When Star Trek's Jonathan Frakes signed on to direct an episode of TNT's Leverage, he agreed to helm one of the drama's most complex episodes yet: one where Timothy Hutton's team of cons for good causes help upset an attempt to rig a trial.
But Frakes also beamed in a few friends to turn the set into a mini-Star Trek convention, recruiting The Next Generation's Brent Spiner and Deep Space Nine's Armin Shimmerman and Kitty Swink for key roles.
The once-and-perhaps future Commander Riker also hinted about the possibility of getting involved with J.J. Abrams' reboot of the Star Trek franchise, and his acting role on the soon-to-be scheduled Fox drama Persons Unknown, from The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie writer Christopher McQuarrie. And intelligent guy that he is, he took a moment to praise his wife, Genie Francis, for her recent performance in the Hallmark Channel's The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love.
Frakes' Leverage episode, "The Juror No. 6 Job," airs Tuesday at 10 pm/ET.
TVGuide.com: Can you tell us a little bit about "The Juror No. 6 Job"?
Jonathan Frakes: Parker, Beth [Riesgraf]'s character on the show, one of her aliases, which are a Leverage staple, has been given jury duty. When she goes to jury duty she discovers something is fishy about this particular case and decides that someone needs the services of the Leverage family. So they take over the courtroom: she's on the jury, Aldis [Hodge]'s character becomes a lawyer, Tim and Gina [Bellman]'s characters run a scam on the defendant. And they reveal that it's in fact a huge corporate ploy — money, greed, the usual.
TVGuide: How did the Star Trek connection come about?
Frakes: You'll see one of the sleazy corrupt owners of a supplement business is played by the wonderfully talented Brent Spiner. I said to [executive producer] Dean [Devlin], here's a great part for Brent, shall I offer this to him? He said go ahead, and then in casting there was a part for a corrupt juror, and I had worked with Armin so much I knew he could do anything. And I wanted a female judge and I knew Kitty could do anything, so it was sort of a no-brainer. It just turned out to be Star Trek people because I've spent so many years working in that franchise.
TVGuide: Brent Spiner plays kind of a sleazy guy.
Frakes: Yes he does, and he does it beautifully. He's more like Lore than Data.
TVGuide.com: Was it fun to bring that out of him?
Frakes: It was easy. He's, you know, a very underused and very rangy actor. So it was great to see him without his face painted yellow and without too much hair spray in his hair, and wearing chains — he was playing like a Jimmy Buffet kind of a character, only corrupt.
TVGuide: What can you tell us about Persons Unknown?
Frakes: It's a fascinating show loosely based on an old English series called The Prisoner, and not unlike Lost. The people on the show have all been kidnapped and brought to an abandoned town in 1950 and are trying to figure out why they're there.
TVGuide.com: It takes place in 1950?
Frakes: It takes place in modern times and the sort of behavioral Skinner box that they've been kidnapped to has elements of 1950. So it's — maybe I have a little time travel. I hadn't thought about it quite like that. [Laughs.] But some of it takes place in the '50s and some of it takes place in contemporary time. ... There's a storyline in Rome and there's a storyline in Latin America and there's a storyline in San Francisco. I'm very excited about it.
TVGuide: And we understand from talking with your wife recently you're also excited about the new Star Trek film.
Frakes: I'm very optimistic about J.J.'s movie. I think the trailer looks great. I had the privilege of visiting the set. The sets are spectacular, they gave him a ton of money to make it. ... [Chris] Pine is great, I love that guy [Zachary] Quinto from Heroes. I think it's being promoted in a way that — it's been doled out in a way that's made people very anxious to go see it. And I think, unlike with Enterprise and Nemesis, there's been enough time without something new in the Star Trek oeuvre that audiences are hungry again.
TVGuide.com: We know time travel is possible in the Star Trek universe. Is there any chance Commander Riker will make a cameo in the movie?
Frakes: Maybe in the next one. Maybe if he reads this interview it'll help.
What do you think? Are you excited for the Star Trek appearances on Leverage? And who do you think should pop up in J.J. Abrams' take on Star Trek?