Interviews: Richard Hatch #2

Richard Hatch

RH: I just made a comic book deal, so I’m writing the first comic book for Magellan right now. We should have the first stand-alone comic ready by Dragoncon, around the first of September, and the issues will probably start hitting the stands sometime around the start of the new year. I’m also working on the first novel right now… I made a three-novel deal to do Magellan novels (the first novel should be out sometime next spring), and I’m finishing the trailer. I’ve just got to put together another couple of shots, and I’m working on finishing the business plan so that I can basically go out and explore ways to bring this product, this project, to the marketplace. I’m looking for innovative, creative ways to do that.

Too many good shows go off way too soon, because networks do not stay with these shows long enough to let the audience find them. With science fiction, [the networks] are horrible. If it’s a traditional show, and it’s a good show, a well-produced show, they’re willing to stay with it a lot longer. If it’s a SciFi show, and it doesn’t do well in the first five or six weeks, they – generally speaking – take it off. No matter how good the show is. There’s a lot of stuff out there that people have thrown at them. It takes time to hear about a show, to check it out, to watch it enough times to start to bond with the characters… they throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and they hope that something sticks.

To me, that’s short-term thinking and not long-term thinking, and so when you create something that you believe in, you want to find a way to put it into the marketplace so that it has a fair shot to find its audience.

I want to let the audience determine my success. Not a distributor, not an advertiser, or some executive up in a boardroom, I want the audience to say “yea” or “nay” to my project. So I have to find a way to place it where that audience can find it, and basically vote on what they think, and have it survive long enough to be able to develop and evolve the show. That’s my challenge on a business level, and that’s what [I and my team] are working on right now.

RH: To build an audience and reach the marketplace, you have to penetrate it in many ways. Comic books… as you know, many movies and projects are picked up from comic books these days. Comic books are a good way to test the marketplace… find out what works and what doesn’t work. You’re reaching an audience that can make up a good segment of your base, because they’re on the web, they’re good marketers… if they like something they’re going to tell 50 other people… it’s a good way to spread the news. I’m also developing a board game, and we’re now talking to a company in Germany about developing a CD-ROM game, and that’s another powerful way to bring the story to the audience.

This all builds leverage so that, ultimately, I can find a way to bring this show out there, and I’m now exploring a number of things. There’s new networks, there’s new stations, there’s new people who are starting new things looking for product. There’s a new digital high-definition channel, and they’re making deals now to put shows on that. That’s perfect, because I’ll be shooting on high-def. Having as many special effects as I do have, that works incredibly well with high-def. They’re shooting the new Battlestar series on high-def… whereas they shot the four hour miniseries on film. I honestly believe that if you think long-term rather than short-term, your chances for success are tripled.

RH: I have a couple of options. One would be an hour series, but what I would really like to do… if you remember the old Rich Man, Poor Man type series… where they would do 24 hours, but as two-hour movies… I would love to do 24 hours of two-hour movies with Magellan. Then you have 10 to 12 two hour movies that could be sold on DVD and be of high enough quality to even be shown theatrically in different parts of the world.

RH: Exactly. And I would rather shoot two-hour stories, because I think that SciFi is epic. I love character and plot-driven SciFi like everybody else, but I’m very visual, too. I want something like The Lord of the Rings that’s very visually expansive and beautiful to look at, and emotionally impacting. I think it’s possible to do that now with the technology that’s available. So I want to create a theatrical style series that has incredible characters and incredible plots, but is visually able to blow you away.

RH: I’m gong to be a producer/director/writer/actor. I would be forming a team, I would be bringing some of the best SciFi authors from all over the world… I would invite them to write stories for our show. I would have a small core team of writers to develop the scripts… but I would invite some of the best SciFi writers in the business to enter into our universe to write incredible, compelling stories. I would invite musicians… old and young… to actually compose original material for Magellan. I would invite wonderful actors from movies, stage, or whatever, to come on and play incredibly well-drawn roles that I bet they’d give anything to play. I’m going to have those kinds of characters that may last one or two weeks, three weeks, several weeks. Unlike Commander Cain, it wouldn’t be ‘come on for one episode and you’re gone,’ it would be ‘come in and be an integral part of the show.’ They would be playing characters who could come back, and weave in and out of the show so actors who didn’t want to be tied down to a series could still do a wonderful role from time to time. We’d obviously have a core group of characters moving through the topography of the show… but it’s a show that’s built to bring incredible actors on to play incredible roles.

