Starting at the very beginning, how did you get into acting?
I was attending Harbor College back in the late 60's taking my basic requirements but not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. My biggest passion at the time was sports. I was a pole-vaulter and high jumper; unfortunately I discovered that I had to pass an English elective if I was to be eligible for the track for the following semester. What I did not know was that this English class would require me to get up in front of everyone and give speeches. I was terrified! Due to my insecurities and shyness in started out I was failing miserably until one day when President Kennedy died. That same week our teacher asked us to bring in a article that meant something personal to us and read it .Well the sport page was the only thing I ever read in those days and on this day, one of the biggest sports writers of that time wrote a very moving article on Kennedy. So I brought it in and read it to the class, starting out as usual with my head down and being barely audible. But something happened to me, as I got deeper into the story. I slowly began to get more emotionally involved with the material and all of a sudden I began to forget myself as my voice became stronger and my eyes began to find my classmates. I transformed right in front of everyone from a very shy and insecure student into an articulate and moving speaker .Well the majority of the class were actors and they couldn't believe what they had just experienced from me. Needless to say they told me I should try acting, but it wasn't until many years later that I joined the Eric Morris acting workshop on a dare from a personal friend and discovered that I had just found my true calling in life.
So as young ambitious actor In LA, what led you to winning the role as Apollo in Battlestar Galactica?
Unlike many actors I have always loved sci-fi and fantasy: Intelligent and visionary sci-fi that is. After the success of Star Wars I was asked to audition for Battlestar which was to be slated to be the biggest and most expensive television series in history .
And you said yes straight away, right?
Believe it or not I turned it down because I thought it would be a rip off of Star Wars, which I loved. Several months later after auditioning every actor in town the networks found themselves without an Apollo. Series Creator Glen Larson was frustrated as he and the studio could not agree to an actor for the role. As fate would have it, Glen happened to catch a two hour movie of the week called "The Class of '65" which I played the lead in. He immediately called my agent and asked to meet with me. To be truthful I really didn't want to be in the show because I was looking for a character driven series that would challenge me more as an actor, but after a long evening of talking and discussing the story and the character he wanted me to play I found myself getting excited about the vision and scope of the series. I agreed to read the script and after seeing the amazing artwork and overall story arc I found myself giving a tentative yes. Two days later after a lot of crazy negotiations I found myself walking onto the most expensive and media intensive set I had ever been on. I was terrified. I thought to myself. What the hell am I doing here and why would they have ever hired me! All my actor insecurities hit me like a ten-ton truck. Thank God for Lorne Greene. He made everyone feel welcome and created a very close, loving and supportive family among our diverse group of passionate young actors.
Once the nerves disappeared, what was it like playing the hero?
Playing the role of Apollo was enjoyable, but frustrating as I felt my character didn't get the chance to grow or evolve enough in the first year. I also felt that my character got a little lost after the first three or four episodes of the series. It wasn't as much about more screen time as it was about getting more challenging scenes to play that would reveal more levels and dimensions to both mine and other characters on the show.
It must have been fun, shooting the Cylons and saving the day though?
Playing a hero didn't really play into that much for me, but it obviously made my character well remembered by the public as it did for Dirk (Starbuck) Benedict. We all look up to heroes of course and it certainly was fun to play one, but I have always believed that heroic characters are usually the most flawed and imperfect ones who have courageously found a way to challenge their limitations and challenges. Dirk was obviously the flawed and reluctant hero on the show, but Apollo was a little too perfect for my taste. He had a great heart and a lot of integrity, which I loved, but I felt we needed to see more of his other-side. Apollo's character flaws and challenges needed to be more clearly defined and written for.
Battlestar Galactica was cancelled after just one season. What was your reaction to this? Why do you think it was killed off so swiftly?
