The initial shock of Richard Hatch’s passing is beginning to fade, but the weight of who he was and what he left behind is only becoming heavier with time. Richard was unlike anyone I’ve ever met. He expressed with such transparency and optimism that it was easy to wonder, “Is this guy for real?” Then, you would stare into those intense, earnest eyes, and realize, “Wow, he’s for real.”
He shared what he cared about with abounding enthusiasm, without reservation; he shared the people he cared about with love, reverence and humility; and he shared the things you cared about because all he ever wanted was to see people pursuing and living their dreams. I continue to feel humbled the more I learn about his life and accomplishments. To meet him, you would never know the impressive successes he achieved throughout his life and career because he approached life as a consummate student — always curious, asking questions, eager to learn from everyone he met. In turn, he hoped to provide value, hope and inspiration to those he met, and that’s what he did.
Like the myriad people who have shared their Richard stories, I have many and I will forever cherish the special friendship we shared. In addition, several years ago, I had an idea to create a magazine that would combine ideas and interviews relating to sci-fi and its influences on modern life. The magazine never came to fruition, but I did succeed at obtaining a beautiful, heartfelt interview with Richard. These particular words have never seen eyes beyond my own, and I would very much like to share them now — to honor and to celebrate our wise and wonderful friend. He speaks about his introduction to acting, early childhood challenges, his love of Battlestar Galactica, and the hopes and dreams that motivated the Richard we all know and love. It was written in February of 2011, yet his answers are timeless. I hope you enjoy.
1. I’d like to know what Battlestar Galactica means to you. I understand it’s a big question, but you’ve been an advocate from the very beginning, so what is special about BSG and why is it so important to you?
As to Battlestar, I’ve always loved powerful and inspiring stories that touch our deepest self and mirror and illuminate the human condition. The underlying BG story accomplishes all that and more and is much more than entertainment. Art has always been more than just entertainment, but in this industry of ours it became almost sacrilegious to talk about movies or TV series as something meaningful or having value in the world. This truly epic life and death story that is very archetypical in nature (Moses and the Israelites) takes us all on a journey of the heart where our deepest fears, insecurities, judgments and belief systems are all challenged and transformed by the dire life and death circumstances of the show. I also love the fact that every character in the story is morally conflicted and has to face and deal with their dark side, come to terms with their very human flaws and imperfections. And, these kinds of circumstances bring out the very best and worst in all of us. In addition, we, as actors, had to face our own personal issues and judgments about life, politics, etc, as the characters we became very emotionally bonded to, went through their paces and had to live with the decisions they each made along the way. What better venue for not only challenging and evolving the artist in all of us, but more importantly the human being. Why do I love this story? How could I not love this story? I’m political, philosophical, spiritual and deeply interested in the physiology of life and human nature and this life-changing story involved all of these elements that make up the lives we live.
2. Was there a particular point at which you knew Battlestar Galactica would be a driving force in your life for years to come? Or was it more of a day-by-day evolution, one thing leading to another?
My relationship to BG was definitely a day-to-day evolution. Most people don’t realize that I’ve been on many other series and television shows during my 40 some years in the business and for the most part Battlestar only took up a couple of years of my life back in 78/79. But I did love the story and felt that we had hardly touched the surface of what was dramatically possible in this series. And, when you’ve been in as many shows as I have and rarely find the substance or heart that moves and challenges an actor, then you begin to think back on those shows that did affect you in a more powerful way, and the Battlestar story did that for me. So, several years later I wrote a trilogy of stories to explore where it might be possible to take the BG series in the future. My focus was to update, go more fully into the core story and evolve the characters and plotlines as I was a little frustrated on the original series with what the networks and studios allowed us to do. But I didn’t really take any concerted action until many years later around 1995 when I was invited to some sci-fi conventions and began realizing that there was a very large, underserved sci-fi marketplace full of frustrated BG fans that not only loved the story, but were truly moved and inspired by it.
Rarely does a one-year series move or impress anyone or is long remembered, but for reasons stated above this series touched many people and was passed down generation to generation. At that same time, the Sci-fi channel began playing the original BG series and the show came back into the awareness of the public on a larger scale so many companies began acquiring new licenses to produce BG products. Two of them – Byron Preiss and Extreme Press – heard I was developing ideas and concepts in the BG universe and asked me to write some BG novels and comics for them. I said yes, and believe it or not they gave me the freedom to evolve the storyline far beyond the original timeline and scope of the show, giving me the opportunity to explore the core story in a more provocative way, which I did. This was the premise that I began pitching to various companies including Universal. Just about every company except Universal saw the viability of this series so I was inspired to put together a detailed storyboard that eventually evolved into a full blown theatrical trailer with a few original BG actors, CGI and also some new young actors to go along with my BG book series. The premise [of Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming] followed the original series and characters 25 years into the future with a new generation of children born in space. No one was doing trailers at that time to pitch new series concepts and most thought I was nuts, as trailers at that time were only made from full blown films, but I truly felt that this was the most dynamic way to get fans and the studios excited about bringing BG back.