RH: Absolutely. I would invite them on to play guest-star roles. I would invite Dirk, I would invite Anne, I would invite Laurette, and [Herb]; I would invite any number of them to come on play a role. And any of those roles could evolve into a continuing role… or even a main role… if that character were to come to life.

RH: Yes and no. Obviously the marketplace is chopped up into more pies, and each of those pies has more slices. Where three networks used to dominate… Battlestar had, what, 65 million viewers for its first episode? These days the top-rated show is lucky to get 18 million or 20 million. Back then you had a captive audience. Now its possible to bring your product to the market in many different ways… and find that market that will love your show. You’re not dependent on three networks, or three executives who may turn your project down. If one person doesn’t like it, or another person doesn’t like it, you have options. You have multiple avenues of opportunity for bringing your project to the marketplace.

And, obviously, the audience is more connected. The internet connects everybody. So when something’s good out there… the SciFi market… which I think is an underserved market… most networks are uncomfortable with SciFi even though they go into it… most of the time they kind of water things down. Because of the expense, they feel that they have to reach well beyond the SciFi audience in order to justify the expense. Every once in a while you get a great SciFi show, but for the most part most SciFi people are frustrated. They rarely get great science fiction shows. I would love to serve the niche. The truth of it is that the SciFi niche is one of the most intelligent, most educated, most communicative, most passionate, and supportive niches that there is. I want to create an incredible series that’s not some cheesy SciFi thing, but something that really, really moves people, stimulates people, and operates on multiple levels. A show that really is dedicated to reaching SciFi people… and I think if you create great characters and explore provocative issues and subject matter – and you have great love stories – that’s a show that both men and women can watch. Battlestar reached beyond the SciFi demographic, not necessarily because we were trying to, but because it was a show that had such great chemistry and characters that both men and women could love. Even if you didn’t like SciFi, you could fall in love with these characters. I think a great show is a great show, period. If you have great characters and you’re getting into great subject matter, and wonderful writing, I think those are the kinds of shows that find their own audience. And that audience can be old and young… it can be all ages… and I’m not searching to do what most networks are trying to do… and that’s reach 12-to-24 year olds. For me, I don’t care whether you’re 90 or 9… if you’ve got a great show, it’s going to find its audience. And Battlestar had all ages that loved that story. That was one of the few series ever that the whole family could sit down and watch.

I don’t want to be driven by a commercial advertiser, either. I don’t want someone determining the demographic that I have to go after. I want to go after the SciFi/Fantasy demographic, which is quite large, as my show is SciFi/Fantasy. If you stop trying to serve everybody, maybe you’ll end up serving somebody for a change.

RH: Many of the people creating science fiction today are not science fiction people. Great science fiction is not about monsters and foreheads… it’s about human beings put in incredible situations, exploring theoretical possibilities and probabilities, and the mysteries of the human heart. Science fiction is one of those misconstrued, misunderstood genres. People tend to think of it as B-Movie monster/horror time – and that has its place – but great science fiction is written by some of the most incredible scientific and visionary minds of our time. There is nothing like a great science fiction book or novel.

RH: Yes, it looks like I’m coming back in August to do another episode.

