry deserves all the credit for the original “Star Trek.”
“(He) gets credit for painting this picture of the future that’s so hopeful and and gives us a world where there’s no sexism and no racism and we should be so lucky,” he explained to KTLA 5’s Sam Rubin. “We’re still working on it.”
Frakes is also busy behind the camera. He’s directed episodes of “Star Trek: Picard” and “Star Trek: Discovery.” Most recently, he’s been tapped to direct a crossover between “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” and the animated series “Star Trek: Lower Decks,” which is a bit out of the norm for a crossover.
“It’s a very big swing and ‘Strange New Worlds’ is kind of making a place in the ‘Star Trek’ oeuvre by taking huge swings, and this is one of them,” Frakes reasoned. “We start in an animation world with the adult animated world of ‘Lower Decks’ and Boimler, played by Jack Quaid, and Mariner, played by Tawny Newsome, they come over into the real life of ‘Strange New Worlds’ and wacky hijinks ensues.”
When Frakes isn’t working on an installment of the “Star Trek” franchise, he’s very involved with raising awareness about pancreatic cancer.
Twenty-five years ago, his brother Daniel died from the disease at just 41. Then a few years later, Kitty Swink of the “Star Trek” family revealed she was diagnosed with the cancer. She got involved with the organization PanCan.org and urged Frakes to do the same. Swink is a now an 18-year pancreatic cancer survivor.
“I remember when I used to check in with my mom. I would tell her about Kitty and every time I talked to her on the phone, she’d ask ‘How’s your friend Kitty doing?’ And a smile would come across (her) face because it helped her deal with the loss of her son. There was a survivor,” he revealed.
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and the organization is trying to raise as much money possible for research on early detection.
“What’s missing in the blood tests that we all get, hopefully, when we get our annual physical is some easy marker to identify pancreatic cancer and detect it early enough. So the money is going towards that and obviously towards better treatment options,” he explained.
“When Daniel died, there was a 4% survival rate. It’s now up to 11%, which arguably still sucks, but it’s better than it was and we have a long way to go.”
If someone in your family has had pancreatic cancer, Frakes advises them to tell their doctor right away during check-ups to get treated appropriately.