|Richard Hatch GALACTICA.TV interview|
|Written by Marcel Damen|
|Tuesday, 30 December 2008|
In September 2005 Mike Egnor talked to Richard Hatch, better known for his role of Capt. Apollo in Battlestar Galactica 1978 and Tom Zarek in Battlestar Galactica 2003. This interview was never published and only recently found again. Richard Hatch talks about his career and how he became an actor, the original Battlestar Galactica series, his fight to bring it back to television and his role on the new Battlestar Galactica series (at the time, halfway the second season, just before the Pegasus arc was aired).
This is Mike Egnor and today I'm talking with Richard Hatch from Battlestar Galactica. It's a day before Screenheroes and Mr. Hatch I'd like to take the time to thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
Thank you very much, great to be here.
I'd like to talk about all the facets of your life, one into the other. Let's start near the beginning. At age eight, you were studying classical piano and wanted to be a performer. Your other big dream was to be an Olympic pole vaulter. Yet at the same, you said you were extremely shy. How do you reconcile the fact that you had these big dreams and big motivations yet you were too shy to bring them about?
Right. Right. Well only because I'm neurotic and schizophrenic, so I was able to combine two sides... No, I'm kidding. (laughs) I think many performers are shy. Artists and performers tend to be very sensitive people, I think they're -- it's not that -- I mean, many people are sensitive and emotional, you know, creative and imaginative. But I think those that get drawn into the arts for the most part are extremely sensitive. Many times those people also have low esteem, low self worth based on having been very sensitive and very, you know, maybe, sensitive as a child. They felt things in very profound, deep ways. And in this world, the more sensitive you are, sometimes the more traumatized you are. Because the world, life events, family have a great impact on us.
Some children are not as sensitive and it doesn't affect them quite as much it does the more sensitive child, and yet the more sensitive child many times is the more artistic. Many times the more creative ones that go into the business tend to be sometimes the ones who have been traumatized the most, as children. In a sense their art becomes a way to express their pain, their frustration, their anger, their joy, a way to get out all the experiences that they went through as a child. Many writers write about their life. Some of them are writing romances and comedies, but they have to do with things that that writer or artist experiences in their own life, even though it's translated into different terms. Actors are no different. They're using a lot of their life experience to channel into the characters they play. So I think - Barbara Streisand used to say, you know, she would throw up and get sick before every concert. She was terrified until she would get out there and then she was okay, and a lot of performers feel that way.
So I was very shy and very insecure and acting, actually, was a way for me to overcome my shyness and overcome maybe some of those emotional places where I was repressed and cut off, because I was embarrassed and held everything inside. Acting forces you to get it out, forces you to express those emotions and feelings. I didn't look at acting as a way to lead me to fame and fortune; I looked at it as a way to overcome some of my life issues. As I went through the acting process and teaching process in classes, it slowly evolved into a profession and I never expected it to. That was a big surprise to me that I ever winded up on a television screen or a movie screen.
actor Richard Hatch
In 1969, you took off for New York city in search of work. You ended up in a little old theatre in Hell's Kitchen on 54th Street. An empty, ballet studio where you did one act plays, slept on the floor, and lived on Campbell's soup. All the rest of them gave up and went back, but you.
Well, I loved the adventure. I think because I wasn't looking for an end result. It wasn't like, "Oh, if I don't make it I'll be a failure. Oh, it's not happening for me so I might as well go find another profession." For me, it wasn't that at all. I loved the adventure of being in New York. I loved the excitement. I loved meeting all of these new people; such an interesting and different place from the west coast. I loved going to class, learning about myself, learning about life, learning about the art of acting. I got so involved in the process of it, that the outcome didn't concern me.
So I think I wasn't looking at it in the same ways of many others. It was like, fame and fortune and money, obviously if it wasn't going to happen then people would say, "Oh, it doesn't look like it's going to happen. I'm not going to waste my time." I fell in love with the process. I fell in love with art of it. And I fell in love with the adventure of it so, for me, I was enjoying the process. I think that allowed me to stay more focused on what I was doing and step by step, just like any business, it takes time to grow any business. Sometimes artists forget that, you know, art is a business, if you want to make it your life. And so if you give up, most people give up way too soon on everything. I think the one thing that I learned about myself is that I don't give up, that I do stay the course, that I've learned that even about myself later in life when I started developing my own projects, that I realized I was not one to give up no matter how long it took.
That's wonderful. Let's go on to Battlestar Galactica. You've done certain pieces of work before then. Did you know any of the actors before you started the series?