RH: Unlike Star Trek, the original Battlestar remains unresolved. The original story, the original characters, the original backstory… what made the original Battlestar successful… is a whole different thing [than the Ronald D. Moore series]. Nothing will ever replace the original show. It had an incredible chemistry and originality, and it would be lovely to see that show either made into a movie or some kind of reunion special where you could catch up with those characters and resolve and tie up a lot of loose ends that were left by the cancellation of the original series. I think the fans, in a sense, are still unrequited because that story has never had a chance at resolution. The sad part is that fans have been asking for 25 years for a resolution to the original. And, you know, if someone wanted to reimagine… that’s fine. If somebody wanted to do the Pegasus story, that’s fine. I just think that first they should have done some kind of a four-hour miniseries, you know, bringing the original show back, bringing it up to date, resolving a lot of things… and giving closure. I think then they could have moved off into a spinoff, or a reimagination, or anything else they wanted to do… and there would have been a lot more acceptance. As it stands now, fans, including myself, are frustrated. You feel like nobody listened to you. It was as if they wanted to do their own thing and they didn’t care what we thought, or what we felt.

RH: I always say to fans, express, communicate, let people know what you want. The industry so often doesn’t get very clear feedback from the audience. Most of us don’t get up and speak… we don’t say what we want… we just take what we get because we’re too busy or we’re not used to giving people our feedback, or telling people what we think because we think that people don’t care. But the truth of it is that if enough people get up to speak, then [the studios] do have to listen.

Ron Moore and company want to make the best show they can possibly make. Trying to judge, or be critical, or put them down, or invalidate them is a waste of energy that could be put towards what you really want to create. If you want to bring back the original show, which I would love to see, as well; then I think you put your energy towards that. Put your energy towards what you want and not against what you don’t.

RH: Nobody put more heart, or soul, or money, or energy into bringing back the original show than me. And, I gotta tell you, it’s taken a lot of deep, late-night thinking… and one might say “It’s not that important, Richard,” but you know? It was. I got involved in doing something that I really believed in, and yet… at the end of the day, [the executives] decided to do [the reimagining]. So, what can I do? I mean, am I going to sit there and stew for the rest of my life? Am I going to sit there and try to put down all of those people who are basically innocent? Am I going to attack the new actors? You can find flaws in anything. I know one thing: when you’re attacking somebody, for whatever justifiable reasons, they don’t look at it as being justified. All you know is you’re being attacked. And all you want to do is attack back. And there’s no communication when you start attacking people.

None of those actors are at fault. They’re going on a job, and doing the best job they can. They may never have watched the original series, some of the probably never did watch the original series and didn’t know… but everybody I met up there was so gracious. Many of the crew working there were [TOS] fans, they loved that show, and were incredibly nice to me. I really enjoyed the cast, I mean they were all great people. When you meet people, you have to deal with them as people, and a person is either an asshole or a nice person. And I hate to say it, but every single person I met up there was so incredibly nice. And no ego. I mean, the new Baltar… he’s hilarious. He’s a funny guy. And Jamie Bamber was just the loveliest human being. I mean, he could have had an attitude with me coming on the show, and yet he was so gracious. He kept saying to me, “You know, Richard, my callsign may be ‘Apollo,’ but my character’s name is Lee Adama.” He said, “I don’t look at myself as Apollo.”

The truth of it is, it is what it is. I had to suck it up, and say the decision was made, regardless of what [the fans] said, to make this show. So, for me, I felt that all these actors and all these people… I know what it is to put together anything, and I felt, Man, the last thing I would want would be for people to try to knock me down. I mean, all the flack I’ve gotten… for a million reasons… I mean, I got flack from the original actors when I tried to put the [Second Coming] trailer together. I mean, when I was trying to bring back this show, and putting all my energy into that, you know who was against me? The original actors! The were all pissy and uptight with me and, like, “who the fuck are you? And what made you think you could do this?” And I can’t tell you all the stuff that came from them. I know what it was, it was like… “Hey, you’re an actor, you’re not the producer of this show. You don’t own this show, you don’t have the right to do all of this.” And I was telling them, “I’m doing this for you.” I told them “I believe that the original characters should come back, and I want to build a case for that, and will you help me?” But the trouble was they weren’t necessarily Battlestar fans. They weren’t necessarily science fiction fans. You see, I’m a Battlestar fan and a science fiction fan. They weren’t, really. I mean, Dirk doesn’t like science fiction. I mean, yeah, he got to play a great role, and I’m sure he’d like to play it again, but most of them would say, “Well, when you pay me money, I’ll show up.” That’s the extent of their passion. And I’m sure they have great memories from having been on the show, but I mean, as actors, this isn’t their story. They’re not in love with this story. But I just didn’t have a lot of support. I had to work my ass off to get everything done, and push this through, and then it was one thing after another. But, like I say, I would rather put my energy towards something like Magellan. That’s why two years ago I realized that Universal was not going to hire me. It was clear, and Tom DeSanto said the same thing – they weren’t hiring him – they only reason they took him was because he had the success with X-Men. It was only after X-Men that they even took a phone call. So, the point is, they weren’t going to hire me to do Battlestar, no matter how intricately involved I was, or how great the idea or the concept was. They had their own agenda, they had their own ego, they had their own way of looking at things. Like I say, most of those people at the top are not science fiction people. They don’t get science fiction. And they’re not fans… they don’t look at it that way like we do.

