Jonathan Frakes was born in central Pennsylvania. His family soon moved to Bethlehem, in eastern Pennsylvania. There his father, James R. Frakes, Ph.D., was a well-respected book critic for the New York Times Book Review, a book editor, and professor of English literature at Lehigh University from 1958 to 2001, where he was the Edmund W. Fairchild Professor in American Studies. He died in early 2002. While growing up, Jonathan was introduced to jazz by his father, and started playing the trombone when he was in fourth grade. As a child Jonathan was always friendly, funny and somewhat of an actor, according to a childhood friend.
In high school, he played in the band and ran track. He graduated from Liberty High in Bethlehem in 1970. The day after he graduated he started classes at Pennsylvania State University, enrolling as a psychology major. The next summer he worked as an usher for the local theater and observed his peers thoroughly enjoying acting. He was motivated to switch his major to theater arts and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1974. He then moved to Boston to attain his master's degree from Harvard University by 1976.
At this point, he decided to move to New York City and try to make it as an actor. The roles didn't come easily, so he had to take side jobs, such as a waiter, a furniture mover (where he injured up his back), and a stint as Captain America for Marvel Comics. Meanwhile, he won roles in the Broadway musical Shenandoah and on the soap opera The Doctors (1969) as Vietnam vet Tom Carroll from 1977 to 1978.
At his agent's urging, Jonathan moved to Los Angeles in late 1978 to try his hand at TV guest appearances. He guest-starred on several of the big primetime shows of the time, including Charlie's Angels (1976), Fantasy Island (1978), Barnaby Jones (1973), Quincy M.E. (1976), Highway to Heaven (1984), The Waltons (1972), and The Dukes of Hazzard (1979).
During the 1980s, Jonathan landed a starring role in a prime-time soap opera, Bare Essence (1983), which had spun off a successful miniseries of the same name but was soon canceled. He went back to guest appearances for two more years, until he got the part of Stanley Hazard in the Civil War epic North and South (1985). After spending more than six months filming all over the southern United States, he and his co-star, Genie Francis, fell in love.
In early 1987, Jonathan went to an audition for a new TV series at the urging of his soon-to-be wife and her family. After six weeks, and seven auditions, he won the role that would bring him worldwide fame: that of Cmdr. William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987). During the seven years Frakes starred on Star Trek: The Next Generation, he not only acted but discovered that he had a talent for directing. He helmed eight episodes in all and was invited to direct on the Next Generation spin-offs, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993) and Star Trek: Voyager (1995).
After the birth of his son Jonathan actually turned down work, preferring to stay at home and raise him with his wife. For the next two years, he only did a few guest appearances on TV.
In 1996 he directed Star Trek: First Contact. He received critical praise for his work on the film, and it became the highest-grossing entry of the franchise to date. He formed a production company, Goepp Circle Productions, named after the street he lived on in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
In 1998, he was asked to direct the ninth Star Trek film, Star Trek: Insurrection. Following mixed reviews for this film, he continued to direct in movies and TV, act in a few small roles, and starred in the tenth film of the franchise, Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).
Since December 2005 he is a member of the faculty of Rockport College in Maine teaching classes in directing film and television and his acting work has been reduced severely, making guest appearances in some films and TV shows like Family Guy, Leverage and Criminal Minds. He works with The Workshops, The Waterfall Arts Center and The Saltwater Film Society, and co-owns a home furnishings store with his wife called The Cherished Home, all located in Maine.
- Criminal Minds - The Uncanny Valley (2010) TV episode - Dr. Arthur Malcolm
- Leverage - The Snow Job (2009) TV episode (unaccredited) - Man in waiting room
- The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice (2008) (unaccredited) - Trombone player in marching band
- The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines (2006) - Debra's Husband
- Family Guy - Peter's Got Woods (2005) TV episode (voice) - Commander William T. Riker
- Enterprise - These Are the Voyages... (2005) TV episode - Commander William T. Riker
- Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) - Commander / Captain William T. Riker
- Clockstoppers (2002) (unaccredited) - Bystander
- Oh Baby - Image (2000) TV episode - Don
- 3rd Rock from the Sun - Gwen, Larry, Dick and Mary (2000) TV episode - Larry McMichael
- Roswell - Pilot (1999) TV episode (unaccredited) - Festival's M.C.
- The Lot (1999) TV series - Roland White (unknown episodes)
- Dying to Live (1999) - Will
- Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) - Commander William T. Riker
- Star Trek the Experience: The Klingon Encounter (1998) - Commander William T. Riker
- Gargoyles: The Hunted (1998) (voice) - David Xanatos
- Gargoyles: The Force of Goliath (1998) (voice) - David Xanatos
- Gargoyles: Brothers Betrayed (1998) (voice) - David Xanatos
- Star Trek: Generations (1997) (VG) (voice) - Cmdr. William T. Riker
- Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles - 9 episodes (1996) TV episodes (voice) - David Xanatos
- Star Trek: First Contact (1996) - Commander William T. Riker
- Gargoyles - 43 episodes (1994-1996) TV episodes (voice) - David Xanatos
- Brothers of the Frontier (1996) - Ben Frye
- Star Trek: Voyager - Death Wish (1996) TV episode - Commander William T. Riker
- The Paranormal Borderline (1996) TV series - Host (unknown episodes)
- Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman - Don't Tug on Superman's Cape (1995) TV episode - Tim Lake
- Gargoyles: The Heroes Awaken (1995) (voice) - David Xanatos
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Interactive VCR Board Game - A Klingon Challenge (1995) (VG) (voice) - Commander WIlliam T. Riker
- Star Trek: The Next Generation - A Final Unity (1995) (VG) (voice) - Commander William T. Riker
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - Defiant (1994) TV episode - Thomas Riker
- Star Trek: Generations (1994) - Commander William T. Riker
- Wings - All's Fare (1994) TV episode - Gavin Rutledge
- Camp Nowhere (1994) (unaccredited) - Bob Spiegel
- Star Trek: The Next Generation - 176 episodes (1987-1994) TV episodes - Commander William T. Riker
- Heaven & Hell: North & South, Book III - Episode #1.1, Episode #1.2 and Episode #1.3 (1994) TV episodes - Stanley Hazard
- Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual (1994) (VG) (voice) - Commander William T. Riker
- The Cover Girl and the Cop (1989) - Joshua Boyleston
- Nutcracker: Money, Madness & Murder (1987) TV mini-series - Rosen
- Days of Our Lives (1965) TV series - Jared McAllister (unknown episodes, 1986)
- Matlock - The Angel (1986) TV episode - Prosecutor Mr. Park
- It's a Living - The Bar (1986) TV episode - Steve
- North and South, Book II - 6 episodes (1986) TV episodes - Stanley Hazard
- Dream West (1986) TV mini-series - Lt. Archibald Gillespie
- The Twilight Zone - Night of the Meek/But Can She Type?/The Star (1985) TV episode - Single Guy (segment But Can She Type?)
