At the recent Dragon Con 2015, one of the panels I attended which I thoroughly enjoyed was the Star Trek Axanar panel featuring Alec Peters, Diana Kingsbury and Richard Hatch.
Alec Peters plays the main character in Axanar, the legendary Captain Kelvar Garth, who helped make the difference during the Federation’s Four Years War with the Klingon Empire, while also acting as the production’s Executive Producer and writer.
Diana Kingsbury is a Co-Producer on Axanar and Richard Hatch plays the main nemesis in the upcoming Axanar, as well as in Prelude to Axanar; General Kharn. Richard Hatch is perhaps best known for his Iconic portrayal of Captain Apollo in the original Battlestar Galactica as well as Tom Zarek in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica.
During the Axanar panel, the very enthusiastic and clearly excited crowd went absolutely wild with applause and cheers when shown a portion of Prelude to Axanar, which also features the amazing acting of Trek veterans J.G. Hertzler, Tony Todd and Gary Graham, along with fellow Battlestar actress Kate Vernon. I
What is clear from not only watching Prelude to Axanar, but also seeing the public’s reaction to it is that this fan created production is something much more than your run of the mill fan created production. Axanar is not only being done well, but is also generating an immense response directly from the fan base, which has to date raised more than $500,000.00 towards the pending Axanar production on indiegogo.
Richard Hatch as always spoke quite eloquently during the panel and had this to say about bringing Axanar’s pivotal protagonist, General Kharn to life, “I’m sure everyone has their own idea of how they view a Klingon, and for me I have always loved anything having to do with the Warrior code.”
“Klingons for me have always been an interesting culture and we’ve seen them portrayed in different ways and there’s no one way to portray a Klingon. But for me as an actor I’m always looking for roles and I don’t care if its sci fi, fantasy; I don’t care what it is. I’m looking for a great story!”
“I’m looking for really complex, very powerful, interesting characters to play.” Pointing towards Alec Peters sitting nearby Hatch continued, “And when Alec cam to me with General Kharn, I was hoping he (Alec Peters) wasn’t going to go into a cliché of what his idea of what a Klingon was and I started talking about what a Klingon was to me and I thought of Katsumoto from Last of the Samurai.”
Looking somewhat introspective and as if the words he was choosing were quite important the actor continued, “I thought about someone who was highly intelligent, highly sophisticated, philosophical, and yet that Warrior code; if any of you understand what that is” as Hatch shakes his head almost as if he were attempting to wrestle with a precise description of the Warrior code, “It’s deeper than just going to war and killing people.” says Hatch as he figuratively shakes his fists as if along with his words.
“It is a pitting yourself against the impossible to bring out your best. It’s putting yourself on the line, its testing your mettle and the Klingons are a culture that’s based around the warrior code.” Listening to Richard speak about the Warrior code and his deep thoughts on its description are as always a delight in that the actor’s feelings and emotions go hand in hand with his incredible oration skills, but once he begins tie the warrior code into the Klingon culture, we can easily see the origins of General Kharn emerge.
“The Klingon’s technological sophistication is so amazing, they are a highly intelligent sophisticated race. They’re not a bunch of crazy Neanderthal characters, although . . .” as the actor says with a smile and a chuckle, “I’m sure there are those kinds of Klingons that are part of the troops.”
“But I wanted to find as an actor and to search for the deeper connections to a character because that’s how I bring a character to life. I don’t play the superficial. I don’t play the cliché. I do it from the heart, the soul, the spirit.”
Hatch continued then to delve deeper into what he understands to be the keys to the creation of Star Trek Anaxar’s General Kharn saying, “Who is this man? What drives him? What moves him? Where does he come from and what does war mean to him? And you know, often as we see even with Kevlar Garth, Generals don’t want to be the ones that go to war,” says the actor as he shakes his head and looks around at the gathered crowd.
“They are not the ones who are looking to go to war.” Said the actor as he continued with an almost emphatic certainty of someone who seems to have actually made those decisions, “They are looking to avoid war, they’re looking for ways not to have to go to that length. And yet they’re pushed into it and when they have no other choice, now they have to bring everything they have, all of their intelligence, their courage, their hearts, their soul; to find a way to win that battle and war. And sometimes the greatest leaders didn’t ever seek out leadership. The greatest leaders of our country are not the ones that set out to become a leader, but somehow the country called fourth that kind of a leader in the right man or woman.”
“So I love that in Axanar it is truly a collaboration of the heart and the soul because we all get to talk about the characters. We get to share our insights, our feeling our thoughts and its not about having someone thrust a script on you and tell you, ‘This is what you’re going to do.‘” At which point Richard Hatch looks over to Alec Peters who silently shakes his head in agreement as Richard continues delving into the process of creation on Star Trek Axanar.
“We really have a chance to talk and share about it and you know, it’s not about being in control and telling people what to do, great leadership is collaborative, great leadership brings people together, great leadership brings the best out of everybody; mobilizing peoples greatest talents to serve the coming role.”
” And so I love the fact that their whole M.O., their way of putting this project together is to bring out the best in everybody and not to sit there telling everybody what to do. And I think they’ve really built a great team, Robert Burnett is the new director as you’re going to see in the scene they’re going to play,” which was a scene involving Vulcan Ambassador Soval, as played by Gary Graham, “and he really surprised me as I had no idea what he was going to do, but I love Rob Burnett.”
“I am blown away by how they are taking the time for the camera and behind the camera to really create something that’s going to be ground breaking and I think change the business model of maybe how studios and networks do business. I even looked at how Battlestar could be made as a series or a movie because their not making so many of the wonderful and favorite space shows that we love, which are off the air.” It was at that moment that a number of the audience members could be heard agreeing with Richard as he brought his thoughts back to Star Trek Axanar.
“I am really happy to be on board and I love playing the character of Kharn, and I feel like this is just the start of it. I have to tell people this is not a finished thing; we were thrown into this but we were originally boing to be actors sitting like we are now talking about the characters talking about the show and then Alec came up with this I believe, and said why don’t we have you in character talking about what the experience of the war was like, five years after the war. And that was a really interesting premise, but we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, so we kind of jumped into it and it was an extraordinary shoot and it impressed me.”
“Its an evolution because I feel like I’m just getting to know Kharn and who he is and this is for me one of the most really challenging characters I’ve ever played. So I think what you are going to see is this character getting to evolve and you’re going to see this with all of the characters and we start shooting this movie in January.” Hatch then took a moment to elaborate on the production by saying, “This is a hundred million dollar script, this is not a two hundred thousand dollar script and I can only say this; when I first heard about what they were planning to do, I thought you’re biting off a huge chunk and most likely like so many people, they don’t live up to the expectation because their imagination is way out there, but the reality and practicality of what its going to cost, the time, the energy, and they simply don’t process that properly right!?”
“But when I saw what they did with Prelude to Axanar, from the way they set it up and all of the time and care they put into setting up this project, I’ve been in this business fifty years and let me tell you, this is a rarity.” And it is with this sentiment that Richard Hatch left off his thoughts on Star Trek Axanar, which begins filming this coming January for what is sure to be a truly epic Star Trek adventure, worthy of both Klingon song and the Great Bird of the Universe’s (Gene Roddenberry) blessing.