So Say We All
Hi, Spacers. I have some sad news. Richard Hatch, the brave Commander of our First Shift, has passed away.
I don’t want to hold you in suspense: the show will be okay. We shot his scenes already. But in future seasons, his presence on the Command Deck, and on the sound stage, will be sorely missed. He is irreplaceable. We will dedicate the show to his memory.
Richard was a hero of mine. I had seen the original Battlestar, but the role I would always remember him as was Tom Zarek, from the reimagined version. It is so difficult to play an antagonist sympathetically, yet he flourished in this role. Richard showed us that Zarek, an apparent villain, had his heart in the right place. Zarek believed he was the good guy, and he got you to wonder whether maybe he really was. Almost anyone else would have played him twirling his mustache. It was an incredible performance, and it stuck with me.
When casting King, we wanted to avoid having the character come across as a “bad guy”. It would have been easy to slip into this, because Gartner is our protagonist, and King sometimes works at cross purposes to her. But King, like Zarek, believes he is doing the right thing. King is, in his own way, trying to help her.
So it should be no surprise that Richard came highly recommended. When I met with Tim Russ, he declined the role of King, saying his friend Richard was a better fit. A month or so later, Nicki made the same recommendation. I didn’t need convincing - he was already on our shortlist! By the time I met with Kurt for the first time, I mentioned I had a meeting with Richard the next week. He laughed, and texted Richard on the spot, telling him to take the part. I hadn’t even known they knew each other!
When I finally met him, I expected to be intimidated. After all, I was nobody. I’d raised no money. I had nothing on my resume. And into the coffeeshop walks Tom Zarek. Zarek sat down with me, and then he did something surprising - he smiled. See, Richard is the good guy his characters think they are.
He never stopped looking to the future. At our first meeting, he talked more than I did about digital distribution, and he was delighted to hear that my plans for funding the show and finding an audience lined up with his ideas. I would tell him about the research that had gone into the show - about cryonics, for example - and hear him months later telling other people about it. When he heard new information, he incorporated it into his worldview, something many of us stop doing in our 20’s. He had a sense of wonder that never diminished. I hope I am so lucky.
His veterancy as a performer was obvious from the moment he arrived on the soundstage in uniform. While some actors needed a warming-up process to get used to the character and set, he walked on and was immediately comfortable. Immediately the Commander. He’d seen the set for the first time thirty seconds ago, and he already walked around it like it had been his home for 25 years.
Right up to the wire, he was acting, and teaching, and even doing his own stunts! He wanted me to believe he was capable of anything. And I did.
He was someone I had looked up to for more than a decade. But he treated me like a peer. He took his script home and workshopped every moment like he was a dramaturgy student. He had his ComicCon panel last year refer to him as “Richard Hatch, of Battlestar Galactica and Personal Space”. Like those two things were equal.
Actors don’t have to work that hard. Especially not famous ones, who have earned some time off. They just have to show up and do their lines. But Richard was more than that - he was a partner, instrumental in getting the show funded and reaching our fans. I don’t think we would be making it without him.
I don't understand why people say “don’t meet your heroes”. I met one of mine, and I will never forget what it meant to have him believe in me.
Farewell, Commander. May you cross the final frontier and awaken safely on the colony.
So say we all.