- North and South - 6 episodes (1985) TV episodes - Stanley Hazard
- Falcon Crest - 11 episodes (1985) TV episodes - Damon Ross
- Hotel - Bystanders (1985) TV episode - Ted Travers
- Paper Dolls - 12 episodes (1984) TV episodes - Sandy Parris
- Highway to Heaven - A Divine Madness (1984) TV episode - Arthur Crock Jr.
- Remington Steele - Woman of Steele (1984) TV episode (unaccredited)
- The Fall Guy - Always Say Always (1984) TV episode - Connors
- Five Mile Creek - Gold Fever (1984) TV episode - Adam Scott
- Bare Essence - 11 episodes (1983) TV episodes - Marcus Marshall
- This Is the Life (1983) TV series - Ken Stewart (unknown episodes)
- Voyagers! - An Arrow Pointing East (1982) TV episode - Charles Lindbergh
- Quincy M.E. - The Face of Fear - Leon Bohannon and Ghost of a Chance (1982) TV episodes - Surgeon
- Bare Essence (1982) - Marcus Marshall
- Hill Street Blues - Of Mouse and Man (1982) TV episode - Eddie Sims
- Hart to Hart - Harts and Palms (1982) TV episode - Adam Blake
- Harper Valley P.T.A. - Low Noon (1981) TV episode - Clutch Breath
- The Dukes of Hazzard - Mrs. Daisy Hogg (1981) TV episode - Jamie Lee Hogg
- I'm a Big Girl Now - He's Not Heavy, He's Neal's Brother (1981) TV episode
- The Night the City Screamed (1980) - Richard Hawkins
- Beulah Land (1980) TV mini-series - Adam Davis
- Here's Boomer - Private Eye (1980) TV episode - Philip
- Paris - Pay the Two Bucks (1980) TV episode
- Eight Is Enough - Arrivals (1979) TV episode - Chapper
- The Waltons - The Legacy and The Lost Sheep (1979) TV episodes - Ashley Longworth Jr.
- The Associates - The First Day (1979) TV episode - Kip Dunbar
- Beach Patrol (1979) - Marty Green
- The White Shadow - One of the Boys (1979) TV episode (unaccredited) - Basketball Player
- Barnaby Jones - Stages of Fear (1978) TV episode - David Douglas
- Charlie's Angels - Angel on My Mind (1978) TV episode - Brad
- Fantasy Island - The War Games/Queen of the Boston Bruisers (1978) TV episode - Kirk Wendover
- The Doctors (1963) TV series - Tom Carroll (unknown episodes, 1977-1978)
- V - Pound of Flesh (2010) TV episode
- NCIS: Los Angeles - LD50 (2010) TV episode
- Leverage - 4 episodes (2009-2010)
- Castle - Kill the Messenger (2009) TV episode
- Dollhouse - Belonging (2009) TV episode
- Persons Unknown - Identity and - And Then There Was One (????) TV episodes
- The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice (2008)
- Masters of Science Fiction - The Discarded (2007) TV episode
- The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines (2006)
- Thunderbirds (2004)
- The Twilight Zone - The Lineman (2002) TV episode
- Clockstoppers (2002)
- Roswell - 5 episodes (1999-2001)
- Star Patrol (2000)
- Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
- Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
- Diagnosis Murder - Left-Handed Murder (1996) TV episode
- Star Trek: Voyager - Projections, Parturition (1995) and Prototype (1996) TV episodes
- Star Trek: Klingon (1996) (VG)
- University Hospital - Life and Death (1995) TV episode
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - The Search: Part 2, Meridian (1994) and Past Tense: Part 2 (1995) TV episodes
- Star Trek: The Next Generation - 8 episodes (1990-1994)
- Roswell (executive producer) - 14 episodes (1999-2001)
- Dying to Live (1999) (executive producer)
- For an up-to-date Filmography: imdb.com/Jonathan Frakes
- He marched trombone in the Blue Band at Penn State University.
- He is a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.
- His son, Jameson Ivor is named after both his grandfathers, the late James Frakes, and the late actor Ivor Francis, Genie's father.
- His daughter was born two weeks after his younger brother, Daniel, died from pancreatic cancer. He remains close with his niece and goddaughter Julia Frakes, who is a fashion contributor to PAPER Magazine.
- His nickname 'Two-Takes Frakes' comes from his efficient filming style on the set of Star Trek: First Contact.
- He is the only Star Trek regular to appear in four different 'Star Trek' series: Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise.
- He has written the sci-fi-book The Abductors: Conspiracy along with Dean Wesley Smith.