Star Trek’s Jonathan Frakes on Covid-19 and Discovery Season 4

Jonathan Frakes directs Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones on the set of Star Trek: Discovery.

Jonathan Frakes on set with Sonequa Martin-Green and Doug Jones.
picture: Michael Gibson / Paramount +

Jonathan Frakes may forever be known Star Trek Fans like Captain William Riker, and next generation The role he has played to this day Piccard And lower floors. But it can be said that his most important contributions to Star TrekIt was the new era behind the scenes, as one of the DiscoveryThe most reliable managers. But even this last role can bring with it surprising challenges.

Frakes directed episodes of Discovery every season Since the beginning—Including “Stormy Weather” for this week, A Top of the season so farHe has always embraced his love of working behind the camera these days rather than being in front of it. But as much as he loves directing, returning for the currently streaming fourth season of the show is a challenge unlike anything he’s faced before. Star Trek: Possible filming of the cast at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about his process for reviving this week’s episode, and the challenges of working on a big show like Star Trek As safely as possible, io9 spoke with Frakes by phone this week. Check out the full interview below.

Image of Star Trek article Jonathan Frakes on Discovery Experiments and Photography during Covid-19

James Whitbrook, io9: How did it feel to come back this season and shoot safely, under very different circumstances with covid protocols in place?

Jonathan Frakes: To be totally honest, it takes the joy of work. It has been… It has changed. But fortunately, Paramount and studios in Canada and the United States are very strict with the COVID protocol. We tested it daily. masked. At the beginning of the pandemic, we had to wear a mask and then a shield in addition to the mask, when we got off the set to talk to the actors. It’s stifling. He’s frustrated. It is a constant reminder of the danger we all face and that we continue to do, as some would say, petty business. But people love to have this entertainment. I look forward to a time when we can work as usual. Having said that, I think showing business in general has been a great pioneer in how we approach these new constraints. I once worked on the ABC show and Disney has a very strict mandate to vaccinate, which caused some people to leave the show. When I went to Discovery This season, I had to quarantine in a hotel room for two weeks. I was not allowed to leave the room. You can download an app where they check your location daily. It got a little bit of a cold war communist Russia vibe.

So there is nothing fun about it. It’s particularly scary — and I’ve spoken to a number of directors, Michael Pressman and Robert Duncan McNeil, and Olatunde Osonsanmi, who is the producing director at [Discovery], and others. And we’ve all been involved… we find, using the mask, we’re exaggerating now. Because we’re used to using a lot of our faces and bodies to express an observation. Either a positive note, “Attaboy!” Or suggesting that we try something different. We can tell a lot of the story and tone of what we’re looking for through your facial expressions and movement. And because they only see a small part of your face, they can misinterpret your remark—or think they’re misinterpreting it, or just look at you with empty eyes. So, it was a strange side effect of all this exaggeration. Without the mask and shield, communication would be faster, cleaner, and more efficient. I bet you’re sorry you asked that question…

io9: No, it’s really cool to see how really these shows are being shot now.

Frax: You feel safe because they take it so seriously, but it really takes a lot of joy out of the work.

io9: The thing that was really interesting about “stormy weather” is that it’s so rare Discovery—It looks like a bottle ring. What’s your approach to trying to keep a lot of the scenes dynamic this week, considering we’re so focused on the bridge and DiscoveryThe new lounge area?

Frax: also on Discovery We encourage cinematography and I love the bridge. I love the bridge Discovery, Especially. So I always have a competition about roaming around the bridge with Steadicams and handheld cameras, at least. We are very competitive in terms of how well we can play in a given shot. We always keep the camera moving. Especially, if you’ve watched the episode…there’s nothing on the show screen. Burnham comments on it herself, saying, “Put the pictures on top” and O’Sconn says, “These are the pictures — you’re looking at them.” It’s kind of defining and gorgeous in its own way. And it was my first time in the lounge, so I was able to explore that and it was gray in there, so…again, use the Steadicam, keep it moving, and explore the area…because it’s a new set for the audience, they’re going to find new pieces of it. There is very strong support in Discovery To be a movie in a way some shows are not. All the Star Trex this way. So, anything you want to try, you can. Any equipment – any game, if you want – you need, you will get it. So, in a show where they have to find or discover a way to escape, basically, a black hole… you need games at your disposal.