I met Jane Seymour once at The Battle of the Network Stars, which was a show that was on back there in the seventies where they took stars from different T.V. and movies and put them together in these competitions against each other; ABC against CBS and NBC. Jane Seymour was on one of the teams.
Maren Jensen was on there, but I think it was after the show.
Yeah, that was after the show, but I had met Jane then. But that was the only one, everybody else I had never met before.
Richard Hatch as Apollo and Jane Seymour as Serina on Battlestar Galactica 1978
Let me throw out some names for you and you give me a little blurb about them. Lorne Greene who played Commander Adama.
The father we all would have loved to have had. For those who worked with him and got close to him, a father that we all got to share. He became a father to everyone. A father that was always there, always had a kind, warm word to say, always was a gentlemen, down to earth real, human, approachable. I mean he was everyone's quintessential father and a role model. So for me it was a... what an amazing experience to have someone like that in your life.
Let's try the other end. Noah Hathaway who played Boxey.
Noah was very young, but since I loved children, for me -- some actors would say don't ever act with a child because the child always steals the scene -- for me, children always made me better because children always brought out my sensitivities and my strengths. I love family. I love children. It always brought out the magic in me. So I enjoyed working with Noah and having a son on the series was something that I actually asked for. After they brought Noah on, they were going to not continue with my son. And I said no, would it be possible to continue in the series having my son? They agreed. I was the one who actually asked for that.
Well that makes Apollo look like a stand-up guy. Here he marries a woman, becomes a stepfather, the mother gets killed and yet he's right there as the father and a lot of us forget that he's the stepfather.
Right, I think the thing for Apollo was he lost his parents, his first father, he lost his brother [Zac] and so I think family was important to Apollo just like it is to me as one of the areas where I and Apollo meet. I think having a child was something that gave him a sense of family, you know, a connection to somebody he could love and care about. I think he was very much, very close to his brother Zac and when he lost that it was a big hole in his and that child filled it.
Let's talk about Zac. He was played by Rick Springfield. Weren't you two on the soap opera All My Children?
No, I was on All My Children with Jack Stauffer who played Bojay. When we found the Pegasus they brought on two new characters. One was Anne Lockhart playing Sheba, and the other was Bojay, played by Jack Stauffer. Jack and I were both on All My Children.
We found out from Anne Lockhart -- who we talked to this morning -- that she was originally cast as Serina, but initially it was Lyra. Glen Larson obviously had her in mind as a love interest for Apollo, but of course she didn't do it at the time. So later when the opportunity came, he brings her in as part of the Pegasus.
Well that was good for me, because I got to have two beautiful ladies in my life, both Anne Lockhart and Jane Seymour (who was cast as Serina).
Richard Hatch as Apollo and Dirk Benedict as Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica 1978
You were approached for Galactica 1980 but turned it down because of work conflicts?
Well, you know, it's a little fuzzy. We were sent the script and we were asked if we would be interested in doing it. But when I read the script and they changed the name of Apollo and Starbuck to the characters that were in 1980 (Troy and Dillon). So I didn't know what they were offering us. I was a little surprised when they sent us that script. So it sounded to me like they had already made the decision to have the two new characters, but they were still offering it to us. So I don't know about Dirk [Benedict] but I turned it down. But it was a little foggy in terms of what they were exactly offering us.
So you don't even know if you were going to be Apollo in the series.
Well, no we (sic) would have been Apollo but I think that they were -- in their minds -- had already either decided to go the other direction? Or, or if we decided to do it they would have changed it back. I don't know. I think what they would have done is changed it back. Maybe by mistake, they sent us the script with the different names and had it been me and Dirk, they just would have switched the names, that's all.
For years, you yourself tried to continue the series. It pretty much concluded in the trailer of Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming (1999), which is wonderful. You got Terry Carter, John Colicos, George Murdock and Richard Lynch playing in that. Were there any other actors that you tried to get that you couldn't?
Richard Hatch as Apollo and Jack Stauffer as Bojay on Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming
Everyone that you asked?
I tried to get Dirk [Benedict]. I tried to get Anne Lockhart, Laurette Spang. I tried to get everybody in it, but everybody was terrified to say yes because number one, they thought it would probably be some little cheesy, little unprofessional, little trailer that would look stupid. And also, I think because they felt uncomfortable because I didn't have the official rights to the show, so I think it made them uncomfortable. But I had made it very clear to them that I wasn't trying - I wasn't going to sell this or make money from this. It was simply a presentation to use to sell the concept of continuing the series to Universal, so that they could see how doing a new Battlestar Galactica using the original actors and then adding a second generation of our children in space, they would actually be able to see how that would work and realize that that would be a very beneficial way of going.
