Galactica's Renaissance Man
Though he's played many roles in his life - both as an actor and in various other careers - it's fine with Richard Hatch if he's remembered as Battlestar Galactica's Captain Apollo. After twenty years, he still speaks of the series with the enthusiasm of its most ardent fans, and he is at the forefront of a movement to revive the show.
"How wonderful to be recognized, and how nice to be invited over to somebody's barbecue where they've prepared this sumptuous meal, because you were on Battlestar Galactica," exclaims the actor, whose humor and warmth are very much in evidence over the course of a telephone interview (this one was supposed to last half an hour, yet ran over an hour and a half). "I mean, how bad is [it] to be given the keys to the city, or to have people out there that are open to sharing with you because you're not a stranger to them? It opens the door to networking and communication and friends and travel and all kinds of wonderful things!"
"Since I am a teacher and I lecture on social change, and on up-leveling people's lives, science fiction's a great place where you can really explore a lot of territory," he continues. "For me, Battlestar Galactica is an incredible opportunity to do that. If I was only known for Captain Apollo, I would have not problem at all with that."
Hatch has worked in almost every form of media and communication available. He's written novels and comic books, starred on television series, hosted radio shows, worked a lecture circuit, made B movies, taught, painted, penned a newspaper column, pitched scripts, and created a web page. While he achieved early success acting on All My Children and The Streets of San Francisco, and though his face is recognizable to non-genre fans from his appearances on shows like The Love Boat and Baywatch, performing is only one career of many for him.
"I was always curious about - not actors - but I was always enthralled by the communication industry. TV, movie, film - all that stuff," he says of his youth. But while movies made him interested in the imagination, Hatch wanted to be the characters rather than the actors. He began performing as a result of a suggestion that such exposure might help him overcome some of his insecurities - "I didn't think of becoming a star or an actor or anything professionally" - and the first year, Hatch primarily "worked through a lot of my stuff."
"I had a great acting teacher [who] taught people how to be more comfortable with themselves. How to express their emotions and feelings, how to be more vulnerable." He discovered that he had skill as well as motivation, and began to audition for plays. After moving to New York to join an acting company and performing "lots of Off-Off-Broadway Shakespeare, poetry, one-act plays, stuff like that," he landed a role on All My Children in the early 1970s.
What started as a process of "overcoming intense shyness" led Hatch to realize that he really enjoyed the creative process. "[I realized] that it's really fun to create things as an actor - you enter into characters, you build the life into them. And I was always writing stories and just writing down my thoughts and sharing my feelings. So, it all kind of tied together." In between parts, Hatch did a lot of writing and began to offer seminars on motivational speaking. He's taught at The Learning Annex at UCLA and the Screen Actors' Guild, in addition to corporations, businesses, networking groups, and women's groups all over the country.
"Artists are teachers," he states. "They inspire people, they motivate people, they speak to people's subconscious minds. A lot of the archetypes that we see woven into the fabric of our stories deal with mythological symbols. And we are constantly tapping into the subconscious to discover more about our universe, our world, who we are, what we're capable of."
His long-time interest in fantasy and mythology served Hatch well when he got the part of Apollo on Battlestar Galactica in 1978. Enthusing that science fiction is "a portal to the incredible unlimited possibilities of life," he points out that much of Galactica's mythology is based on much older sources. "Apollo, Athena, these are characters out of Greek mythology - we used a lot of the Egyptian mythology, as well. And we tapped into the premise of, you know, Who is mankind? Where did we evolve from?" These age-old mysteries, hieroglyphics about visitors from space, the techological advances of ancient cultures, gave Hatch a point of entry for understanding the alien culture of the series.
"There's something primordial in it that taps into our collective subconscious," he believes, noting that comic books and serious art strive for the same effect: "It takes us out of the linear/logical concept of life." Comics, according to Hatch, are an under-utilized medium: they allow a reader, with a minimum of words, to use his or her own creativity "to expand upon the picture." He is very involved in this development at the moment because he has a new comic himself, The Drackon Wars, a follow-up to his three Battlestar Galactica comic books. "My comic book is a combination of Mad Max, The Road Warrior, the search for the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Round Table. If you combine those elements, you'd have my story - it's a mythological story about what took place on one day in a galaxy when people gave their power away."
For a reader, Hatch believes, the experiences of reading a comic and watching a science fiction show are analogous. "You enter into a relationship with the picture that allows you to participate in the experience...it really stimulates your own imagination, and then you enter into that world and you become one of those characters. Look at all these strange creatures that everybody loves to dress up like at conventions. Because people feel like those characters inside." Hatch suggests that many people feel different, not even human, and quickly adds, "I don't mean that in some stupid, silly way. I mean, the fact is, many people don't feel comfortable in this world, and they live on the periphery of this world - their creativity, their own unique talents and abilities - [are] so different than the mainstream of this world that they don't feel like a part of it. Science fiction has embraced them."
Hatch believes in art, even (perhaps especially) comics and cult TV, as "visionary science, healing science," which allows people to clear their subconscious minds by bringing repressed issues to the surface. Noting that "most people don't see beyond the obvious," he says that his goal as a teacher is to help people see why they're not succeeding - "why they're only making a little money, why they're not being appreciated for what they do, why relationships are not working." Most, people, he observes, don't want to look, out of fear of not measuring up to their own standards.