Frakes directed the tenth episode of the first season of Discovery, titled

Frakes directed the tenth episode of the first season of Discovery, “In spite of yourself” in 2017.
picture: CBS

io9: It’s also a significant week for Ian Alexander Gray, as he got a lot of solo action opposite Annabelle Wallis as the voice of Zora. How did it feel to work with them in these scenes?

Frax: I found him incredibly professional, willing, and aware… Just like the character, who now has a physical body inhabiting him, Ian now has a piece of the action, if you will. He’s a major character in this episode for sure. And he embraced it in a way – he’s a true professional. He may be young, but he’s been doing it for a long time, and he has a great presence… very smart. Very helpful. He will try anything in terms of staging, movement, obstruction, choices, and intentions. And falsely play the same. It is not uncommon in Star Trek To have an AI or a non-living character as part of the scene. It might be weird in other genre shows, but in Star Trek…I mean, Burnham and Saroo play with Zora too.

io9: As we touched on, this is also a keynote for Zora and Annabelle Wallis, where we learn more about AI and the ways in which it is completely different than in the past. Star Trek computer sounds. I want to talk about those climatic scenes on the bridge – it’s just Sonequa Martin-Green talking about what the ship should do with Zora. What was it like to plan those emotional scenes?

Frax: I always look forward to the scenes with Sonequa, anyway, and I look forward to the bridge. We have a very strong shorthand like me, as a recovering actor, and we speak the same language as the actor. I am also a big fan of her. So it was at least two or three days on the bridge – just the two of us and the film crew. So, we had a cunning plan, we plotted the storyboard where the development of the fire would be – we had a practical and special fire FX, a digital fire FX… We had major decisions on the helmet board. It was completely impractical, because it reflected all the lights and cameras – so we ended up doing all that stuff without a face plate. This is often the decision that is made when working with people in spacesuits. So, Sonequa and I thought it made sense to shoot sequentially, so I shut it down and shut down. We talked about tension, we talked about rhythms, we talked about sound… and I had people in different parts of the setup on the rafters and out in the wings, making additional noises that would give the character something to respond to. So we collaborated on that in a way that I think was totally instructive – it’s a beautiful sight.

And the emotion in “stormy weather” is, in my opinion, very effective. The double meaning of her relationship with Book is obviously full of imagery and metaphor and I think it’s quite clever. My appreciation to Michelle Paradis and her writing team. I am happy with the results. Again, speaking of games, you have a lipstick camera, diopter pumps, and things that go into Sonequa’s eyes… all plotted, plotted, and put into the storyboard. And in execution, it was Sonequa and I deciding what the character would see. She gives birth. She is committing. You can make an argument that it’s why the show is in its fourth season.

io9: What has he been pointing to you? DiscoveryAnd hopefully, they’ll keep bringing you back for more.

Frax: we will, Discovery It became a home program, for lack of a better word. Because when I started with them in season one, I had… I felt this camaraderie. Unfortunately, I finally embraced being the old man. So, I was somewhat of an older brother or brave uncle figure. dad. whatever. I came from another Star Trek I am happy to direct this next version of Star Trek Beside Strange new worlds And Piccard, and to be a part of lower floorsTherefore, I feel very lucky to continue the tradition Star Trek. But I always look forward to coming DiscoveryBecause Sonequa is number one. You can’t ask for the best number one on the contact sheet… Montreal is cold as hell, and you know, before Covid, we weren’t afraid to shoot for ridiculous hours there. So, in the middle of the night, there could be someone doing a particularly dramatic scene and some actors, including Sonequa and Doug. [Jones] and Mary [Wiseman] and Anthony [Rapp]- Lots of actors will be back after being wrapped and comfortable. [They’d] Return to the studio to support their fellow cast members with their scenes. This does not happen in many shows.

Star Trek: DiscoveryThe fourth season of Paramount+ is currently broadcasting on Paramount+.

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