Star trek actors as directors, why?

I would like to know why the directors of Enterprise are actors from other Star Trek shows, like Roxann Dawson, Robert Duncan Mcneill, Levar Burton and Jonathan Frakes.

I mean, these people are ACTORS for heaven sakes, and in my opinion, except for Burton (remember Roots?) not even that great. Are these people cheaper than real directors?


Who says directors and actors can’t be the same people? Peter Bonerz, the dentist from The Bob Newhart Show, has directed a ton of television. What’s-her-name, who played Naomi on Mama’s family, has a lot of directing credit under her belt. In the movie world: Clint Eastwood – actor and director. Woody Allen – actor and director. Barbra Streisand – annoying celebrity. (Ooops – guess she doesn’t fit in. ;))

Anyway, actors can make GREAT directors, because they understand the craft of acting from actually doing it. (This is not to say that all good or great directors must have been actors. That’s certainly not the case.)

As for the Star Trek universe, well, there’s lots of backstory, lots involved in understanding the setting, and the characterizations. Having played a character in that universe seems to me to be a positive thing for a director of one of those shows. They understand the visuals, the attitudes and sensibility of the setting.

Cheaper than “real directors”? Not sure what that means. But certainly able to more easily slip into the setting and make it meaningful without having to have a major briefing or having to read some sort of guide to the Star Trek universe.

Having said that, I don’t know how they are as directors (well, except for Frakes and Burton, because they directed on TNG, which I do watch), because I’ve never seen an episode of Enterprise.

Star Trek has a long history of allowing actors to direct episodes. Frakes has done a lot of directing, including several TNG and DS9 episodes, and two Star Trek movies. (First Contact and Insurrection.) Other Trek cast members who have directed are Patrick Stewart, Michael Dorn, Rene Auberenjois, Avery Brooks, and a few others who I can’t remember.

Willaim Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, to name two.

And his identical twin brother, William. :smack:

Sheesh! Before you know it, they’ll be letting Richie and Potsie direct, too.

Sure, and then they’ll give Richie an Academy Award. :rolleyes:

FWIW, Frakes is a pretty decent director: his work on First Contact is really quite good. Apparently, he’s also very efficient (not requiring more than two takes to “get it right” - hence his nickname “Two Takes Frakes”), which is probably a big selling point, budgetwise. And Nimoy turned out to be an adequate director, too.

As for Shatner, well… He threatened not to sign up for STV unless he was given a chance to direct and write the story. We all know how that turned out.

Frankes is also doing pretty good outside of Trekdom, and has a number of kiddy movies under his belt. Incidently, he’s directing the new Thunderbirds movie.

Some actors do go on to be good directors, it’s not that big a jump if you’re experienced and good enough an actor.

Apart from that, many actors like to try out being a director. They see it as a career move. If they have enough leverage from their acting job, if their character is important enough, they can insist on a directing job being included in their next contract.

It’s not such a great risk if they have the acting experience, an understanding of the series and an experienced behind camera crew to back them up.

Now, that I gotta see.

Funny you guys should mention this…I noticed Robert Duncan MacNeill (Tom Paris) directed Enterprise Twilight.

Be careful what you wish for:

Potsie (Anson Williams)

Yes. Jonathan Frakes is an excellent example. He’s never going to get another acting job, because he’s completely typecast; that’s the downside of having an iconic role on a successful series. But by using the TV show to add a skill to his resume, he gets to continue working in the entertainment industry, doing something other than hosting Alien Autopsy specials.

There are also lots of technical elements that being on the set every day makes the actors familiar with. The typical starship bridge set, for example, has half a dozen wild walls (detachable set pieces to make room for camera equipment) and maybe three typical lighting setups; an actor who knows all of this can look at the script and say, “Okay, we’ll shoot this bridge scene using setups B, D, and K, and lighting plot 2.” They thereby dispense with half an hour of tech talk in a few seconds. The monetary value of that kind of time-saving is hard to overestimate.

I’m pretty sure you were whooshed there, dropzone. Ron Howard, who played the Richie JThunder mentioned, is an extremely well-known director, so I’m betting JThunder knew Anson Williams has done a lot of directing as well. In fact, I think he used to appear on the Jon Davidson version of Hollywood Squares, and was introduced as actor and director.

There is indeed much value in having a seasoned technician/actor at the helm.

My personal fave is Guy Bee, who started his significant career as the Steadicam Operator on E.R. ( a short ugly stint by Ron Vidor aside ), and developed that into Directing. He now is the Producer of Third Watch, for Warner Bros. T.V.

He featured prominently in the first-season fussing over lengthy “Oners”, which were single Steadicam shots that covered a scene in it’s entirety, without cut-aways of any kind. The documentary footage shot during that first season shows his work prominently.

Lovely fellow. Incredible technician, not an actor, who made the jump to directing.


I also believe that the show MASH often was directed by Alan Alda. Not sure if any of the other actors made the switch, but they very well might have.

Mike Farrell directed two episodes of MASH.

I can see the logic in actors directing, for the reasons already noted by PRNYouth.



I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned Rob Reiner yet.

Just to go off on a different tangent, don’t forget the directors who put the camera down to act a little. They’re not always brilliant and sometimes they suck, but it’s nice to see them suffering like everyone else.

Bill Bixby got his start as a TV director while on the Courtship of Eddie’s Father.

Harry Morgan directed at least one episode of MASH* in addition to epsiodes of Adam-12, Hec Ramsey, The DA and The Richard Boone Show.

Michael Landon got his start directing on Bonanza.

Patrick McGoohan directed epsiodes of Danger man, The Prisoner and Rafferty. In addition he directed many of the Columbo TV movies in the 70s and 90s.

Several of the ER regulars have directed episodes.

Even the dad on Blossom, Ted Wass, turned to TV directing, in his case a very good idea since he was such a bland and forgettable actor.

I can see why having someone direct who is an old hand at the working methods of shooting a Star Trek episode as well as being an experienced actor at dealing with the “technobabble” common to all the series and with actors’ egos would be wise, cost-saving, and efficent as Cervaise explained.

Besides we’ve all heard the old showbiz joke, “but what I really want to do is direct.” Actors do turn directors for ego or control purposes, but it’s also a way to keep working as you age.