Jonathan Frakes about directing NCIS Los Angeles



Having directed a variety of shows since your Trek days, what kind of research and preparation goes into directing an episode of a well-established TV show? Is it ever like cramming for a test, depending on your familiarity with a given series?

You do have to cram. For instance, NCIS: Los Angeles, you’re hired to do an episode of that show. And that show looks a certain way and it’s shot a certain way. You cannot go in there and reinvent the wheel. The actors know their characters. The crew, we’re when in those standing sets, like the conference room or Hetty’s office or the bullpen, the actors go to their spot. We put the camera in a certain spot. Just like shooting the bridge of the Enterprise.

What I also do during prep is watch the episodes that have taken place between the last time that I was there and the time I’m shooting, so I know what’s going on in the story. But your responsibility is to shoot their show. Same is true on Castle. There are three sizes of close-ups that you must get during the interrogation of Castle and Beckett. If you don’t do it, you’re just an asshole and you’re not making the show properly and you won’t be asked back. It’s keeping the train on the tracks, staying focused on the moment-to-moment, telling the story clearly. These shows that are successful and have been on the air for years do not want to be reinvented.

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