For November, Star Trek: The Next Generation veteran Jonathan Frakes is doing what he can to bring attention to Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month as well as World Pancreatic Cancer Day on November 17. as a “PanCAN Ambassador” for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. And of course we also talk a bit about Star Trek, which includes his work to direct the next Strange new worlds/Lower decks crossover episode.

You are now more involved with PanCAN, can you talk about the work they do?

My brother Daniel and I were fat as thieves. We had an apartment together in New York, and when I decided to move to Los Angeles, we bought a 1967 Chevy Sportvan that we drove across the country in a matter of weeks. It was a piece of crap but we had a great time. And so 25 years ago Daniel had jaundice and turned yellow and we took him to the hospital. They opened it and then they closed it. And they came to me, my mom and my dad and said, ‘We’re sorry, there’s nothing we can do, her pancreatic cancer is too advanced. Five months later, Daniel was dead at just 41 years old. Around the same Kitty Swink, which is an actor who was with us on Deep Space Nine and is married to Armin Shimerman and part of the reason I am involved with this charity – she is now an 18 year old pancreatic cancer survivor which is unheard of. When Daniel died, there was a 4% survival rate. Last year, after all the research we raised money for, there is an 11% survival rate, which is still zero.

As an 18-year-old survivor, Kitty has not only been infamous in the pancreatic cancer fundraising community, but in our household for many years. When I spoke to my mother on the phone, she would say to me, “How is your friend Kitty? And you could see a smile appear on my mother’s face. The idea and hope that Kitty represented as a survivor after losing her son. So Kitty is a big deal for us. A few years ago Kitty asked us to get involved with PanCAN and I said I would be more than happy because I’ve never had a charity I’ve been so close with. And when you’re connected to working for someone, it increases your compassion, interest, empathy, and involvement. And it feels good. The oldest thing in the book is that it feels good to help others.

So, pancan.org is the website that all your readers need to check out. We are raising funds to seek early detection to avoid the kind of bullshit that Daniel went through and thousands and thousands of others have gone through and hopefully find better treatment options. This disease has struck so many people, like Alex Trebek. And more people I had a personal connection to like Patrick Swayze, who was in North and South with myself and my wife Genie Francis. And I was sure highway to paradise directed by Michael Landon, from whom I stole a lot of ideas about directing and how to approach the team, and Michael Landon died of pancreatic cancer. So there’s a network that I identify with and I feel like all the money and all the research that’s been put into other cancers has increased awareness and increased survivability, certainly with breast cancer and prostate cancer. So, I’m all for early detection of pancreatic cancer.

Are there any misconceptions about this disease or things you really wish you had known at the time?

That’s an excellent question. About Daniel, yes. The fact that we didn’t take him to the hospital until he had jaundice certainly suggests he wasn’t taking care of himself or hadn’t been to the doctor. It is too far. So I think the annual checkup is a big deal. Everyone, when they go for their annual check-up, should tell their doctor if they have anyone in their family who has had pancreatic cancer or a genetic link. This helps with early detection, which is the key to all this stuff.

And there’s a special event happening on Thursday the 17the.

Yes, and again on pancan.org, which is a user-friendly website. There will be a global forum. It’s basically a global Zoom event of survivors, doctors, artists, families and support groups. It’s a one-day event that you can log in and out of, participate in and of course contribute.

You, Kitty and Armin have been involved in PanCAN for a few years; Did they find Star Trek fans to be a particularly supportive group?

Yes. Star Trek fans are more willing to help others. I think that’s the nature of fandom. It’s inclusive, and it certainly includes people with all kinds of issues – psychological, physical, and looking different. I think all things Star Trek stands for inspire fans to be sympathetic, empathetic, and supportive of an organization like PanCAN.

When we spoke for the last timeyou were thrilled to have your first chance to direct Strange new worlds. In fact, they have chosen a very special episode for you.

Yes. This is the crossover episode with Lower decks in which Boimler played by Jack Quaid and Mariner by Tawny Newsome cross the ship on Strange new worlds as their true self. So they go from animation to three-dimensional and it’s hysterical. It’s such a good idea.

Anson said the crossover goes both ways, with Pike comes alive too.

Yes, which is a very clever way to accompany the animated show.

Any particular reason you were chosen for this one?

I think I was assigned this episode because I had done some Lower decks like Riker and because I’m a big fan of [Lower Decks showrunner] Mike McMahan, who was sort of a co-writer with [Strange New Worlds co-showrunner] Henry Alonso Myers. So I think whoever made the decision realized that they’re pushing the boundaries of comedy and Riker on Lower decks and knowing me personally, that would be a good fit. And as you can imagine, it was awesome.

We have already talked about how Strange new worlds offered the possibility for the directors to do different genres, so is it a comedy episode?

It’s a comedy in its own right. I have to say it’s a great swing. But they are not afraid of big swings. I think that’s one of the reasons this show is so successful, don’t you?

Yes, the show is a return to standalone episodic storytelling, but with highly serialized character arcs, which is an interesting hybrid.

Yeah, and the inevitable relationships between the characters develop over the course of the season inside, in addition to those standalone episodes that they all go through together like Spock has a thing with Nurse Chapel. And by the way, Boimler and Spock in this episode that I did – let’s call them “Spoimler” – are spectacular. And Anson [Mount] is a natural comedian. Anson is very funny. And Rebecca too [Romijn], with whom I worked a lot. She has great comedy chops.

Have you had the chance to use the new AR Wall to Strange new worlds?

Yes. It’s an absolute game changer. It completely changed the business, without hyperbole, in terms of what you can shoot in a warehouse without green screen and create an environment. But there are some limitations. Since you can’t shoot at high speed, you can’t do 48 frames, you can’t do slow motion, you can’t overlap the cameras in a way that you used to shoot multiple cameras times and only one at the same time. There are things that are traditional cinematic shortcuts that you can’t do on the AR wall just yet.

The other thing is the lead time, you need months to build the assets. They now have to do this type of post-production effects as pre-production. But the actors have the advantage of really seeing the environment which was only a green screen. On our show, we used to talk to fucking X on a green screen that was a bunch of Cardassians or Klingons or whatever.

Jonathan Frakes on the set of Star Trek: Discovery in season 1

How you can help

Over the past two decades, PanCAN has invested $174 million in groundbreaking research. In the past year alone, PanCAN has awarded over $10.5 million in research grants in the largest total research investment of $25 million ever in a single year. People can support the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network by visiting pancan.org. They can also participate in a free virtual event on World Pancreatic Cancer Day (November 17), when survivors, caregivers and researchers will bring to life some of the incredible stories about the impact of pancreatic cancer research. pancreas and PanCAN on their lives. . To register for free, go to pancan.org/WPCD2022.

More to come from Frakes

Check back later this week for more from our interview with Jonathan Frakes, talking about Star Trek: Picard season 3 and his hopes for the future.


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