RH: [Bonnie Hammer] is not a science fiction person. She likes a little horror, but she really doesn’t like space shows or science fiction. She probably thinks that makes her objective. But, honestly, I think she probably said, “Reimagine the show, and change it as much as humanly possible.” Because she didn’t particularly like it. So, her thought was, change it as much as possible. She wasn’t seeing it through the fan’s eyes, and she wasn’t out to serve the fans. She was probably out to get an audience of 12-to-24 years olds, though this show doesn’t really serve the 12-to-24 year old demographic. It’s really the traditional 18-to-49 year old audience. Bonnie Hammer may be a very talented executive, but I don’t think she necessarily understands the SciFi genre or the SciFi audience.

I just think decisions were made for all the wrong reasons on Battlestar, and I think it’s sad that they didn’t continue the show first, because had they done that, the fans would have been more than supportive of any spinoff or new version of Battlestar they might have made.

I hope to God, and one day soon, because the longer we wait, the worse it is, to either do a movie or a miniseries of the original.

I’ve been like Braveheart for years, going to war and slicing and dicing, and I gotta tell you… at some point you realize that when you lash out with your anger and your venom, which I’ve had a lot of over the last four or five years, what it ends up doing is alienating people, creating people that want to put you down and hurt you, and want to undermine you and block you. So what happens now is that when they can find a way to fuck you up, they will. So, it doesn’t serve anything to go after people… even Bonnie Hammer. For me, it makes more sense to put my energy towards creating the best show I can to bring it about and be successful. Because, you know, in a sense, my best response to what happened is to do what I believe in, and what I love, and to show what I would do. And one day, if I’m successful, whether it’s me, Tom DeSanto, or Glen… I would love to have a shot with Battlestar, you know? But they’re not going to give it to me if I’m just an actor. And they’re not going to give it to me if I’m just pining away and trying to undermine and put down this new show. And, like I said, after meeting all those people up there, I really like Ron Moore. I mean, David Eick, Ron Moore, that whole crew. It is such a great group of people. Had they done a continuation, the project could have used just about all of them.

But what can I do? I can’t sit here pining away for that. I’ve reached a point that I think everybody has to reach, which is, you know, I’m willing to take the blows. My thought of it is, I have to be honorable to myself. I look at people, and they comment, “Oh, he’s betraying this, or he’s doing this for the money.” You know, all the money in China wouldn’t have made me do a role on this new Battlestar if it hadn’t been a role I really wanted to do. Ron Moore was really sensitive to that, and created for me a role that’s pretty much a role I’ve been playing my whole life. That Nelson Mandella style character is really what I’ve been doing my entire life. I love the character.

The question will be, with this new show, the same way it was with the original, if it has a huge dropoff… if it has too big of a dropoff from the miniseries to the series… will they stay with it long enough to let it develop? If not, they will have been just as unfair with it as they were with Battlestar. So, we’ll all cross our fingers, but that’s the reason that with Magellan, I’m looking to do it differently. I’m looking for alternative approaches so that I am not put at the mercy of some executive who doesn’t like my show or who doesn’t like SciFi in general.

RH: You’re welcome.

– Bill Gordon