Interview with Kevin Sorbo

Ever want to talk to Hercules? Join me as I speak with Kevin Sorbo, actor in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and 2014 release God’s Not Dead.

About Kevin

Kevin David Sorbo was born in Mound, Minnesota, on September 24, 1958. After leaving college, Kevin joined an actors theater group, and traveled to Europe, then to Sydney, Australia appearing in commercials. Kevin began to make guest appearances on such popular shows as Murder, She Wrote (1984). At the end of 1986, he settled in Los Angeles. Kevin spent 3 years traveling around the world, modeling for print ads and appearing in over 150 commercials, before landing in his breakout series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995). Kevin became internationally famous, and he learned the craft of film-making well enough to direct and co-write some of the episodes. He went on to star in the Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction series Andromeda for five seasons.

In real life, Kevin’s heart is as big as Hercules’– he leads “A World Fit for Kids!” as the chair and spokesperson. Kevin devotes much of his time to “A World Fit For Kids!” which is a successful mentoring model that trains inner-city teens to use school, fitness, sports and positive role models for themselves, and then become the coaches and mentors for younger children. In 1998, Kevin married lovely actress Sam Jenkins, best known for her dual role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995) as Serena/the Golden Hind.

Click to read Transcript

EASLEY: Kevin David Sorbo, born in Mound, Minnesota.

SORBO: Right, home of the Tonka Toys, beautiful Lake Minnetonka.

E: 1958, so you’re still a young fella. You are married to the lovely Sam Jenkins. You have three kids.

S: We do.

E: Ages of your kids?

S: They’re twelve almost thirteen. I have a ten year old and an eight year old. Boy, boy, girl.

E: Lotta moving parts.

S: Lotta moving parts. Zone defense in the Sorbo house.

E: Exactly. Yeah, once you get passed two. Let’s talk about from Minnesota to college. You started out doing some acting on the side? Tell us a little bit about that journey.

S: Well you know, I was only eleven when I wanted to be an actor. I went to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, very famous theater, saw the Merchant of Venice, little Shakespeare. I didn’t know what the heck they were saying on stage. I knew I was mesmerized the entire time and told my mom on the way home, “I’m going to be an actor.” I got the loving pat on the thigh saying,” That’s nice dear.”  But you know, I was a jock; I was a football, basketball, baseball guy. I really didn’t dive into it until I went to college and beyond is when I sort of made the big move out to Los Angeles. The goal was always there; the drive was always there and I moved out here not knowing a soul, knowing it would be tough. You know, the friend of mine, the best advice he gave me was, “It’s called show business, not show show.” My double marketing and advertising major and used that for marketing and advertised myself.

E: 1986 you were in LA. One hundred and fifty commercials. The Legendary Journeys of Hercules, 1995. What was that like starting in that field?

S: Actually, Hercules started in 1993. The movie started airing in ‘94. Then we shot. We did one season of Hercules, then we did six years of one hour episodes. That first year was awesome for me because I got to work all year with Anthony Quinn, which was amazing. So I got a year down there in New Zealand with Anthony. I heard all these wonderful stories. We then passed Bay Watch as the most watched TV show in the world, which was amazing to be in part of that. Then I got in drama there, so I got in five years on that. So in 1993-2005, I was out of the country. I was in New Zealand seven years and Canada for five. So you know Canada is close to us and I was still spending most of my time up in our Northern neighbor.

E: In all this journey, did you have any idea, obviously the first season of Hercules had to be, “Ok, this is really cool, right?”

S: Yeah! Because initially it was supposed to be these five movies and that was it, but I had a feeling by the end of the second movie they were going to make it a series. I didn’t hear anything from anybody, but I could tell what was happening and said. It was pretty cool. People were really loving it and the action was great and fun. I said, “This is such a great family show.” Sure enough by 1996, Bay Watch was the most watched show in the world and it just took off from there. It was incredible.

S: Let’s talk a little about your journey of faith. You grew up in a Lutheran home?

