I got to meet Richard Hatch at Toronto ComicCon 2011 when I moderated his Q&A. I excitedly combed through his IMDB to grill him about his other, non-Battlestar Galactica roles but when the time came, he said he’d run the show himself, which was fine. I still got to help steer him back to questions the fans were asking. I wasn’t sure what to expect with him. He was one of the first actors to really embrace cons, which I admit felt a bit desperate. Why wouldn’t an actor just act? Is he a has-been, pining for the old days, just looking for a paycheck? Or just a devoted actor, invested in his biggest role and looking to thank fans personally? Obviously the truth was somewhere in between.
Richard got his start in the legendary soap “All My Children”, and appeared on several TV shows throughout his career. His big break was a blessing and a curse, when he replaced Michael Douglas on “The Streets of San Francisco”. Imagine being compared to a force of nature like Douglas. It’s tough for any show to survive losing a big star, and it was a losing battle, ending after a single season. Even Battlestar was never a big success, only lasting one season. His IMDB list is impressive in its breadth if not depth, he played three different roles on both “The Love Boat” and “Hotel”, a testament to his ability to lose himself in a character, and also unfortunately to his lack of star power.
He seemed to be always hawking a new book, movie, or TV show that was poised to be the next big thing, but invariably it was another high-concept low-budget sci-fi misfire. He obviously always wanted to continue BSG, and was initially combative about the reboot, until they asked him to come on board in a new role. When I was in San Diego in 2013 he ran the panel for the 35th anniversary of BSG, and showed a clip from his attempted continuation of the series, which looked, well, cheap, but it’s understandable that he felt ignored after spending decades trying to bring the show back. When he wasn’t pursuing that, he ran acting workshops out of LA and was running a website with his son, “Who The Frak”, billed as “The World’s First Social Network Reality Drama!” He also made a whole lot of terrible short films, but I have to believe he was just helping out up-and-coming actors and filmmakers, using his name to give them a little boost. After his panel, I walked him back to his booth, and we talked a bit about his projects and life in general. A big part of his workshop is about life lessons, and I got the feeling he really wanted to be a motivational speaker, since it came to him very easily. Hell, after ten minutes I felt like I could make my own megaseries.
It’s so easy to dismiss Hatch as a one-hit wonder, but who can say what’s been made by those he inspired? In the end, most will remember him for a TV series he made, but for those of us who met him, we’ll remember his passion for what he loved, as well as his amazing warmth and friendliness.