In a recent interview for Sci Fi Pulse, Richard Hatch revealed how his guest role of Tom Zarek came about, and a little about the roles that attract him as an actor. The last time I spoke to Richard, he was in the final stages of organizing Galacticon and had just completed work on his sixth Galactica book ‘Destiny’, just prior to attend his first ‘ Cult TV Festival ‘ here in the UK . Since then, he has taken on the new challenge of a role in the Ron Moore produced remake of ‘Battlestar Galactica’. In this role, he will be portraying a revolutionary by the name of Tom Zarek, first appearing in the third episode of the new series, titled ‘Bastille Day’. Richard was more than happy to explain how this new role came about.
“Well… I had invited Ron Moore to our Battlestar Galactica 25 th anniversary Convention, Galacticon; he came, and was very gracious. He spoke in front of a hostile and rather unreceptive audience. I was impressed with his courage and forthrightness.”
It is only after Ron had addressed the crowd that he and Hatch had chance to talk.
“We talked afterward. Ron said that if the series is picked up he would like to talk to me about the possibly of doing something for one of the opening episodes. At that point, I said, ‘Well, I have to be honest with you. I have a lot of conflicting feelings here, but if I feel that the role is challenging and worthwhile, and will be a win- win situation for Galactica, myself and the fans, then I would be more than happy to talk.’”
“We left it at that. Three months later, I was surprised to get a call from Ron saying that the show was picked up, and asking if I would be willing to come into the studio to talk about a possible role he had devised. So I went in… and I must say that Ron was a very intelligent, warm and constructive person who I really enjoyed spending time with. We went over his vision for the show, and by the end of the meeting, he had laid out the role of a ‘Nelson Mandela’ type political prisoner who had been held on the prison barge for 20 years for his political beliefs.”
It soon became apparent to Richard that Ron Moore was making him an offer that any actor would jump at.
“As Ron talked about the part, it didn’t take long for me to see that this was a role that I would love to play. In a sense, I had been playing that role all my life, of fighting for the common person and helping people feel more empowered. Certainly, I had tried to do that with Battlestar Galactica fans… I was very, very intrigued by a character role that could be so complex and multi-dimensional. I have always preferred playing character roles that deal with flawed and imperfect human beings. These kinds of characters have different layers and complexities that make them very interesting and challenging to play.”
“We didn’t get into specifics about the role but I agreed, without reading a script or discussing any fee, after hearing what Ron wanted to do with the show. He seemed focused on really getting into the core challenges of surviving in space, and of dealing with very challenging and conflicted characters who, like all human beings, are struggling to come to terms with their lives and the challenges they find themselves facing. I felt that this kind of character development was something we could all relate to and be inspired by. In truth, I believe that the original show would have gone more in this direction had we been fortunate enough to get a second season. In fact, I believe that had we gotten that second year, the original show would have still been on the air as we speak.”
Overall, Richard tells us that it was the portrayal of a flawed, more realistic human being that really attracted Richard to the role.
“Any actor will tell you that he loves playing a character that is not all black and white, characters that are more multi dimensional and conflicted. We all have a dark side and a light side and we all struggle to reconcile those two extremes. I felt that although this character was very idealistic, he obviously had multiple agendas going on inside of him in terms of what he believes and what he is willing to fight and die for. I just found this character very exciting to play. Just the idea of the character, along with Ron’s passion for the show, inspired me to take a leap of faith, since I had not yet seen a script or been offered a deal.”
“I also had a chance to meet with the other writers and staff at the Battlestar office, and in spite of my unresolved feelings, I just really liked everybody. I mean, what can I say? After meeting them personally, I really felt very much at home with people who seemed to be very intelligent, bright and creative, and I felt very flattered that Ron had offered me such a great role.”
Richard points out that this new character, which will be appearing in both the 3 rd and 11 th episodes of the new show, is worlds apart from any of your typical Science Fiction stereotypes that have often been the scourge of the science fiction genre in terms of TV and Movies.
“This characters not a heroic stereotype. We all have flaws and imperfections, underlying agendas and issues. Characters like Tom Zarek are people who are very conflicted. They are struggling to come to terms with their ideals, and their conflicting views of what they believe and how they feel the world should be running. I think this kind of character can become more original. I find it a far more interesting challenge to play characters who struggle with their own issues and agendas, their inadequacies and ideals. That is the kind of character that any actor worth his salt would die to play.”