I was trying to show them, to sell a concept that I felt would serve not only the fans - what the fans wanted to see - but also would serve the studio agenda of seeing it updated, added new characters and also the younger element, bringing in our children, so that it was a way of building your bridge between the past and the future. But I understand. Obviously, I didn't have any credentials as a producer or director and so I think that they were very nervous about saying yes. But you know, Terry Carter, the minute I said, "Would you do it?" (snaps fingers) He said, "Tell me when and where." John Colicos, same thing, he had no qualms at all. He was more than willing to do it. And so everybody else that I asked said yes right away, but I do understand why the other actors felt a little nervous about doing it.
And to tell you the truth, when I went to play the trailer for Universal, they were almost a little weird about me playing it, because I think they were terrified that it was going to be a little piece of, you know, like a backyard production. When I played it for them, they were really quite shocked. They didn't expect something to be that good.
So you didn't have any of the rights to the movies, to the TV series, you wanted to show Universal.
No. I wouldn't have tried to do something behind their back, I was trying to create a presentation in order to inspire them to move forward with a remake or continuation of the original series. It was only as we got involved in creating the trailer that it became clear to me that maybe we came up with some other company, you know, because we started meeting Sony. We got to know many professionals such as Volker Engel, who won the Academy Award for writing ID4 (Independence Day) special effects supervisor, he and his company Dreamscape (Dreamscape Imagery, Inc, a visual effects CG studio, 1997 Academy Award winner for Independence Day) got involved with helping us develop the trailer.
I kept thinking maybe we should just put together a team, because he was an Academy Award winner, then we had WonderWorks (WonderWorks, Inc. an Emmy winning, Academy Award nominated visual effects miniatures studio). Dean Cundey, who was the DP (director of photography) for Jurassic Park and Apollo 13 with Spielberg, came on to film for us. We had all these wonderful people helping us and I thought maybe we should just put together a whole team and pitch the concept. I actually had one of the biggest companies, who had developed and produced Armageddon and big movies like that, who wanted to help take me to Universal and put together a team and develop a new Battlestar Galactica series, and they were willing to fund it. So there was a lot of interest in bringing back the series, continuing it.
Richard Hatch as Apollo on Battlestar Galactica 1978
Did you talk to Glen Larson at all? Did you work with him?
No, because when I had talked to Glen, originally, he had basically said he was at a point in his career where he was unable to really do anything at that point, and that he needed to work on creating success in other series, other ideas, before he could go back to Universal at some later point and maybe leverage himself into a stronger position with Universal so that he could maybe redo the series years later. But I got involved in the comic books and writing the books and I was exploring ways to bring it back now. At some point, had we gotten Universal's interest, I would have gone to Glen and said, "Hey, we've got this going." Because Glen was the originator, I would have definitely gone back to Glen and said, "Glen, we've got interest to do this show. Do you want to be part of this?"
I definitely would have done that, because I had... from the beginning, you have to understand, I was just learning about producing. I was just learning about directing and putting things together. It was through the project of The Second Coming that I actually got my college education and discovered that I really loved doing it and putting things together and developing it. For Battlestar, it always would have been -- the most viable way -- would have been to bring back Glen, and then to add obviously some other really wonderful producers, writers, artists, directors, bring them all in to create the best Battlestar possible.
Okay, so Universal comes out with its own version. You expressed strong negative feelings. You have since changed your mind and come back and you've talked about that. It's a good thing that you turned down the role of the priest, because the priest didn't make it through...
By the way, I didn't change my mind. People mistake changing your mind. To clarify that, I have always been for continuation. I think the most viable way of going with the series would have been a continuation. If I was Universal I would have even hired Ron Moore and Tom DeSanto and those people to do the continuation. Because I think Ron Moore is an incredible visionary, a talented, gifted writer. The only difference would have been, he would have kept the same back-story. He would evolved the story forward twenty-five years. And then you could have evolved the Cylons and you could have done... got into the cutting edge, provocative story-lines that the new show is getting into. But you would have had a continuation. That would have been the difference and obviously, that was my preference.
But they, Universal, made a decision not to do that. So for me, it wasn't about being against the new show because I didn't know what the new show was. It was always for the original continuation. But I always, even twenty five years ago, I was fighting to get into the darker, more provocative story-lines, getting into the struggle to survive in space, getting into the meat of what Battlestar's story is all about. But we couldn't do that twenty five years ago, the network (ABC) wouldn't let us. I was always frustrated as an actor and also as a creative artist. I felt it was such a great story, but we were barely touching the surface of what that story was all about. The network, the studio, everybody was afraid of science fiction. Everybody was afraid of rocking the boat. Everybody was afraid of getting too deeply into something that might alienate somebody, so they played it very safe.