"What people don't realize is that when you lay all the cards on the table, when you really open your eyes fully to what's going on in your life, what you will learn is that what's screwing you up is all the subliminal belief systems and judgments about yourself. It's really all the junk people bought into as a child. All the beliefs about themselves, about the world, about each other. Imagine all the crap that's laid on you as a child. Your parents are tired. They've had it. And you're trying to express an idea, and they say, "Shut up." They don't realize that their not having time for you makes you feel unimportant. And when you feel unimportant, you formulate a belief system about you that what you have to offer is not worthwhile. And all the subliminal belief systems get locked in and created in childhood. And then you begin to act out those patterns in your life. You have to learn techniques to go back into the subconscious, because you can tell your conscious mind forever, "I'm worthwhile. I'm a good guy. I'm going to succeed." And that's not what does the guiding of the ship. Whatever you determine to be true in the subconscious becomes true for you."
Of course, notes Hatch, these beliefs have commercial applications. "Programmers and marketing people know how to get into your subconscious - they spend millions of dollars researching colors, shapes, designs, symbols, that affect your preferences, and they can make you feel warm, trusting, like buying. They can manipulate you." A firm believer that people can be as successful in the work force as they want to be, once they realize that their own insecurities are holding them back just as much as the job market, Hatch encourages people to expand their creativity and work at what they really love, not letting externally-imposed value systems get in the way.
Richard Hatch's current dream is to revive Battlestar Galactica. He has a web page pushing for the show's revival, which has Universal Pictures' blessing since it promotes officially licensed products. The success of the new toys and games currently on the market lead him to believe that the time is ripe for a new Galactica. He is currently meeting with investors, and waiting to learn whether Universal will be open to developing a new series, or collaborating with him on one. "Either way is good, so long as we do it," he says agreeably.
Galactica '80 will no longer be canon when the new material is produced. "The original cast and scene is back - it starts with the death of Adama and proceeds from there," reports Hatch, who says that people will have to read his new book Armageddon if they want to know what happened to the Battlestar crew in the aftermath of the series. He and Dirk Benedict turned down the opportunity to be on Galactica '80 because ABC had cut the show's budget in half, and they feared a significant dropoff in quality.
"[The original] Battlestar had everything in the world going against it," Hatch claims without rancor. "It was a first year show; it was on network TV that never embraced science fiction; we started behind the eight-ball because we were only prepared to do a seven-hour miniseries. They asked us to do a full season, and they didn't have a special effects department in place." Though there were no scripts written, ABC refused to wait a year for the producers to prepare, so the show went into production hastily. "We were always working overtime, throwing things together," says the actor. "Every first year is always hectic enough, because you have producers and network executives fighting it out over what they think you should do. With all the belief that science fiction was just not meant for TV, they didn't understand what they had until it was too late - and by then they had a hit show, the highest rated sci-fi show of all time on network television! They realized that they could make money but, they thought - I think arrogantly - that they could do better with a show that was less expensive and could make them more money, even if it was lower in the ratings. They destroyed it. But they had an incredible premise."
The twenty-three episodes of the original series sparked a following which is still around today; it seems likely that, had the show maintained the quality of its pilot, it could have been Universal's Star Trek. Unlike the Trek actors, however, who often seem quick to criticize one another and the franchise that made them famous, the former Galactica castmembers are among their series' biggest fans. Hatch and Benedict socialize with Anne Lockhart, Herb Jefferson, and their families. Almost everyone involved in Galactica's production - actors, writers, directors, producers - are planning to gather for the 20 Yarun Reunion convention next September 5th at the Universal Hilton. Hatch hopes that by that date, nearly a year from now, they will have a new series to announce.
In the meantime, he's working on the sequel to Armageddon, his Galactica novel, something he had wanted to write for a long time. "Several years ago I had written a trilogy of stories to do a new Battlestar Galactica series, and it had been written up in numerous publications, so they knew that I had done that - I had actually contacted Universal at that time," he explains. "But then the whole hierarchy at Universal changed. And then the Sci-Fi Channel brought Battlestar Galactica back in even in a bigger way, it's one of their all-time big cult favorites on that show."
Since Hatch had written stories which Universal had heard about, they contacted him when they made a deal with Byron Price to publish the new books. "They thought, especially since I was out there in the mainstream of Battlestar, I had a Battlestar web page, I had written the comic books, and I was kind of like a point man out there, I had been traveling around like Gene Roddenberry with a Battlestar Galactica revival campaign - it was natural, I think, for them to come to me."
Hatch is energized by his travels to book signings since they put him in contact with a lot of fans who "grew up on Battlestar Galactica, and it's so exciting for them to come back and realize that the show they love is still here and may be coming back." He's not at all frustrated that people's interest in him stems primarily from his role as Apollo. "I'm never one to eschew or put down anything that's had a major impact, because every actor's looking for that portal. But more than that, Battlestar Galactica and science fiction are my loves. I genuinely love science fiction."
