NEW YORK • Richard Hatch, a veteran actor known for his portrayal of a hotshot pilot on the 1970s science-fiction television series Battlestar Galactica and a political leader in a reboot of the series more than two decades later, died on Tuesday. He was 71.
His death was confirmed by his son, Paul, who said in a statement that Hatch had pancreatic cancer and died in Los Angeles.
Ronald D. Moore, a writer and producer of the second Battlestar Galactica series, said on Twitter that Hatch was "a good man, a gracious man and a consummate professional" and called his death "a heavy blow to the entire BSG family".
Hatch played Captain Apollo, a fighter pilot who was regularly featured with his best friend, Lieutenant Starbuck, played by Dirk Benedict. The original series, which ran on ABC from 1978 to 1979, told the story of humans fighting for survival against warrior robots called Cylons.
In a reboot of the series, which was broadcast on the SyFy network for five seasons starting in 2004, he played the charismatic political leader Tom Zarek.
Hatch - not to be confused with the winner of the first season of the Survivor reality series, also named Richard Hatch - was nominated in 1979 for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor In A Television Drama Series. He appeared on several other television series in the 1970s, including All My Children (playing Philip Brent) and The Streets Of San Francisco (playing Inspector Dan Robbins when Michael Douglas left the series in its fifth and final season).
Richard L. Hatch was born on May 21, 1945, in Santa Monica, California. He began his career in off-Broadway theatre before landing the role on All My Children, his family said. In addition to his son, he is survived by a brother, John.
Hatch recalled having no aspiration to become an actor, according to his website. He was curious about the actors he saw in high-school plays, but harboured dreams of competing in the Olympics as a pole-vaulter.
"I never thought of being an actor," he said. "I was far too shy, too insecure."
In a peculiar twist, it was the assassination of United States President John F. Kennedy in 1963 that helped Hatch find his way into acting.
Hatch said he was going "nowhere" in college and enrolled in an oral interpretation class when a required English course was booked.
"It turned out to be my worst nightmare because I had to get up in front of people and read," he said, according to his website. "I found myself flunking the course because I would choke up. I could hardly open my mouth."
Halfway through the course, Kennedy was assassinated, an event that profoundly affected Hatch. He found an article about the president and took it to class for an assignment. Standing in front of his classmates, he suddenly found his voice.
"It was a major turning point in my life," he said. "As I began to read this article, I got so affected by what I was saying that I forgot myself. I was expressing feelings and emotions I tended to keep locked inside of myself."