Marvel Studios nailed it when they cast Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America. His performance radiates wholesomeness, determination and bravery while never feeling smarmy. But while Evans is obviously the most recognizable Cap, a few other actors have taken on the role over the years. Matt Salinger (the son of The Catcher in the Rye author J.D. Salinger!) played the part in the terrible 1990 movie and there’s also a 1944 serial based on the character.
But now we know that an unlikely person once stepped into the costume as well: Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Commander Riker, Jonathan Frakes. The actor, who has since gone on to direct multiple episodes of Star Trek and the movies First Contact and Insurrection, recently returned to the role of Will Riker in Star Trek: Picard and directed two outings of the show as well.
So, how did he end up as Captain America? I’ll let him tell the story in his own words (from an appearance at GalaxyCon):
“I did it for a couple of years. I was in New York and a friend of mine, Charlie Davis, and I were dating girls that stayed in the same house in New York which was the same house that used to be in the movie Backstage… It was like a sorority of actors if you will. … [Charlie] had been hired by someone to go out as Spider-Man to open up comic book stores. And Marvel on 575 Madison Avenue, the eighth floor, had built him a costume. And he did a couple of them and he said, ‘They’re looking for a guy to do Captain America. You should go meet the people over there.’ So I went over there and, to make it long story short, he and I ended up going out on this weird tour.”
This gig lasted for a few years, providing regular work for him:
“We’d go out on a Friday, much like a convention, and we’d go to Omaha or we’d go to Chicago and we’d have a schedule and somebody… would pick us up at the airport with a rented Taurus and we’d have a schedule. We’d get to a 7-11, then we’d do a comic book store, then we’d got to a supermarket. Every 20 minutes we’d have to be somewhere, and we’d have these spacesuits on, we’d pull up a block away, I’d get on the hood of the car — first of all, I’d take the garbage can lid that had the big ‘A’ on it out of the thing, I’d gripper on the two wings that Captain America has on his cowl — I’d hold the garbage can lid, I’d stand on the hood of the car, ride into the parking lot of the 7-11 on the Ford Taurus. It was a very glamorous time and we made 50 bucks a day.”
Frakes even made it as far as the White House, making an appearance alongside Stan Lee, First Lady Rosalynn Carter and various other Marvel heroes (apparently related to energy conservation). I’ve done some digging online and managed to find a picture of the event, too, in which we can see how Frakes looked in the costume. Pretty neat huh?
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While I doubt that Frakes is likely to return to the Marvel Universe anytime soon, traveling around the country making children smile as Captain America sounds like a pretty good time. And hey, getting to dress up as the hero and hang out in the White House sounds like a pretty unique experience.