Believe it or not, as much as I loved the Battlestar Story and the actors, producers and writers who worked on it I was still extremely frustrated with where the series seemed to be heading. I truly believed we had a incredible cast and wonderfully moving storyline. But I just felt we didn't get enough into the core journey or survival and finding a new homeland. I now know that this was the fault of the networks for the most part and not the producers and writers of our show. The Networks in those days were afraid of us being to Sci-Fi at the time and maybe too provocative. So in many ways I wasn't all that disappointed when I was informed the series wouldn't be picked up a couple of moths later. In some ways I was almost relieved as I didn't feel I was getting the chance to grow as an actor on the show and that my character wasn't particularly appreciated by the writers. You have to remember that I was a very idealistic actor at the time and just wanted the opportunity to dive deeper into the acting process. However I was extremely surprised by the cancellation as I thought the series as a whole had accomplished a lot in the first year. We were the highest rated sci-fi series of all time on Network television and the sixth rated show overall new series 1978. I always felt Battlestar had incredible potential to develop into a major franchise, but due to the Network demands, cost overruns and lack of proper time to develop the characters and themes we were terminated by network executives who didn't particularly like Science Fiction and couldn't see the vast potential of such an epic and visionary sci-fi series. I believe had we a second year to build upon the accomplishments of the first, then I'm sure we would have been on the air for the next decade.
You were obviously very passionate about Battlestar Galactica after it was cancelled. Didn't you attempt to remake it yourself?
Several years after the cancellation of Battlestar I began exploring the rights at Universal to see who owned then and how I could pitch the idea of a continuation. I even wrote a trilogy of stories to bring the series back, but to no avail as no one at Universal seamed to know much about the status of Battlestar Galactica or even care for that matter. I spent two years tracking down the rights and it was at this point that I was finally given a meeting with the network executives that would be in charge of green lighting any new Battlestar Galactica project. At the meeting it became very clear that they barely even remembered the series and couldn't envision what a new Battlestar Galactica series could potentially look like. That inspired me to put together an extended story-board with music and voice over to illustrate the idea and that eventually grew into by Battlestar Second Coming theatrical trailer. With the help of many fans and industry professionals I mounted a four-minute movie trailer to help inspire a continuation of Battlestar. Without going into detail about the epic struggle to bring back Battlestar let me say that four years later after many changes at Universal, and with the help of many fans including the inspiration and passion of producer Tom DeSanto of X-Men, a new Battlestar Galactica series was finally green lighted by Bonnie Hammer at the Sci-Fi Channel with Ron Moore and David Eick producing.
But you wanted a continuation of the series -- not a remake.
I must say I was excited at first, but then very disappointed to discover that they were going to do a re-imagining of Battlestar instead of a continuation. I'm sure it's obvious after staring on the original series and working so many years to bring back the original Battlestar that I was going to be disappointed at the news. My disappointment had nothing to do however with who was cast or who was producing and writing the new series. My problem had everything to do with the fact that I truly felt that a continuation was the best way to go in re-establishing the Battlestar universe. I will say I cant think of a better choice that Producer Ron Moore to head up the new series as he is one of those rare writers and producers who truly understands the art of balancing complex characters, unpredictable plots, innovative action sequences and the mind expanding world of Science fiction and physics.
But despite your original misgivings you have found yourself as one of the pivotal characters in the new series. How did this come about? What made you return to Galactica and will you be staying?
Ron Moore asked me if I would be open to appearing in the new series. I told him that while I was deeply conflicted about the issue I would be open to discussing any option that would be positive both for the series and me as an actor. I wasn't disappointed as Ron came up with a wonderful character that helped rekindle my love for acting. For the past several years I had been burned out on acting and the industry at large, but playing the role of Tom Zarek on the new series reminded me of why I became and actor in the first place. Complex multi leveled conflicted characters are and actors delight. So often characters are written one-dimensionally, but in the new Battlestar series every character is given a lot to work with. I believe that's why the new series is doing so well so quickly. Whether you're a fan of the original series, re-imagined version or both you can't deny that this new series is quality science fiction! That's why so many dedicated fans to the original are reluctant converts to the new series. And I'm the same way I truly love the original series and back story, but this new re-imagined version is so well acted, written and produced that you can't help but fall in love with it. And yes, I do believe my character is coming back in the upcoming second series.
Finally, when you're not being remembered as Apollo and not causing trouble in the new series, what does Richard Hatch do?
Since Battlestar some 25 years ago I have been guest staring on many series, writing Battlestar novels and comics and teaching and lecturing all over the US on overcoming fear, becoming a powerful communicator, acting from the heart and unleashing your power. I also just formed a new production company Merlin Quest Entertainment Inc. through which I have just created and written a new Sci-fi series, video game and comic called the Great War of Magellan, speaking engagements, novels, acting or my new production company. My goal is to create opportunities and powerful stories that will entertain open people's minds, expands their hearts and bring more joy and fulfillment into this world. There's nothing better than creating something from your heart that blows people away and makes a difference in this world! I live for that.