The actor also revealed that he felt the role of Captain Apollo in the original Galactica was also a flawed human being. He is quick to point out that in the 70′s it was a completely different style of writing, and very much a matter of what the censors would allow.
“Captain Apollo, to me, was not a perfect character. He was flawed he was imperfect. The difference in the original show was that in the first year they were really focusing on developing the camaraderie, the relationships and the chemistry between these characters. I think that in the second year, they would have gotten more into the characters’ deeper issues, as well as the core premise of the series- surviving against impossible odds. At that time, however, the networks weren’t quite so open to dealing with the darker side of human nature, though there was a certain limited permission to do a little of that. I think that today, writers have more leeway in terms of getting deeper into what human beings really are- what motivates and inspires them and what blocks them. I think that makes for much deeper, more complex and richer character-driven stories.”
“That’s what Ron and his staff are going for. Essentially, it’s all about people, and if the people aren’t human beings that we can relate to, struggle with, and be inspired by- and sometimes even be disappointed by- then they risk becoming characters that we can’t relate to or care about.”
When news first broke in April that Hatch had accepted the role, many fans of the original series, which had fought for a continuation, were disappointed by his decision. However, even though Hatch has taken on this role, his heart is still very much with the original concepts and premise laid out by Glen Larson. He also adds that it was by no means an easy decision for him to make.
“What you have to understand about my feelings are this. I had fought for seven, almost eight years to bring back the original show. I had put tens of thousands of my own dollars, and incredible amounts of energy and time into convincing the networks to bring back the original series. Nobody worked harder or gave more to accomplish this. However, when the decision was made by the network and the studio to re-imagine, we were in a situation where there was nothing more that could be done. I had done everything possible to inspire a continuation, along with many dedicated fans around the world. The greatest and most painful realization for me was that regardless of my personal feelings and efforts, I had to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t own Battlestar. It was owned by Universal, and the powers that be were the ones who made the final decision on what would be done, at the end of the day.”
“At that point, I had to really think about the bigger picture. After having fought such a major struggle to bring back the original show, I had to surrender, to let go and realize that the ultimate fate of Battlestar was truly in the hands of the fans- that one person can only do so much and the rest is up to God. At that point in time, I think after kind of going through my own personal frustrations, anger and resentment over the outcome, I became exhausted and sick. I had, over the past several years, bonded deeply with the original characters and story. I had been writing the novels and the comic books and really campaigning to bring back the show, so it was a very deep and profound struggle for me to let go and realize that I was not the creator of the series and it didn’t belong to me. I now recognise how Glen Larson must feel- or any author of an original series- when their story is being changed by other people.”
“It feels very violating when you’ve bonded with a story and now have to let others follow their own vision, but I’ve finally come to terms with and accepted that. I think after watching the new show, I had to look at and deal with the fact that this is a completely different story. You can’t compare the two series, due to the fact that the back- story, the Cylons and many of the characters are completely different. I almost wish that they had named it something else, or that a spin – off was made, because at least that way fans wouldn’t compare the two shows, since that doesn’t serve either show.”
After having thought about both shows and weighing them both up against each other, Richard has come to the following conclusion.
“There is no way to compare them without both shows being ill served. The original show was its own story and had its own unique characters, and became timeless- an icon out there in the Sci Fi World. However, the studios decided to do this re – imagined version because they felt it would appeal more to the current fans and times in which we live. The one thing that is similar, obviously, between these two series is the epic journey through space and the struggle to survive the impossible. That is a very interesting core story element, which I think the producers will explore in very interesting, creative and profound ways. I think that bodes well for the future of this show because they have a tremendous group of talented actors and writers. I certainly don’t blame the show or the producers or actors for the decision to re – imagine as apposed to continue.”
