J Interviews Richard Hatch: Part 2

zarek1 In Part 1 of our interview, Richard Hatch and I talked about the two incarnations of Battlestar: Galactica, the characters he played on both shows and heroes.  Today, we delve deeper into the BSG Auctions, Tom Zarek, and Cain.

J: At the end of Battlestar: Galactica they had the Battlestar: Galactica auctions, both live and on the internet.  Did you get to keep anything before the auction, and is there anything that went up for auction that you would have liked to have had?

Richard: Aw, no.  First of all, at that point, I wasn’t sure the show was ending.  Basically, we didn’t get to keep stuff, and also, I usually wore suits that you could wear today.  It wasn’t like I was wearing some costume, you know, a helmet or something I could grab without someone getting upset, so I didn’t take anything.  But obviously a lot of other people did.

J: Tom Zarek wasn’t written or played as a mustache-twirling villain.  Did you know that he would be taking an even darker turn in the last season, and was this planned all along?

Richard Hatch: No, I didn’t know, and it was surprising.  I was hoping that the character would somehow find a way to find some kind of redemption, light at the end of the tunnel; to make a choice that shows that Zarek had grown enough to realize that right or wrong doesn’t really work in this case.

But still, who’s the good guy and the bad guy here?  Maybe you identify more with Roslin, or Adama, or you like them better, but if you really look at Zarek, he was fighting the good fight and he was struggling to make them accountable, he was willing to pay the price for what he believed.

Every writer on the show told me that Ron Moore said to put the truth in Zarek’s mouth.  Whether people wanted to hear it or not, he would always be speaking the truth when he would say things.  So, the point was, that people always thought it was self-serving, but I wanted to see, somehow, some way, where he would get some recognition.

There was a little [recognition] on the show, when Apollo said to his father, “You know, if you get past the attitude, the arrogance, Zarek’s right.”  He actually said that line, although it got lost, I think, in translation.  In essence, I would have liked to have seen some kind of vindication for Zarek, because it was going towards that with Roslin, but never with Adama.

He was willing to die for what he believed, not because he wanted to be a martyr, but because he truly believed that government – that democracy – has to be the rule of the day, and that you can’t conveniently suspend democracy because you feel that you have the right answers.  That’s what a dictatorship is, and I think that Battlestar explored how easy democracy can get lost, and how easy good people can end up doing bad things for supposedly good reasons.  That’s what made Battlestar so extraordinary.

J: I think it also goes to show how easily we’re affected by the way the writers want us to feel.  I mean, part of the reason why we root for Adama is the way the show is presented to us.

Richard: How it’s aspected – I totally agree.   Zarek had every reason to be pissed off and angry at what [Roslin and Adama] were doing – they wanted to operate without accountability because they believed they had all the answers, or they believed they had better answers than anyone else.

It’s ego, it’s self-serving, but the way the show is aspected, it makes us care and support them more than the Zarek character because we don’t get the context or back story for Zarek, to understand where he’s coming from.  We have to surmise where he’s coming from, and in most instances, people would buy into what Adama said or Roslin said, as opposed to actually making up their own mind about Zarek.

There were two valid points about letting the Cylons on board, and remember, the audience has the benefit of the overview whereas the characters are only seeing a limited part of the story.  You [the viewer] get to see it from all angles, watching every character, so you’re making a decision on what’s right or not based on your knowledge.

Zarek and Gaeta can only go by what they’ve experienced in the past, what they’ve seen.  And in reality, the Cylons are so unpredictable, and they’re programmed in such a way, that how in the world can you ever trust anybody that’s killed millions of people?  If you’re a released Cylon drone warrior who’s been programmed to kill, with all of the power and technology that they have on the ship…  They could very easily have decided to wipe out the humans.  The writers could have just as easily gone the other way, where you kill Gaeta and Zarek, and at the end of the show the Cylons turn on the humans.  And then you would’ve gone, “Oh my God! We hated Zarek and Gaeta and what they did… but they were right!”

But anyway, the point is that Battlestar has never been simple and obvious.  It’s something that forces you to think and philosophize and really challenge your own thinking, because there is a tendency in all of us to take sides.  And we took sides even when Roslin and Adama were doing the wrong thing.  To tell you the truth, had they done that within our own human society, we would’ve turned on them.  But because it was a show, we were willing to suspend disbelief, even though they were doing things that really are such a huge violation of our Constitution.

J: The show does present several different viewpoints in leadership, even from the same side, like Adama and Cain.

