October 2016 - Cover: Kevin Sorbo
If you were a fan of the mid-90s television show, Xena: Warrior Princess (or, more to the point, Hercules: the Legendary Journeys), then you know the face of Kevin Sorbo, the man who enticed us as the handsome hero, Hercules. Now, Sorbo is still entertaining his fan base, having expanded into the film genre both behind and in front of the camera. Beyond acting, Sorbo is making an impact on impoverished youth with his organization, A World Fit for Kids! (WFIT). I had the opportunity to sit down with Sorbo in preparation for his visit to the Santa Fe ComicCon at the Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino, October 21-23.
While most kids at the age of eleven are still deciding what they’ll be when they grow up, Kevin Sorbo already had his future set. After a school field trip, Sorbo was bitten by the acting bug. “I went to a play at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis—a very famous theater a lot of people from Broadway come to play in...we did a field trip in my grade school to see The Merchant of Venice. I don't know what the heck they were saying, but I was mesmerized by the whole experience. I think...it was always there, because I used to watch a lot of old movies with my mom from the forties and fifties, and this...I really liked...and the seed was planted during that time.”
While going to college to major in Marketing and Advertising, Sorbo found himself taking part in an opportunity even he didn’t expect—modeling. “Modeling was not a career choice,” Sorbo shared. “The whole modeling thing happened because I met a model who was a big shot around the world, and she said, ‘Come to Europe with me.’ Three months turned into three and a half years there. That was just a strange sidetrack to my career, but one I wouldn’t change for the world.” His time as a model did lead him to become a go-to for one of the most well-known designers. “Most designers (were) not looking for my body type, but Versace loved me because his clothes are bigger anyway, and I sort of became his guy to do fashion shows and stuff. I did a lot of commercials for the Germans and Italians, a lot of sports stuff because that was my background.”
Even though the model experience was a well-remembered one, Kevin decided to move forward with his acting. Sorbo’s drive led to one of his most well-known roles, Hercules. The process of creating the cult classic was exciting, especially since the cast wasn’t sure if the show would be made into a series. “The show became huge,” shared Sorbo. “We had great action, great humor...The writing was just fun, and they gave us a lot of leeway to ad-lib—pretty much every episode, we just threw in lines. Fans ended up loving it. Writers eventually started catching on to my cadence. We were up against Baywatch, in 156 countries, and we were the most watched TV show in the world.” Sorbo fondly remembered working with the cast and crew. “It was fun...every day. I loved going to work.” shared Sorbo. “I loved doing the stunts and fight scenes—we just knew we had it. We did a spin-off Xena in season 3. We were done with Hercules in season 5. I remember Peter Jackson telling me, ‘If it wasn't for your show, we wouldn't have the infrastructure that New Zealand has today.’ About 80% of my crew went on to work on Lord of the Rings, all three movies.”
While Hercules might be one of his well-remembered roles, Kevin has over 50 roles and projects under his acting belt. He shared some of his favorites on both the big and small screens. “If I was going just on my television shows, I love Hercules. I loved Andromeda. I'm a huge fan of Gene Roddenberry, and being able to play Dylan Hunt—the first Captain after Captain Kirk—was quite an honor for me…There are a couple of movies I've done called What If and God's Not Dead that resonated with a lot a lot of people...(and) made a lot of money. I also did a little movie called Meet the Spartans—it was…just so silly, and we had a fun time doing it.”
Sorbo was excited to share the upcoming projects that are coming down the pipeline. “I've got a movie opening in October called Spirit of the Game, and it's about Christianity and basketball being brought down to Australia in the 1950s. I'm about to start shooting another movie in Ohio called Y. It's like Red Dawn. This movie deals with that moment of D-Day when you should have bought gold and silver. It should be interesting. I also finished a movie in Mobile, Alabama, called Let There Be Light. It's a Christmas movie. It won't come out until November of 2017.”
With the many roles Sorbo has played, there are still some that he is dreaming of playing. “I'm a big fan of romantic comedies. I would love to do a When Harry Met Sally type of movie,” confessed Sorbo. “Or drama in the line of Casablanca. I just think those are great. I met Matt Damon a couple of times—he's a really nice guy —I tell him I'm really jealous of all the Jason Bourne movies because I read all the books…There are definitely movies out there like those Bourne Identity movies that I would love to do.”
As Sorbo’s celebrity status started to rise, people came out of the woodwork to have him be the face of their businesses. Kevin knew how he wanted to use his stardom for the community. “When Hercules became a hit...I started to get contacted by pediatric AIDS, Make a Wish, St. Jude's Hospital. But I knew actors that we're already involved in that. My dad was a school teacher for 35 years, so I wanted to work in that world, to do an after-school program that would motivate kids and keep them off the streets. We work with over 12,000 kids in the inner city here in Los Angeles, one of the worst school districts in the country with a 54% dropout rate…We've been averaging...90% graduation rate and a 60% higher GPA.”
Sorbo has enjoyed this ride that his talents have offered him. When it comes to his legacy, he wants people to feel what made him become an actor. “You know, I hope it's that people loved the stuff I did, that they loved the movies I did. That I gave him an hour of fun, gave them an hour to think about life, laugh—that's the reason I got into acting. I wanted to move people the way movies and television moved me. Whether it made you angry, whether it made you think, whether it makes you grow, whether it makes you sad, happy, whatever— I'm hoping that people will always remember that I brought some joy into their lives.”
Kevin Sorbo is living the life he envisioned at the age of 11, and this will continue to be his passion for as long as the Universe allows him to take part.