“Jonathan Frakes and Genie Francis: A Love Story That Stands the Test of Time”

Jonathan Frakes has had a long and prosperous Hollywood career as an actor and director, most notably in the Star Trek franchise, but his nearly four-decade relationship with his wife, daytime drama queen Genie Francis, is even more appealing.

“We’ve been together for 38 years,” Frakes, 71, who stars in Hallmark’s holiday film A Biltmore Christmas this weekend, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I met my wife, the wonderful Genie Francis, on a show called Bare Essence, which was the last of the nighttime soaps – and she was too young for me!”

The miniseries-turned-weekly series propelled Francis into primetime television in 1983, following her red-hot tenure as Laura Spencer, part of General Hospital’s then-zeitgeist-dominating super-couple opposite Anthony Geary. Frakes was a decade older than she was.
Although Bare Essence only lasted a few episodes, the show’s producer cast both actors in significant roles in ABC’s massive 1985 Civil War drama North and South, alongside Patrick Swayze and Kirstie Alley.

“The dailies were so good that they said, ‘Why don’t we make it, from six hours, make it 12 hours?’ or whatever it was,” Frakes added. “So we were on location in Charleston and Natchez, and we fell in love – and she wasn’t too young for me anymore.” So we’ve been together since our first date on North and South 38 years ago, when we took a vacation for Memorial Day and went to New Orleans.”

Frakes confesses that at the time, his future wife’s star in Hollywood blazed much brighter than his own. “She took a chance on me because I was like, 37 on the call sheet on North and South, and she was up there with Patrick Swayze and Lesley-Anne Down.” So it’s a puzzle why she’d go out with me!”
Frakes was cast in his own soon-to-be-iconic role as Commander Will Riker in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a character he recently revisited to critical acclaim in the third season of Star Trek: Picard. The role also opened the door for his successful career as a director, both with the Star Trek franchise and on shows like Roswell, Leverage, and NCIS: Los Angeles.

At the same time, Francis has remained one of the daytime’s leading lights, with appearances on Days of Our Lives, The Young and the Restless, and returns to General Hospital, as well as numerous primetime guest appearances.

Frakes and his wife are still a traditional showbiz couple: just before arriving for Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas holiday party in Los Angeles, Frakes had been running lines with his wife to help her prepare for a sudden change in her filming schedule.

“She has two shows she’s doing tomorrow, probably 30 pages of dialogue,” he says with a laugh. “The soaps were not affected by the [SAG-AFTRA and Writers’] strikes, so she’s been working straight through.”
Frakes and Francis have two “amazing” children, and he mentions that the couple’s Hollywood fairy tale may be too much for their daughter Eliza, who is an actress and writer herself.

“Because she was raised with the two of us, she believes this is how [things] work.” And we both know that’s not the case, don’t we? So it must be difficult to be born into a household where two people have been as fortunate as Genie and me,” adds Frakes.

Frakes makes a rare non-Star Trek acting appearance in A Biltmore Christmas, following in his wife’s footsteps to the Hallmark Channel. “My wife has done a number of these films,” he said. “This brand is incredible, and I’m always looking for new outlets.” I’ve had this Star Trek thing for 36 years, so becoming a part of a fresh franchise is a real treat for me. And I was terrified of acting until I did the third season of Picard. And then they asked me to do it, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, this will be fun for me, plus the story is amazing.'”

A Biltmore Christmas premieres on the Hallmark Channel on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.

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