Don Franklin has been in Hollywood since the 1980’s. He is best known for his roles in seaQuest DSV as Commander Jonathan Ford, Seven Days as Captain Craig Donovan, and as one of The Young Riders (Noah Dixon). Although this actor has achieved success in the television and film industry, his true love is the theater. After taking a few years hiatus from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood, Don Franklin decided to say “Yes” to a role that intrigued and excited him. He agreed to play Walker, a journalist seeking an exclusive interview with the wife of an American hostage in Beirut. The play is called Two Rooms now being performed at the Stuart Roger’s Studio in North Hollywood
Don and I sat down at a local café and talked about his new endeavor plus his career as a film/television/theater actor.
Sheryl Aronson: There’s an interesting story about how the role of Walker came to you.
Don Franklin: I got an email from someone I did not know…I was preparing to go to NYC at the time and received a text from a friend – “You got an email and I bet you didn’t open it because you didn’t recognize the person who sent it. We are doing a play I know you’ll be interested in. Read her email.”
I got on the plane… a day or two later, I read the piece. It embodies the reason I do theater.
Sheryl Aronson: What are those reasons?
Don Franklin: The story that Two Rooms tells is important to everyone, it matters, and is still relevant to today’s world of politics. I couldn’t wait to get back to LA and take on the role of Walker. As soon as I returned, I began rehearsals. They had already gone through two actors to play the character and opening night was coming up quickly.
Sheryl Aronson: Who is Walker and how does he fit into the story?
Don Franklin: Walker is a reporter who is trying to get an exclusive story from the lead character of Lainie Wells. Her husband has been kidnapped and there’s no word from the State Department about his condition. She is told to keep quiet and let the government do their job. She is approached by dozens of reporters and for some reason she decides to talk with me. Lainie says to me, ‘I chose you because I like the sound of your voice…it took its time.’
Sheryl Aronson: What kind of relationship develops between Lainie and Walker?
Don Franklin: I end up developing a close relationship with her. It’s debatable if something is going on between them but that plays into the tension and beauty that occurs. He convinces her to speak out and gets upset because she won’t tell her story to the American public.
He finally gets her to talk, but she doesn’t want him to publish the article. He publishes it without her knowledge and that causes a schism in their relationship. She then changes her mind and gives Walker full access. The irony is that my story makes the kidnap victim a bit of celebrity…and causes difficulties when things go bad… and then there is an unexpected ending.
Sheryl Aronson: Let’s switch gears and talk about your career. How did you get your start in the entertainment field?
Don Franklin: I started off as a dancer in a Chicago repertory company where I did modern dance, ballet, and jazz. In the mid- 80’s I was cast for a dance movie in Los Angeles called Fast Forward, directed by Sidney Poitier. He gave me my first big break. Mr. Poitier advised me when I was shooting the movie, to go back to Chicago and study my craft. Even though I was receiving offers while in Los Angeles, I returned to Chicago. This paid off because I was nominated for a 1986 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actor in a Revue for “The Middle of Nowhere in the Middle of the Night” at the Wisdom Bridge Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. I performed in musicals and dramatic productions and was making a decent living.
Sheryl Aronson (Hollywood 360) : What brought you back to Los Angeles?
Don Franklin: After I had finished a play one evening at the North Light Theater, someone came backstage and told me there was a new television program on in the green room, and there was an actor who looked exactly like me. The new show was LA Law and the actor was Blair Underwood. I said to myself, ‘Damn it… if I was out there it might have been me.’ The day after the show closed, I packed up and I drove to LA.
Sheryl Aronson (Hollywood 360): How did your career progress?
Don Franklin: Six months later I had my first series, ABC’s Night Watch, which lasted for nine episodes. Then I shot Nasty Boys for NBC in Vegas, and played an undercover cop, and from 1990 -1992 became the first black cowboy on a television series called, Young Riders, ABC.
Following that I had the fabulous opportunity to work on sea Quest, DSV, NBC with Roy Scheider and played Commander Jonathan Ford, second in command. After that there was the time travel futuristic series called Seven Days, UPN.
Sheryl Aronson (Hollywood 360): You made a name for yourself in the science fiction genre.
Don Franklin: I am known for having a science fiction following on twitter. Strangely enough, I have a big following for this too in the Philippines.
Sheryl Aronson (Hollywood 360): What has been your resume the last several years?
Don Franklin: I have been doing guest star appearances on the television series dramas like CSI, NCIS, The Mentalist, and The Closer.
Sheryl Aronson (Hollywood 360): Talk about acting in theater as opposed to film and television.
Don Franklin: I prefer theater because it’s right there… present and demanding reactions from a real life person. You don’t have to be responsible to technical issues like you do in film or television. I don’t think though one has to be bigger on stage…one just has to be honest and truthful in their performance. It might even be more difficult when you have all this stuff around you to be authentic and have a real moment in the midst of cameras.
Sheryl Aronson (Hollywood 360): What are your aspirations as an artist?
Don Franklin: I learned so much about acting, yet I am always studying. And although I’m in my 50’s, I am still making discoveries about how to be better, how to bring more depth and authenticity to my work. My son asked me, ‘Why do you still go to class, daddy. Aren’t you a professional?’ I will always be a student until I take my last breath and even then I still will not have learned everything about my craft.”