Star Trek's Jonathan Frakes played Captain America for a Marvel charity tour in the '80s.
Picard‘s number one was once America’s a**? It’s true. According to DownTheTubes, in 1980, Jonathan Frakes donned a Captain America costume for a brief tour of appearances that included the White House.
Thanks to the popularity of the live-action Incredible Hulk series, Marvel was a hot commodity in the late ’70s and early ’80s. The company took advantage of its newfound popularity by licensing some of its superheroes for personal appearances across the US. Jonathan Frakes and other struggling actors of the time decided to suit up and play Avengers at various outings, including comic book stores and parades.
One such outing took place on the White House lawn. Jonathan Frakes showed up in full Captain America attire at the behest of First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She, along with her daughter, Amy, invited the Marvel heroes to the White House for the launch of the Captain America Youth Energy Conservation Program.
Jonathan Frakes attended the event alongside Marvel guru Stan Lee. The two legends were there to stop a gaggle of Marvel villains dubbed the Energy Drainers. Lee and Frakes were assisted by the…Campbell Soup Co.? The ’80s truly were a weird time.
The Star Trek: Picard actor was turned on to the unconventional business opportunity by his friend Charlie Davis. “[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.” Frakes said at GalaxyCon in 2020. Davis told Frakes Marvel was looking for someone to play Captain America, and the rest is history.
Jonathan Frakes calls his brief time as Captain America a “weird tour.” The actor had a hectic schedule, sometimes going to 7-Eleven, a comic shop, and a supermarket all on the same day. Frakes describes the iconic Captain America shield as a “garbage can lid with a big A on it” and recalls holding it while standing on the hood of a moving car.
Surprisingly, Jonathan looks back on his stint as Captain America as a “very glamorous time.” The actor was making $50 a day as Steve Rogers, the equivalent of $181.54 in 2023. Not a bad chunk of change but still probably less than Chris Evans took home playing the role.
The Captain America Youth Energy Conservation Program proved to be successful spawning radio spots and animated commercials. Perhaps the weirdest thing to come from the Jonathan Frakes-led program was a single-issue tie-in comic, Captain America and the Campbell Kids. The comic featured Captain America and friends fighting to stop the previously mentioned Energy Drainers–Thermal Thief, Wattage Waster, and the Doomsday Man.
Jonathan Frakes eventually left Captain America and his “garbage can lid” behind and went on to bigger and better things. The actor’s most famous role was as First Officer William Ryker on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Frakes portrayed Ryker for all seven seasons of the series and went on to reprise his role in four Star Trek movies.
Jonathan Frakes can be seen currently on the Paramount+ series Star Trek: Picard.