Star Trek: Picard isn’t just catching us up with what Jean-Luc has been up to in the years since we last saw him onscreen, but a cavalcade of Trek characters – among them the namesake of Picard’s new pupper and former second-in-command of the Enterprise, Will Riker. But returning to his iconic role caused a lot of stress for Jonathan Frakes.
Since hanging up his Starfleet uniform, Frakes has primarily become a director rather than an actor, contributing to many projects, including most recently both Star Trek: Discovery and multiple episodes of the upcoming Picard show. But as Comicbook.com reports, speaking at Fan Expo Canada recently, Frakes revealed that the prospect of not just directing Patrick Stewart, but acting alongside him again, lead to some severe moments of stress for him:
I hadn’t acted in a long, long, long time. I hadn’t played Riker in 18 years, and I’ve been very fortunate to be busy directing. I acted briefly in a movie in Winnipeg about 10 years ago. And I had a major anxiety attack because, for whatever reason, I’d forgotten to act. I forgot how to act. I was not a pretty picture for a few hours. I got my shit together and ended up doing fine.
I had just directed two episodes of Picard with Sir Patrick and, as I said, his acting muscle was well-toned. And Marina [Sirtis, returning as Deanna Troi] had just closed having starred in a play in the West End in London. So, I knew she was going to be in good form. So, I was a nervous wreck. It ended up going very well. But don’t let anybody tell you it’s like getting back on a bike. That’s bullshit. That’s acting bullshit.
Frakes isn’t the only one on Picard’s production to have frankly expressed their anxiety issues over returning to the Star Trek roles that made these actors beloved to legions of fans. Jeri Ryan, reprising her role as Voyager’s liberated Borg Seven of Nine, spoke of her own struggles attempting to find the character again after decades away.
While, thankfully, both Ryan and Frakes were able to deal with their stresses, speaking out about the weight of expectation they feel is a powerful reminder than anyone and everyone can be affected by these mental health struggles. If people like Frakes using their platforms to talk about them candidly helps people in turn reach out to others and speak about their own anxieties, that’s always a good thing.