As you can see, one thing led to another in this scenario and eventually I got more involved each day in helping to inspire a revival which eventually led to my involvement in producing the 25th BG anniversary convention where I met producer Ron Moore. His creativity, intelligence and vision inspired me even though I was still focused and committed to evolving and continuing the original series. It may sound like all I was doing was BG stuff during this timeframe, but I was also involved in developing my own story and series called The Great War of Magellan (GWOM), which has become both a novel and online social network game. My experiences in co-producing, co-directing and writing the BG Second Coming trailer gave me the confidence, skills and connections necessary for developing my own story ideas and concepts so I owe a lot to Battlestar and my long battle to help bring it back.
3. To put it mildly, you had a rough go at trying to bring Battlestar Galactica back after the original show was canceled. What kept you going after so many doors were slammed in your face? What made it worthwhile for you?
Moving from just acting and waiting for jobs and auditions to actually being proactive in developing something I loved changed my whole slant on life and the industry. I discovered something that I believe every actor and every human being needs to learn and that is we are all gifted with the ability to make things happen in this world of ours. We don’t have to wait for others to invite us to the party. And, because I was learning so much about myself, my skills and abilities, weaknesses and strengths, the process and art of putting a project together etc, I didn’t even worry about the outcome. I was totally process oriented instead of results oriented. I loved every scary and terrifying moment of stepping out [of] the box and going after something I believed in. And, what an amazing ride it was. I met people I would never have met, traveled the world, touched people’s hearts, and received the thrill of my life when I saw tears in BG fans’ eyes when the BG Second Coming trailer was first played. I mean I had already succeeded on a very personal level and felt an amazing achievement regardless of whether we were able to sell the studio on doing a new and updated version of the original, which was our intention.
4. Being an actor wasn’t your initial trajectory in life. How did you come to pursuing it full time? Why do you think the role of the actor is important in our society? How has it helped you become more of who you are?
As to a career in acting, I never even considered it while growing up as I was too shy and insecure. In fact, after a profound shaming in a fourth-grade class, I became totally unable to make eye contact or express myself in any way without sounding like I had a voice impediment. I was in a deep, dark abyss that I struggled to get out of for years. Sports became my only way of connecting to people and having some impact in the world. But it was not enough so I began searching through many books, religions and philosophies for a way out of the darkness. I went through every form of therapy, became a born again Christian for a while, and eventually was led to an acting class: “The Eric Morris Actors Workshop” that a good friend of mine, Elliot Mintz, recommended I attend. Not for acting, mind you, but to help me deal with my fears and inhibitions. I remember the sign on the door of the class reading “NO ACTING PLEASE.”
Well the class was about much more than just acting; it was about life and opening my heart, mind and soul to exploring the possibilities of life and freeing this God given instrument of ours to creatively express ourselves in the most powerful ways imaginable. What a life changing turn of events that eventually led me to a 40 year acting, writing and directing career. Something I never dreamed was possible for me. For me acting is a spiritual process that anyone can use to discover, access, heal and integrate all the fragmented parts of ourselves. Therapy in the last two decades has discovered that the artistic process — acting, writing, singing, painting, etc. — can be a very powerful tool in healing the human mind and heart. And, powerful performances, just like great movies and stories mirror and reflect back to the audience where they are blocked, holding judgments or bias, and help them embrace and express their emotions and feelings while expanding their minds to embrace the infinite possibilities of life.
5. What were some of the challenges you faced on your first day of work on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica? What was going through your mind?
My first day on the new BG set was a little scary, but more of a wonderment for me as I couldn’t believe that Battlestar was actually coming back and not in some cheap and superficial way, but in a very visionary and artful way. Ron Moore led me through the sets and introduced me to the actors and I was truly impressed by the quality and scope of the production. But after the first table read, which was very nerve racking, I was able to get my bearings and feel a little more at home as the actors, writers and producers were very warm and open to welcoming me aboard. But I did feel I had something to prove as the only actor from the original on the production, which only made me work harder and commit myself fully to giving the best performances I was capable of. I actually rediscovered my love for acting during the run of this show as I was very burned out from my many years in the industry and all the rejections that every actor has to face. Katee (Starbuck) and Jamie Bamber were also a big help and their friendship and support helped me make the transition from my former role as Apollo to one of my most favorite roles ever, Tom Zarek.
6. Having dealt with the death of BSG and even my character, I can relate to the struggle of learning what to hold dear and what to let go after it’s over. Was this process any easier for you the second time around? What advice would you have for other actors after their show is canceled?
