Sep 19, 2023

It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Jonathan Frakes’ Commander William Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Frakes was just such a perfect fit for that role. His charisma, natural charm, and easy-going demeanor made the character so likable and he resonated with fans. Also, how couldn’t you love that smug grin of his?!It turns out that Frakes was not the first choice to take on the role of Riker. It was revealed in The Fifty-Year Mission written by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, and franchise producer Rick Berman that The Rocketeer star Billy Campbell was originally cast in the role! That’s certainly an interesting choice, but one that wouldn’t have worked as well. He was a rising star at the time starring in shows such as Crime Story and Dynasty, but Paramount Television head John Pike didn’t want him. Berman shared the following details:”For the role of Riker, we cast an actor named Billy Campbell, who later did a bunch of other good things, and [John] Pike didn’t like him. He didn’t feel he had a sense of command. He wouldn’t follow this guy into battle. I think it was really more that he didn’t audition that well for the part, and that’s when we went to our second choice, who was Jonathan Frakes, who turned out to be a terrific choice.”Yeah, I just don’t see Campbell being the right fit, he really doesn’t have that commander-type quality and personality. Campbell did actually appear in Star Trek: The Next Generation as a guest star in the episode “The Outrageous Okona.” In that episode, Campbell plays a rogue and cocky freighter pilot, Captain Thadiun Okona. Okona’s ship is malfunctioning, and while the Enterprise assists with repairs, two other ships approach, each representing a different planet and both demanding Okona’s extradition for perceived wrongdoings. As Captain Picard and his crew work to understand the situation, they discover Okona has been wrongly accused of seducing a woman and stealing a jewel. With Okona’s help, the true nature of the situation is revealed, leading to peace between the two planets. It wasn’t the best episode and it led to Data doing stand-up comedy.When it came to Frake getting the gig, he still had to work hard to get it! He explained: “I auditioned seven times over six weeks for this part,” and added it was “Unlike anything I have ever had to fight for before.” He went on to share:”The last few auditions, I would be sent to Gene’s office prior to going to whichever executive needed convincing on this particular audition. I kept going up the food chain. In Gene’s office, Gene would give me a pep talk, and Corey Allen, the director of the pilot, was there. Gene believed that in the twenty-fourth century, as he used to say, there’ll be no hunger and there will be no greed, and all of the children will know how to read. He was able to convey his passion about the future and this optimistic, hopeful, gentler, more thoughtful future that we all wish we could live.”The pep talks obviously worked and Frakes got the role and Star Trek would launch his career as an actor and director. Via: /Film

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