Riker from Star Trek was the first actor who sat in Grandpa Walton's chair following his death

By: H&I Staff     Posted: September 14, 2020, 2:06PM

Jonathan Frakes has deeper ties to the Star Trek franchise than just about anyone outside of the Roddenberry family. He played Commander William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation, of course. He also got his start directing on that seminal series. Frakes went on to helm episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Discovery, as well as the feature films Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection.

Years before he stepped aboard the Enterprise, the Pennsylvania native wore a uniform of a different stripe. He played a Lieutenant (junior grade) of the United States Navy on Walton's Mountain.

The story began with the quirky Baldwin Sisters. On The Waltons, the elder siblings continually pine for their lost love, a near-mythical man named Ashley Longworth. In season seven, in the episode "The Legacy," Longworth at last shows up. Well, his son, Ashley Longworth, Jr.

Junior just so happens to be the spitting image of his father, which sends Emily Baldwin on a fainting spell. The more age-appropriate Erin Walton ends up becoming the romantic interest of Ashley Longworth.

Frakes played Longworth in two episodes, returning the following season for "The Lost Sheep," in which he proposes to Erin. The engagement is rather rocky, to say the least.

"I was engaged to the wonderful Mary McDonough, who played Erin Walton,' Frakes said in a 2013 interview with The AV Club. "Ashley was a great, well-written, complex, troubled World War II Naval officer who lived in the imagination of the crazy aunts, but then he turned out to be real and fell in love with Erin."

Ashley Longworth holds another special distinction on The Waltons, however. He was the first man allowed to fill Grandpa Walton's seat at the table.

"One of the great Waltons moments was how, after the great Will Geer died, they kept his chair empty at the dinner table on Walton’s Mountain," Frakes explained. "The first character asked to sit in his chair was Ashley Longworth."

Frakes has another interesting tie to Erin Walton. Michael O'Keefe (Caddyshack) played one of Erin's earlier loves, forestry student Chad Marshall. Nearly four decades later, O'Keefe could be seen in a regular role on a TNT series called King & Maxwell.

Who happened to direct an early episode of that show? You guessed it — Jonathan Frakes.

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