Having been involved in science fiction since his youth, Hatch "always loved the concept of Battlestar Galactica, and always felt it had incredible possibilities." He thinks producer Glen Larson was able to express a lot of his philosophies through that project, like Gene Roddenberry did with Star Trek, "and challenge a lot of biases and racial prejudices and deal with a lot of social issues."
This actor will certainly never write an I Am Not Spock treatise, like Leonard Nimoy did. "I am a part of Apollo," he says with pride. "But, I mean, there's a whole other part [of me]. If you look at Dirk and me, you'd see that, as much as Dirk was flamboyant and outgoing in [his] role, he's just as introspective in person. And I am a clown and a wild, crazy guy...if you saw me in person, you'd see that really if you put the Apollo and Starbuck characters together, you'd have a closer rendition of who Richard Hatch is. In my heart, I am an actor and I am an artist and I am a teacher. I have performed in many, many roles - and I paint and I draw and I write and I create in many ways. So, I'm sure that I will be known for other things than Battlestar Galactica - but I will always be known for Captain Apollo, and I thank God for the opportunity to have been in that show. And I hope to do that role again.
Was it hard for him to be on a hardware show, where the acting often took second-fiddle to shots of Vipers taking off? "You're having to use your imagination more, [but] we learned a lot of that in acting class," he says. "Actors are always working with an imaginary stimulus - something that's not really there, but you create as if it were there. So that's not really hard for actors who have studied, and have developed their imaginations. No matter how action-oriented it is, an actor has to focus on the dramatic aspects of it."
Hatch thinks audiences catch on quickly if an actor can't step into a character fully. He thinks Method is less magic than its hype: "No matter what actors say, there are a lot that don't have a clue about what the acting process is, they just do it, and that's fine. Whether they're doing it from one from acting technique or another, it doesn't matter, as long as the end result is that you can act organically, spontaneously, unpredictably. People who are predictable and logical and linear are less exciting [to watch]." He thinks many actors have trouble accessing their real abilities, because "we usually protect ourselves" - many actors don't want to access parts of themselves with which they're not comfortable, any more than many people do.
The creative process serves as "an acid test of the soul," according to Hatch. "The artist goes places in the realms of consciousness and awareness, and in his own body and emotion,that most people would choose never to go, and they constantly have to go into the unknown, into the scariest places inside their being. So it's a monumental challenge, being an actor." The fact that the business offers a great deal of rejection adds further stresses. "Even though we all know it's subjective, it's hard to take 'no' and not take it personally - an actor, no matter what he does, has to get up the next day and prove himself all over again."
Hatch hosted a PBS series on saving California's Mona Lake which will air in the near future, and he lectures at Windstar, John Denver's organization dedicated to environmental awareness. But he emphasizes that psychology is just as important as ecology - that people abuse themselves the same way they abuse the land. "I teach people to learn how to treat themselves and others with more love, more forgiveness, and realize that we're all here together, that there's a relationship, that we're all inter-connected, and then you realize from there that the world is just a bigger part of that, and you can't treat the world with disdain and abuse and hope to live on it very long. There's a relationship between the world and ourselves and each other." His company, Su-Shann Enterprises, promotes personal and relationship growth as well as environmentalism.
Lest his interests should sound overly serious, it should be pointed out that recently, Hatch and one of his partners in teaching the relationship seminars, Renée Piane, began a talk show called Totally Naked Radio. "You like that title?" he grins. "Totally Naked Radio is show about relationships - sharing, communicating, from the point of view that everybody has something to say. Everybody has gone through the experience of having relationships and learned the hard way, and has some wisdom and knowledge and insight into it," he explains. "That means, even the psychologist who thinks they're more knowledgeable than everybody else has as many troubles, issues, as the rest of us. And I want them to share from that place. I don't want them just pontificating. I want them to share about their journey, about their issues, about what they've learned - personally - from being in relationships." Currently on the Cable Radio Network, the show will be available soon on a web page.
The father of a nearly-thirty-year-old son, Hatch is unconcerned about aging. "The most exciting thing is that you can be 50-60-70 and starting a whole new life," he emphasizes. "I'm in the 'doing' process now. I moved out of 'just having an idea' into actually realizing that I can do it. So that's what I teach in my workshops, and that's what I'm learning to do in my life. I'm no longer sitting by the phone waiting for that magical call for someone to say, 'Here, Richard! Here's a million dollars. And we just hired you to do this.' Now it's, like, get an idea, call someone up, put a business plan together, start doing it!"
It's clear while talking to him why Hatch is a success as a motivational speaker: in addition to being, well, motivated, he's a good listener, open to new ideas (he and I had a lengthy discussion about gender roles after this interview was technically over), unafraid to debate, and he doesn't have a trace of snobbery. It's impossible to doubt his genuine affection for the profession and the fans who launched him to success.
"To me, Apollo was a Renaissance man," the actor notes of the Greek god who was the namesake for his most famous role. "Back in the ancient days, warriors were also artists - poets. I want to produce, I want to direct, I want to write, I want to act when it's a wonderful role - I want to do it all. I'm a Renaissance man."