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`Battlestar' reunion set Comic Con.

Byline: Craig S. Semon

PROVIDENCE - Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a rag-tag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest ... a shining comic con event this weekend in the Ocean State.

And leading this rag-tag fugitive fleet will be no other than Richard Hatch, the actor who originated the role of Captain Apollo on the beloved but short-lived '70s sci-fi series.

Despite being a huge sci-fi fan, Hatch - who already had a two-year stint on "All My Children" and replaced Michael Douglas on "The Streets of San Francisco" prior to "Battlestar Galactica" - initially had no interest in the project.

"I honestly was a very idealistic actor. I was searching for something I could really sink my teeth into," the 67-year-old actor said on the phone from his Los Angeles home. "I just thought `Battlestar' was going to be a little rip-off of `Star Wars' ... That was not my idea of great sci-fi. It was not my idea of a great acting opportunity."

Nine months after turning down the audition, Hatch's agent called him and said studio brass really wanted to meet with him, because they had yet to cast the lead role of Apollo. Hatch agreed to a meeting.

"They finally gave me the script and I looked at all the incredible Ralph McQuarrie art. And, of course, I was blown away," Hatch recalled. "All of a sudden, the idealistic actor went out the window and the little boy who wants to fly through the universe in a Viper stepped in. And, I ended up saying, yes."

The same day Hatch landed the part, he was asked to run down to the studio, get fitted for his costume and be on the set a couple of hours later to shoot his first scene. Then he started to freak out that maybe he was over his head. But a calming force came over him, and his name was Lorne Greene, who was cast as Apollo's father, Commander Adama.

"Lorne was so genuine, so down to earth, so from the heart. I had an instant connection with him that saved me," Hatch said. "It really grounded me. And I felt I had a friend on the set."

Apollo's trusted friend on "Battlestar Galactica" was Starbuck, played by Dirk Benedict (who will also be at the Rhode Island Comic Con). But despite, their natural chemistry and camaraderie onscreen, they never went drinking, gambling or carousing for women when filming wrapped for the day.

"Dirk and I, being of similar age and similar type of young leading men, we competed for a lot of roles. So therefore, there was a certain competitiveness between us," Hatch said. "We really worked well together but we weren't buddy-buddy, close friends off the set. He pretty much had his own life. I had mine. But, the funny thing, we're probably closer friends now than we ever were then."

Hatch confesses that there was one thing about his swashbuckling co-star that made him envious even to this day, Benedict's gorgeous gaggle of ever-changing girlfriends.

"I think I was in love with every one of Dirk's blond girlfriends. He had all these really lovely, cute, blond girlfriends. They were always these petite blonds that he had," Hatch fondly recalled. "I was like, ... save one for me."

Hatch admits that his female co-stars weren't too shabby in the looks department either.

"Jane Seymour (who played Serina), one of the most beautiful women in history, we had a great relationship," Hatch said. "Anne Lockhart (who played Lt. Sheba, and will also be at the Rhode Island Comic Con) was lovely. So was Cassiopeia, played by Laurette Spang (who will also be at the Rhode Island Comic Con), beautiful girl. I had little crushes on all of them."

In addition, Herb Jefferson Jr. (Boomer), Noah Hathaway (Boxey) and several others will be on deck for the "Battlestar Galactica" reunion.

Initially a ratings success when it premiered in the fall of in 1978, Glen A. Larson's "Battlestar Galactica" was canceled in mid-April 1979. At the time of its cancellation, the pricey sci-fi yarn (the most expensive television show of its day) was ranked 24th. Hatch said he thinks ABC made a mistake when it prematurely pulled the plug on "Battlestar Galactica."

"ABC had seven of the Top 10 shows," Hatch explained. "Therefore, if a show fell out of the Top 10 that costs as much money as we did, they couldn't see the viability of it, even though any other network would have left us on for the next five years, like they did with `Buck Rogers,' which was way below us in the ratings and was on a different network and didn't have as much competition, and they left it on for three years."

For many years, Hatch unsuccessfully attempted to revive "Battlestar Galactica." In the 1990s, he began writing novels based on the series and even tried to entice Universal Studios with "The Second Coming," a trailer for a movie that didn't exist.

Even though the trailer received standing ovations at numerous science-fiction conventions, the studio wasn't interested.

As one could imagine, Hatch was "very conflicted" with the prospect of Ronald D. Moore's radical revision of "Battlestar Galactica." But, when he actually saw it, Hatch was quickly won over.

"When I got to see the trailer, I thought, well it's not the Battlestar I remember but, at the same time, I could see that this was not `Battlestar: 90210,'" Hatch said. "Somebody had a vision. Somebody was trying to do something very visionary. And I recognized that there was a force to be reckoned with there."

After the "Battlestar Galactica" reboot was picked up by the Sci-Fi Channel, Moore offered Hatch the role of Tom Zarek, a political revolutionary, which was supposed to be a one-shot deal but he ended up making semi-regular appearances from 2004 to 2009.

"Once they got into space, I really started falling in love with the show and I felt this was a powerful, powerful science fiction show that really had no fear," Hatch said of Moore's vision. "Battlestar was always about dealing with a holocaust, a life-and-death scenario, that would bring out the best and the worst in every character. There were no characters that didn't have flaws. Every character was deeply flawed, deeply imperfect, struggling to deal with their dark side, where you could be a hero one day, and a coward the next."

If "Star Trek" is more your sci-fi universe, you can have your own personal "Encounter at Farpoint" with none other than John DeLancie, who plays the omniscient and mischievous Q (from "Star Trek: The Next Generation").

Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy! Legendary voice actor Billy West - who gives life to Ren & Stimpy, as well as Philip J. Fry, Professor Hubert Farnsworth, Dr. Zoidberg and Zapp Brannigan on "Futurama" - will also be in attendance.

In addition, Larry Thomas (aka "The Soup Nazi" from "Seinfeld"), Nicholas Brendon (Xander from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), Peter Mayhew (aka Chewbacca), Lee Meriwether (Catwoman from the '60s "Batman" series), Mark Goddard (Major Don West from "Lost in Space"), Gil Gerard ("Buck Rogers"), plus many other guests from comics, movies, animation, wrestling and television will be appearing, at this comic book and sci-fi extravaganza.

R.I. Comic Con

When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Rhode Island Convention Center, 1 Sabin St., Providence

How much: $25 each day for adults, $35 two-day pass; $15 each day for kids 6-12, $20 weekend pass. Visit www.ricomiccon.com.

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Richard Hatch will appear Saturday at the Rhode Island Comic Con. (2) Dirk Benedict, both in and out of his role as Starbuck on the original "Battlestar Galactica."

PHOTOG: SUBMITTED PHOTOS
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 1, 2012
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