“I think that these people are doing the absolute best they can to create the most exciting show possible. I think the issue really lies with the network and studios that decided not to do a continuation. I, personally, think that fans would have been very much more open to embracing any new Battlestar series had they initially brought back the original show. This could have been done in a limited mini series format, giving it some kind of closure, or somewhat like Star Trek did, with three or four different series going on at the same time, but all in sync with one another. I think when you re – imagine you’ve basically re – written the premise, and that is very violating for most fans regardless of how well constructed the new story is. They feel like you are trying to replace the show that they love, and I think that in this case that is the hardest thing for them to deal with. What I’ve had to do is basically separate these two shows and see them separately for what they each bring to the table, and not try to compare them. How can you compare a series that was filmed 25 years ago with one that is done today? It’s impossible! If the original series’ concept were filmed today, you would then have a level playing field. In truth, I think you have to work with the positive values of each show and appreciate them for the positive attributes of both. If you can basically look at the new series for what it is and not what it isn’t, you can then appreciate all the wonderful things that the producers have brought to this new show in terms of story, character, background and interesting new ideas that they’re exploring.”
Regardless of his feelings for the new role, Hatch still feels that a continuation could have been, and quite possibly still could be achieved.
“The only sad part for me is looking at this and realising my god, with all the wonderful talent, energy and money that’s been put into this new show I just wish in my heart that they had brought this to a continuation first. They could have even used Ron Moore, David Eike, and most of the characters they have in the new series, along with several key characters from the original. As I’ve said many times before, they could have than updated the original show, built a bridge between the past and the future and you would have created a win- win situation for the 3 generations of fans who fell in love with the original show. In addition, you could have at the same time added new characters, updated the technology, added new elements and gone into deeper, more conflicting areas that the show should explore.”
“I think that all this could have been done with a continuation, but again that decision was not made by Ron Moore or David Eick, or the actors of the new show. The executives at the networks and studios make that decision, and they obviously have their own agendas and their own reasoning behind their decision to do what they did. That’s truly the saddest part for me. What could have been? However, the positive part is that I absolutely love my opportunity and experience on the new show. I love the cast tremendously; I love the crew, the writers, everybody who made my time on the series such a positive experience for me. I just felt so appreciative of being a part of that, but that doesn’t take away one iota from my love of the original show, which for me is still laying out there unresolved and unrequited. I think it would be wonderful at some point in the future to take that series and bring it back in some form, animated, or as a movie and be able too bring those characters back and bring some kind of resolution so the fans can feel good about their love for the original show.”
Although the two shows are glaringly different from each other, Richard feels that a few fans of the original Galactica series may grow to appreciate the new show if it gets the chance to develop that the original series never had. He also remains hopeful that the original series may some day get the conclusion that the original series fans have fought long and hard for.
“Even through these two shows seem so different, some fans may eventually come to like both shows. Some fans may like only one show, but the new show will probably develop its own core group of fans if it is on the air long enough. My only wish is that this show gets the opportunity that the original series never got, which I thought was tremendously unfair to all the millions of fans out there and didn’t make any economic sense to many industry professionals. I will never stop hoping that the original show, at some point in time, either through Glen Larson, Tom DeSanto, I, or someone new will be able to come back and continue the original story.”
When talking about the Moore series Hatch is hopeful that fans will look at the 13 episodes and eventually come to accept the show for the quality of the stories and the new characters and story arcs that are going to be developed.
“As have said before, I almost wish that they had called it something else other than Battlestar Galactica, because if it had been called something else then perhaps Sci Fi fans, specifically fans of the original Battlestar would be a lot more receptive to this new show.”
If they had called this series a spin off or by another name entirely fans would not have had to judge or compare the two shows. That would have allowed this new series to really rise much faster and develop its own unique identity and personality, which it will eventually do anyway. I think if fans watch these next 13 episodes they’ll realize that if they can let go and get into the character stories that will be developed in the next 13 episodes, they are going to see some very exciting and provocative storylines. They’ll see some wonderful and moving character stories. I think there will be a lot more balance in the continuing series between the drama, comedic elements and the action sequences. If given enough time, this show will slowly find its path, and could have a great chance of succeeding.”
In regards to the new show, Richard is hopeful that it will succeed, and would rather be fighting for a show than against a show. He feels that Battlestar fans should be able to support a continuation and still appreciate the new show for what it is.
“I would never want to see any show fail, and in this case I think its time to move out of taking sides and going to war over which show is better and should have been done. I would rather fight for something than against something, and I don’t think you have to hate this new show in order to be a dedicated Battlestar fan. I think you can love the original show, and at the same time appreciate this new show for what it is, and what it will be. At the same time, you can keep your heart open and your support for bringing back the original show, which in my heart I would love to see one day. At this point, I don’t have ownership, so it’s not in my hands. However, I think that this new show is in very good hands. It has a lot of very creative and talented people behind and in front of the camera and I believe that the next 13 episodes will prove that.”
