Actors know what they’re in for when they sign up for a sci-fi series. Even a moderately successful show can spawn a lifetime of cult of fandom.
And if a show is very successful, cast members can find themselves making appearances together years after they’re off the air — whether they like it or not. “I don’t think we had any idea that the show would become the cultural icon that it’s become,” says Jonathan Frakes, best known for playing Commander William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG).
That show’s core cast will appear together at this weekend’s Toronto ComiCon. Luckily for them, friendship — not duty — is what keeps bringing them back together. “The cast is like a family,” he says.
That’s a rare occurrence. Frakes, who now directs prime-time shows like Castle and NCIS: Los Angeles, says that by the end of most workdays, people are usually done with each other. Not so with the TNG cast. “We used to work together all week and then go out on the weekends. We were insane.”
The insanity spilled over to the set during the show’s seven-season run.
Frakes experienced the chaos first hand when he got his first directing gig on the show. “Patrick (Stewart, who played Captain Picard) set a very high bar and that allowed us to be playful between takes.”
Such camaraderie makes public gatherings feel like a comedic roast. “You generally see Patrick going after Michael Dorn. That’s a pretty standard opening. Levar (Burton) calls it catching lightning in a bottle,” he says. “Somebody smiled on us.”
Toronto ComiCon takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
Frakes has attended his share of comic conventions over the years. One of his earliest “acting” gigs had him dressed up as Captain America, promoting the character for Marvel at comic conventions in the 1970s.
These days, it’s the fans who are more likely to be in costume. Not that Frakes minds. “If it wasn’t for the fans, we wouldn’t be talking now.”