The cancellation of Battlestar the second time around was even more challenging for me as I had just discovered a new love for acting and being part of an artistic family that I truly valued. And, being part of a story that I not only loved, but had something to say to the world is rare in this industry. We may play many roles and enjoy the experience, but when you get the chance to play one of your favorite characters in a story you love with some of the best actors, writers, producers and directors around, well, what can I say? It’s heaven and you don’t want to leave heaven! It’s like finding your true love, the love of a lifetime and now you have to say goodbye; it’s painful, frustrating and a lot of heartache to deal with. There is no easy way to say goodbye to something you love and cherish. And, the only remedy I know of is to find something of equal or greater value to focus your energies on, and that usually is a project of your own that you have a deep passion to bring to fruition.
7. Do you think Battlestar Galactica is truly over? Or will its legacy carry it through the ages?
Battlestar will never be over. Great sci-fi shows never die, they will live on through generations of fans who will keep the spirit alive and continue to expand, evolve and build upon the universes they have fallen in love with. But I also think that this story is not finished even on a more professional level and most likely will be brought back in various forms for many decades to come. So Say We All!!
8. Having been at conventions with you, I’ve experienced you to be very generous with the fans. Do you think it’s necessary for Sci-Fi icons to embrace the fan community? What do you think of actors who don’t?
When it comes to fans I also consider myself one. First and foremost I’m a fan of great writing, art, movies and books and the genre of sci-fi is my favorite. And, one of my greatest joys in the role of actor, director, teacher or just being a human being is to open people’s hearts and minds; to inspire others to greater and higher achievement. And, conventions where we can meet those who love and support both our shows, the characters that we play and more importantly, us, as just actors and human beings is an amazing opportunity to touch lives in a very powerful and positive way. One little smile or handshake or hug can truly change people’s lives. We’ve all experienced this when someone we admire takes the time to recognize us or spend a little time and energy with us. And, when your career or a character you have played has touched someone, they invest a lot of importance to what you say and how you act towards them. And, I take that responsibility and gift seriously. It doesn’t matter how tired I am or depressed or upset or anything, I will always take the time to connect and find something kind and inspiring to say to those that come up to me. And, in truth, I just happen to love people anyway and have never felt superior or above anyone so I do enjoy hanging out and having fun with all the people I meet. I even enjoy looking at slide shows that families sometimes want to play for you as I’m fascinated by who we are as people, how we think, what drives us, etc. As to actors who hate being at conventions and meeting fans and are only there for the money, well, that’s their loss and I do admit that I do think it’s quite rude and thankless to treat anyone with little respect much less someone who pays you money and has only compliments to say to you. But hey, I’m learning to let go of all my judgements and just embrace the horror, as I’ve said many times before!! LOL. To each their own! Right?
9. From your perspective, how have the fans changed?
Fans are more sophisticated these days. And, they are more empowered, informed and less impressed with fame. I mean, everyone seems to be famous these days for at least those five minutes, right? And, they’ve met enough stars and actors to get over their star fright for the most part and seem more interested in the human being behind the mask or character they’ve played. And, many former fans have gone on to successful careers in the business, so there is a new found respect for fans as many of them are quite talented and might be producing your next movie, web series or TV show. So be nice and respectful to fans, fellow actors and so called famous people; fame is a relative term, isn’t it? They just might turn out to be your salvation.
10. Through the adversity you’ve experienced, you seem to have found the lesson and grown as a person through it all. Where do you hope to challenge yourself next?
At this point in my career I’m open to both fun and very challenging roles as an actor, having just played roles in The Pod, Dark Season, and a Goodfellas-type movie called Dead By Friday, but at this time in my life I’m focusing a lot of my energy to producing projects I believe in and have passion for. I’ve been working on a new sci-fi series called “Magellan” that is coming out as a novel and online social networking game this year and just finished directing a 20-minute movie short called White Wings, which we’re raising funds for to produce the full movie. My biggest goal this year is to produce and direct a movie I’m currently writing called Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying. I’m also teaching and speaking across the country on many subjects including relationships, moving from fear to self-mastery, and a powerful and transformational acting, writing, speaking self-expression class called “Acting From The Heart.” Busy and very productive time in my life.
11. One last dorky question: Speaking of letting go, think you’ll ever change your hairstyle? ;)
As to my hair, that’s a funny question; I just wear it the way that feels most comfortable and genuine to me. I’ve always had the same basic hair style, sometimes shorter and sometimes longer. And, hey, it’s all subjective anyway, right? What you love, someone else hates and vice versa. And, the truth is I’m not in the market to look cool or have the most current hair style, I mean who am I trying to impress? I’m out of the trying to impress anyone business. And, if I wasn’t comfortable with my hair I would change it, but most of my friends think that I don’t look too bad for my age and if there was a real reason to change it for a role I would, if I loved the role, of course. LOL. Obviously you must have at least a slight problem with it or you wouldn’t have asked the question, but no worries, it’s all cool; to each his or her own. And, in the end, it’s more about what’s in my heart, mind and soul, right?! And, I do think I have a good heart. So Say We All!
Interviewer’s note: For the record, I love, and always have loved, Richard’s hair.