When it came to working with the cast of the remake, Richard revealed that he was made to feel like a part of the family and that he totally enjoyed the experience of working on the new series, although admittedly he did feel a little strange at first.
“I was fortunate to have met Starbuck [Katie Sackhoff] at a convention a month before we shot the episode. She was just so nice and warm and friendly.”
Sackhoff was so friendly that Richard had a tough time approaching the convention with any angry feelings regarding the networks’ failure to bring back the original show. “She was just so gracious.”
“So, when I finally got offered the role and came onto the set, she in affect was somebody I could reach out to, helping me over that first uncomfortable moment of meeting the new cast. Ron introduced me to everyone, and David Eick bent over backwards to make things easy for me on the set. Ron also took me around the set and introduced me to the crew. I was surprised when Jamie Bamber came right over to me and sat down next to me. I thought he would be the most uncomfortable with my being on the show, but he came right over and reached out to me, and introduced himself. He told me how much he appreciated what I did and how happy he was to have me on the show.”
“Within a few minutes all the awkwardness was gone, and I felt part of a new family. I think that once they realised that I wasn’t going to be sitting there in judgement or having an attitude, that I was a team player and that I was there to help bring as much value to the show as possible, they were able to embrace my participation in the series. Once they realised where I was coming from, everybody relaxed, and we got along incredibly well. It was a phenomenal experience. The reason I felt so uncomfortable the first few minutes on the set was because I was wondering how they would accept me after all the hate mail some of the actors had gotten, but they all seemed to take it in their stride. I think it’s hard for some to realise that they were not at fault for what happened, and that they were just incredibly talented actors coming to earn their living on a show they were excited to be on. They were innocent, and I don’t hold them responsible for anything.”
“Like I said, I got tired of fighting a war and tired of fighting against something, which was the studio not wanting to do a continuation of the original series. I came to the realization that if I wanted to do my own thing, I was going to have to create my own story, characters and universe and develop them. (That was when I created the story of the ‘Great War of Magellan’- the new Sci-fi series my company MerlinQuest Entertainment is putting together.) As for the new series, all I know is that they are putting a lot of money, hard work and passion into creating a great show. The sets were full- blown sets, not just partial sets. They had a great crew. It was obvious that they cared about making a great show so I was very happy to see that. It was lovely being welcomed into that family, and then getting the opportunity to go back up and do a second guest episode. When they decided to expand upon my character it was a big surprise to me.”
Richard filled us in a little about the plot for his first episode of the new show, titled ‘Bastille Day’, which will premier in the UK Next Monday evening. Many of Hatch’s scenes in the series will be, ironically enough, Captain Lee Adama (Apollo), played by British Actor Jamie Bamber.
“Basically, I play a Nelson Mandela style political rebel and leader named Tom Zarek, who has been a captive on the Prison Barge for 20 years. In the episode, I lead a prisoner rebellion and challenge the political agenda of the president and commander Adama. Zarek is a character who is extremely motivated and will not back down if he feels in his heart that he is right.”
Hatch also made mention of some of his other projects. At present Hatch’s production company, MerlinQuest Entertainment, is working on several new and exciting projects. Most notably is Richard’s own science fiction project ‘The Great War of Magellan’. Hatch revealed that he will be releasing several books based on his Magellan story.
“In regards to my Great War of Magellan project, I have just completed filming three theatrical trailers, and will be releasing a comic book version of GWOM sometime next year. I have also made a deal to write three Magellan novels, due out next year as well. In addition, I have just completed my seventh Battlestar Galactica novel, ‘Redemption’. Also, a new Magellan CD rom game and series is in the works as well. Stay tuned, and please check out my greatwarofmagellan.com website for details.”
Richard’s first guest appearance as Tom Zarek will air on Sky One here in the UK on Monday, the 1 st of November, with the episode titled ‘Bastille Day’. His second guest appearances in the episode ‘Colonial Day’ will premier sometime after Christmas.
Battlestar Galactica currently airs on a weekly basis at 8PM GMT on the UK Satellite and Cable Network Sky One.
Sci Fi Pulse would again like to thank Richard for his time and patience and his willingness to share with us the opportunity to talk.
By Ian M. Cullen