Richard: Cain was one of the most interesting characters.  And I have to tell you, I think Cain was the stronger leader, because she… cared, but she cared enough about the welfare of the fleet that she put her own personal agendas aside.  She was willing to separate from her own humanity, to make decisions that very few of us could make, that meant some people had to die in order for more people to live.  In those life-and-death situations, not too many leaders are willing to make those choices.  And Adama, over and over again, would go after Roslin or do things that were not in the best interest of the fleet.

How many people do you know that like tough love?  Doing the right thing even though it’s going to cause a lot of pain?  If you don’t correct a problem you’re going to have a nightmare down the line; it’s a hard lesson, but Cain was willing to go the tough love route because she was strong enough.

Adama, constantly, was not willing to make those decisions.  And I love Edward Olmos, and I love the character too, but I gotta tell you, that character bothered me.  I mean, the drinking, so many decisions he was making that were not in the best interest of the fleet, I was thinking, “I don’t know if this is the leader I would want carrying me through a Holocaust.”

J: His relationship with Roslin likely affected his judgement…

Richard: Right, there were so many things!  But you know Edward Olmos, he really was willing to expose all the flaws of the character that the writers were willing to do.  He didn’t have an ego that said “You’ve gotta make me look like the true hero.”  And I really honor that actor and honor Edward’s willingness to create that character.   And again, obviously people love that character in spite of his flaws.

But I wish that they’d had a little more balance, in terms of showing the other side of the equation, from the Zarek point of view of realizing, you may love Edward Olmos and Adama, but in truth, he’s doing some bad things.  And sometimes the person who seems to be the adversary, the rebel, may be right.  Or, well, maybe equally right.

J: I am glad that they added at least a little bit of dimension to Cain later on, in the Razor episode.  If they hadn’t, it would’ve been very one-dimensional.

Richard: Oh, I agree.  I started out hating the Cain character, and I ended up loving her, because I could see that she wasn’t dead inside, she wasn’t inhuman, she actually cared a lot, but my God, the strength – to see somebody strong enough to make that call, that would be almost impossible for anybody else to make.  She was an extraordinary character to me.

I wish that they would have left the character in the show longer; I wish they would have not gotten rid of the Pegasus.  I wish – I always liked the fact that the Pegasus escaped, and you never know if they survived or not, but, at some point they come back into the story, I love that wild card floating around out there, with a different version of Galactica, you know?  A different commander, a different point of view, that comes back in every once in awhile, and causes havoc.  A bit like Star Trek, those characters that have to come back and be a worthy adversary.

But you know, a show like this, so many great characers, the writers can’t possibly give a rich backstory to every person.  But I loved playing Tom Zarek; my only issue would have been, having a little context and back story so that we could understand his motivations a little bit better. But maybe they did it on purpose – maybe they wanted him to remain vague.

J: Well, it gives the viewers more to think and talk about.

Richard: Yeah.  But again, when people come up to you and go, “Oh, I hated you, you deserved to go out the airlock,” it’s hard to say, “Thank you very much!”

Because what I really want to say is, “Well, you know something, I understand you hated me, but let me ask you a question: How would you feel, if this happened to you?  How would you feel, if they said, ‘Oh, we don’t want to listen to you people because we’re smarter and wiser than you. We’re going to make the decisions now, and we’re not going to allow you to interfere.  And if you interfere, we’re going to put you in jail.’”

I’d like to know how people would really feel about that if that happened to them, and I’d like to know, if somebody came up to them and said, “I know you’ve got your job, but we’re going to take it away from you because we have somebody that we decided is better.”  If we did all the things they did [in the show], to people in this life, I’m telling you, you would not like Roslin or Adama very much.  But I would love that discussion.

I actually want to do the final Tom Zarek interview before he gets blown out the airlock, which they didn’t show, on the show.  They had Gaeta talk to Baltar, but you never got to see what Zarek was feeling.  And I always wanted to do the final Zarek interview, you know, a little bit like the David Frost interview with Nixon, where you could understand a little more deeply where he was coming from.

I always wanted to go into that, just because I always felt that some people missed the point.  They took sides, on who they liked more, as opposed to seeing what was really happening there.  And art is not just about entertainment, not about taking sides; it’s about challenging your thinking, seeing things outside the box and expanding your mind, and seeing things from a larger viewpoint.

I’ve got a chance to write some articles, answer some questions, but I do have to pull myself back, because every time someone says, “Oh, I liked you but I was so glad to see you burn!”  I quickly get into this, “Are you kidding me?!” and I have to stop myself.   People feel what they want to feel.  They have the right to feel it, and it’s not my job to wake everybody up and say, “But you’re wrong!”  That just doesn’t work.

Tune in next week for the rest of the interview, where we talk about the Internet, online dating, and Richard’s upcoming projects.

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