The story, and the chemistry of the characters, and the premise still was powerful enough to really, obviously, inspire a lot of people's imaginations and a lot of love for that show. But I was always fighting, struggling, to bring more of the core story together. So for me, the thing that I loved about the new show, once I segued and looked at the new show for what it was, and was no longer trying to compare these two shows, as a science fiction lover, I loved the intelligent, down to earth, darker approach that Ron Moore was bringing to the new series. But I would have loved to have done that with the original series, and not lost the chemistry and the humor and all things that the original series had. I must say, for me, I mean knowing the new actors as I do, and the writers and the producers, you could have used eighty percent, ninety percent of all those people on a continuation.
Edward Olmos could have been the commander even though he wasn't Adama. You could have still had Mary McDonnell as the President. Jamie Bamber could have been my son. Starbuck could be Starbuck's daughter. You could have had a continuation very easily but, the point is, that wasn't done. So the point is, as I look at the new series for what it is, it's quality science fiction and it's the kind of science fiction that I personally love. I love getting into provocative, cutting edge, sociological, political, story lines that kind of mirror where we are in the world and I think that Ron Moore does that exceptionally well. Also, he creates characters that are very multi-layered, conflicted and enigmatic. They are very juicy, ripe characters that actors love to play. Twenty five years ago, characters tended to be more one to two dimensional, and today we have more permission to develop more fully, well rounded characters and we don't have to be so politically correct. We're able to get into the darker side of characters.
I think Babylon 5 was the first series that explored the fact that nobody is all good or all bad. You don't just have the hero and the bad guy. Sometimes the bad guy's the hero. Sometimes the good guy's the bad guy. Sometimes the bad guy could be a good guy and a bad guy. You know, for me, Tom Zarek is a good guy and a bad guy. He's not a bad guy but he does bad things, sometimes tries to do good things, and sometimes he loses his way. Sometimes an idealistic character can be too damaged. Idealistic human beings have been put up on crosses or burned at the stake and tortured all through history. You know the truth of it is, is that we live in a pretty strange world. I just think that all of that lends itself to the fact that I think these two series - for me again - I think it wasn't changing my mind about the new series.
I never saw the new series. I was just for continuation. I felt that was always the best way to go, but if you don't do a continuation and you create a really dynamic series, if you don't compare them, then you can really get into this new series for what it is. I think, for me, I love intelligent science fiction. So, for me, this is the kind of show I enjoy. I just wish, obviously in my heart, that we would have been able to do all of this stuff they did with the new show, I would have loved to have seen that obviously with a continuation, having been one of the original actors on the original show. Who wouldn't want that?
For your first appearance as Tom Zarek in the new Battlestar Galactica series, there's a scene between you and Jamie Bamber. You talk about the mythology behind Apollo. That's a very poignant moment, for me, and I'm wondering was this intentional? That this is sort of a passing of the torch, a sharing of the name?
Yes. I think it was a combination. I think the writers -- I mean, they may not say that -- on some level they wanted to create a passing of the torch. But they also wanted to clearly define and establish - Here's the two Apollos together but we wanted to create this, if you want to call it, one was the connection between the two Apollos. So here I am talking about Apollo, who Apollo is, and mythology and getting into that. It helps in a sense to understand what Apollo is and maybe understand what the character is.
And here's Tom Zarek being the one who's sharing that information. Which was kind of an interesting thing -- dynamic -- but at the same time it was showing that the two of us shared something in common; this understanding of Apollo. At the same time, it was creating the division which would separate the two Apollos. So it was bringing the two Apollos together and separating them at the same time. In a sense, [it was] kind of creating the uniqueness of each character. Here's Tom Zarek. Apollo is now Tom Zarek, not Apollo. Jamie Bamber is now Apollo. You see what I'm saying?
At the same time though, building the bridge and at the same time delineating and clarifying the difference between Richard Hatch and Jamie Bamber. So I thought it was an excellent way of doing that and very skillfully done. I really loved playing those scenes because it gave me a chance to establish a character that was totally different than Apollo and yet at the same time, to be able to share a moment, a powerful scene like that, with the new Apollo. He's always made it clear to me, these characters are not -- they're not Apollo and Starbuck -- those are their call signs. So in a sense, we were Apollo and Starbuck, those were our names. So as he says; my name is Lee Adama, my call sign is Apollo. So there is that difference.
Richard Hatch as Tom Zarek and Jamie Bamber as Lee "Apollo" Adama
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