If you’ve ever visited the actor’s tables at a fandom convention in the United States, chances are you’ve met Richard Hatch. You’d most likely know him from the original Battlestar Galactica television series from the 1970’s when he played Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama. Maybe the younger generations would know him from his role in the 2004 Battlestar Galactica reimagined series, as the nefarious Tom Zarek. I’ll probably talk more about BSG than anything else, because that’s what I know the most about from my time with him. I’m having a really hard time writing this, so bear with me, ok?
Born and raised in Southern California, Richard was your typical good looking surfer guy from Santa Monica. He knew from a young age he wanted to be a performer, playing piano from age 8 and pursuing theatrical endeavors. He even performed at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire for many years (I totally have a photo of him in garb in the gallery!). He always spoke so fondly of those experiences, recalling his time juggling, walking a tight rope, and enjoying the company of the ladies *eyebrow wiggle*.
From his time on All My Children to taking over for Michael Douglas on Streets of San Francisco (no really he LOVED to talk about that, kind of the only time I heard him do a neener neener), Richard was always working, always staying busy. Just read his IMDB listing for a small idea of all his work, it’s pretty impressive, and a pace he kept up right until the year he passed.
In 1978, Battlestar Galactica happened, and Richard’s life was changed forever. That’s his words, not mine. He played Captain Lee “Apollo” Adama, son of the Admiral of the Fleet Bill Adama as played by Lorne Greene. Richard even got a golden globe nomination for his performance, how cool is that? He was so proud of the work he and the rest of the cast did, so proud of the story and the characters. When the series was canceled abruptly after a single season, he took it upon himself to beat the drum. In the interest of a timeline, I’ll say that Galactica 1980 happened, and the less said about the better I guess? I dunno, it wasn’t THAT bad, everyone who was involved laughs about it more than anything else.
Richard continued to carry the banner of Glen Larson’s BSG, going to far as to write books in the universe that continued the original story of the characters and what happened after the end of the series. In 1999 he wrote, directed and starred in a short called Battlestar Galactica: The Second Coming, in the hopes it would convince studio heads to pick up the fallow (but never forgotten) IP and do something with it. Someone named Ronald D. Moore took notice, and on December 8th 2003 the three hour Battlestar Galactica mini series aired on the Sci Fi channel. This of course was a HUGE deal, and still holds the record for the third most watched program in SyFy history.
When the order for a full series came down the wire, Ron Moore reached out and offered Richard a role in the series, making him the one and only actor to perform in both the original and reimagined BSG. His performance was chilling, and the audience was never REALLY sure if Tom Zarek was villain or misunderstood patriot (again, Richard’s words). Lords of Kobol help anyone who made the mistake of asking a “bad guy Zarek” question during a panel or interview, the response was always the same. “BUT HE WASN’T REALLY!”
I first met Richard where many of you have I’m sure, at a convention. He took an interest in me for whatever reason during an interview, and we became fast friends. He became a part of my family. I mean I know we say that about friends and stuff, but he really was. He started introducing me at cons jokingly as his “lovely daughter”, which is why I’ve always called him “ConDad”. Richard’s real life son Paul is a lovely guy, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet him and thank him for sharing his dad with us.
Richard became involved with the notorious Star Trek fan film Axanar. I say notorious because EVERYONE has an opinion on the short film Prelude To Axanar, a successfully crowdsourced-funded 21 minute project from the minds of Alec Peters and director Christian Gossett. You can find any number of websites reporting about it, if you’re so inclined to look. I mention it because it was a big project and brought Richard even more into my weekly life.
Richard was HUGELY supportive of the idea of fanfilms, and would do whatever he could to help them succeed. My fiance and I were photographers behind the scenes for the first and second days of filming of Prelude, there as fans who just happened to know several of the producers and creators involved. Some of my favorite memories of watching Richard work were there, his command of a stage was inspiring. Also, watching him go through the makeup process into the Klingon war commander Kharn was pretty awesome.
Never wanting to take a break, he continued working on projects like Cowboys and Engines, Diminuendo Movie, and other small scale films. He had just finished shooting a new kickstarter funded project called Personal Space, reuniting Richard with BSG actress Nicki Clyne.
Richard LOVED fans. Didn’t matter what you were a fan of, if you were passionate about something, he was more inclined to like you as a person. I mean those of us who survived GalactiCon 3 have a special bond. Getting to spend time with him around The Colonial Fleet (BSG fanclub) at events like DragonCon and HawaiiCon was an experience I’ll never forget. Watching him march in the annual Atlanta parade alongside a functioning Cylon raider float was something special. His joy at seeing cosplayers in classic and neu-BSG flight suits and uniforms was infectious, no one was more proud of the fandom than him. We had an annual pool game at DragonCon too, and I don’t know how I’ll ever hold a cue in that room without him there again.
Sometime in late 2016, Richard fell ill with what we all thought was just a stomach issue, some mild intestinal blockage stuff. He played it off as nothing big, nothing to worry about. That illness we know now was an aggressive pancreatic cancer, that thankfully hit him fast enough that his pain wasn’t as prolonged as it could be. He passed away peacefully at home on February 7th 2017, hopefully knowing how much he was loved and respected. He was 71. You can read the official posting from Paul Hatch here, or on Richard’s website.
The news of his passing has hit hard, fans friends and colleges all sharing the sorrow of his loss and the joy of his memory.
Richard Hatch was a good man, a gracious man, and a consummate professional. His passing is a heavy blow to the entire BSG family.
— Ronald D. Moore (@RonDMoore) February 7, 2017
Edward James Olmos:
.Richard Hatch you made our universe a better place We love you for it. Rest In Peace my friend @SoSayWeAll the Admiral!
— Edward James Olmos (@edwardjolmos) February 7, 2017
I will have more to say about Richard Hatch and what he meant to my life and career. But for now, I'm still processing all this…
— Bear McCreary (@bearmccreary) February 7, 2017
— Katee Sackhoff (@kateesackhoff) February 7, 2017
Richard touched my life in immeasurable ways. I'm profoundly honoured to have known him & called him friend. BSG Family lost a loved one.
— Aaron Douglas (@theaarondouglas) February 7, 2017
There will no doubt be many more tweets and posts recounting how big of an impact Richard Hatch had on everyone who was fortunate enough to know him. He was (and will always be) an inspiration of what an actor can do, his integrity and absolute devotion to the craft of performing such an admirable thing. There is a big frakking hole in my heart right now and I am soulsick I’ll never hear his laughter or enthusiastic shout of “WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” again.
Good hunting pilot, may you find your peace and bliss. So Say We All.