I recently interviewed Richard Hatch of both incarnations of Battlestar: Galactica (thanks to Dino Andrade of SoulGeek!). I had read a little bit about what Richard was up to lately, and suspected he’d be fun to talk to – and I wasn’t disappointed. We covered everything from Battlestar, to online dating, to some of his upcoming projects. In this first part of the interview, we talk a bit about Galactica, heroes and whether Tom Zarek is one.
J: I was born in the 80′s, so I missed the original Battlestar: Galactica. But I saw it recently and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised by the special effects… It wasn’t some cheesy old show like Lost in Space, like I expected.
Richard Hatch: I totally agree. Remember, it was done shortly after Star Wars, and the guy who was the special effects guy on Star Wars, was the guy who was the special effects guy on Battlestar – John Dykstra. And John Dykstra is now doing special effects for movies like Spiderman, so you had top-flight people working on that. ‘Course, that was back when CGI was just beginning.
J: So when you’re at conventions, do you have many younger fans who have discovered the original series, or are there distinct demographics in the Galactica fanbase?
Richard: Ah, it’s a mixture. You have people that like both shows, and people that only like the new show. Then you have people who watched the new show first, just watched the old show and really liked it, and then you have people who have watched the old show and think it’s really dated… It’s across the board; it’s really a mixture of people. I think as time goes on, you have more and more people who have watched both shows, or at least are aware of both shows. I’m recognized for both Apollo and Tom Zarek, and it’s kind of interesting to have that kind of a bridge built between the past and the future, you know?
J: And they’re definitely two different shows.
Richard: Two very different shows. The core story is the same, but obviously today’s show was able to go into the more edgy, provocative, life-and-death storylines in a more powerful way. All of the characters come off as much more complex, and conflicted – something that they wouldn’t do, or couldn’t do, 30 years ago.
J: You’ve played two very different characters in the two incarnations of Galactica. What did you enjoy most about playing each character?
Richard: Well, playing Apollo was challenging only because back then they wrote characters black and white, and I liked the fact that he was strong, but sensitive, compassionate and honest. He had a great deal of integrity, and that’s something that has gotten lost in this day and age – you rarely see a character that has those qualities.
Usually we’re seeing the dark side of most characters these days, and every once in awhile it’s refreshing to see that integrity. And there are people like that, that really are true blue, those people that you can depend upon, that are honest.
I don’t think that we have enough of those characters today, but back then, the problem was that we didn’t have enough of the other kinds of characters, ones that showed the fact that we’re all flawed and imperfect, and good people are capable of doing bad things under the right conditions. It’s a more honest look today, but we still need to be reminded that within all of us there is that person, that human being trying to get out, that does have that integrity and that honesty. It’s those kind of qualities that we would look for if we were going to go into battle, be in a life and death circumstance – you want to find people like that.
But back then, when it was all extreme, all black and white and bad guy and good guy… I loved playing Apollo, but I was frustrated because I wanted more meat, more conflict, more challenges. Part of what makes great drama is that the character is being challenged to deal with some unresolved part of themselves, and the drama, the heartache, the inspiration comes out of that.
So often back then they just tended to make those characters a little bit one-dimensional, and today, they sometimes go over to the other side of that, where every character is kind of frakked up in some way, every character has some kind of horrible secret and dark side. But, you know, the pendulum swings one way, it swings the other way, and at some point it will come back to balance. Like how we’ve gone over the edge with CGI and special effects; you’ve got to have a great story and great characters to go along with the CGI and special effects or otherwise you won’t have a great movie. I think it’s starting to come back to balance in that way too.
J: Tom Zarek is much more morally ambiguous.
Richard: I probably, as an actor, preferred playing Tom Zarek, because this character is far more challenging: complex, multi-layered, conflicted, struggling to deal with his demons and his dark side, and yet, for me, a heroic character. He stood up against tyranny, insurrection and against a very dictatorial government, and because he was willing to lay his life on the line, he was willing to pay the price. Believe it or not, the way I see it, especially through Zarek’s eyes, he was dealing with another government that was breaking all the rules and suspending constitutional rule and democracy. And even though they were trying to do what they believed was right, Zarek was doing what he believed was right.
[In his back story] he was always against tyranny, and other people backed down and basically tried to hide and get on with their lives. He saw too many bad things happening, was willing to stand up and do something and paid a huge price for it, and then here he is [on Galactica] in another government situation where he realizes that they don’t play fair.
And, you know, if you were in Zarek’s shoes, you would have every right to be pissed off at Roslin and Adama because they truly screwed him, over and over again. And I hate to say it, but they didn’t always do the right thing.
In Part 2 of the interview, Richard talks about Zarek’s darker turn, and whether we’d want Adama or Cain leading our fleet.