S: Yes, I did.

E: Take us down Kevin’s story. So you grew up going to the Lutheran church regularly and then something happened.

S: Well, I was pretty regular and my parents were always pretty adamant about going to church, so it was just part of my life since birth. The church got so big that Sunday school was on Wednesday nights after school. It was kind of tough for me to make especially when I got into junior and high school levels because I had basketball practice or football practice or games and stuff like that. I just remember when I was in fifth or sixth grade; I remember asking my parents because we had a pastor that was very fire and brimstone, very Old Testament in terms of the anger of God, and I just don’t think God is that angry with us. I started questioning that. I never wavered in my belief, that there was a God; that there was a supreme being that started everything and that was never a problem with me questioning my faith. I questioned the way we were being taught in our church and then we had a youth pastor come in and he was talking to us, as kids, as teenagers and it made a big difference for me. I went to a Billy Graham revival there in St Paul in Minnesota.

E: What year was that?

S: ‘74 maybe? I was just mesmerized by what he had to say. I was blown away. I was blown away by the number of people there and it was a hot August night and I got to go up front and met him very quickly but I was talking with one of his helpers, for a long time. It was very instrumental in me and it’s a moment I remember very vividly in my life. I don’t call myself reborn, it just really cemented myself. I look at reborn as someone who fell away from God and came back. I wasn’t reborn, like I said, I never really wavered in my faith. I certainly am not proud of things I’ve done in my life. I think all of us, you know all of us sin, and have done stupid things and I continue to do stupid things. I try not to, and like I said the faith has always been there, but the church we go to right now in California is pretty cool place. The pastor is quite amazing speaker.

E: What stirred in you? Obviously, the size and all that. I mean, I’ve been to crusades as well and there’s something other worldly about this experience. But to get up and go down, takes something.

S: Well I think it was also because it was outside. There was a hundred thousand people. I think the cover of the masses and the cover of the blackness of night gave me a little more courage to go do it. I remember feeling just so alive; I remember the goosebumps; I remember the butterflies; I remember I felt like I was walking on air. It was a pretty cool feeling actually.

E: As you look back from the Lutheran Church and from the Billy Graham Crusade, what are some other things, that you started growing spiritually? God used either people, or books, or maybe experiences, moving in your life?

S: Well fast forward from the Hercules years, at the end of Season five, like I said I was living in New Zealand during that time, I was flying back to America to do promotional work on a movie that I had done a year earlier and I was about to do another action movie for Universal Studios. But I’d been having problems with my left shoulder for a long time and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I had blown it off because I was lifting heavy two hours a day on top of fourteen hours on the set. I was doing most of my own stunts; I loved doing it; it was fun; and the athlete in me still wanted to do all these fights with all these great stunt guys I had. I came back and the shoulder had been bugging me so bad, that I went to see my doctor here in Los Angeles. He said, “You’ve got a lump here. You’ve got something going on here. I think I want to do a biopsy on that.” That freaked me out of course. I went to see my chiropractor and in the eight years I’ve seen this guy, he’s never cracked my neck. Because I told him, “Whatever you do, don’t crack my neck. You can crack anything in my body, leave my neck alone.” I’ve had my neck cracked before and I never liked it. I didn’t like the sensation. I’m laying on the table and I heard a voice inside my head say, “Don’t let him crack your neck.” I opened up my eyes and I looked up at my doctor and I said, “What did you say?” He said, “I didn’t say anything.” I closed my eyes again and again the voice said very loudly, “Do not let him crack your neck.” I thinking to myself, “Ok, he’s never cracked my neck, why do I hear this voice telling me not to crack my neck?” And as I’m arguing with the voice in my head, he cracks my neck. And I sat up and I said, “Why did you do that?” He said, “I felt you needed it.” I said,  “But why? You know I don’t like that.” Well within minutes that lump I had in my shoulder was actually an aneurysm, and it was so close to the artery in the brain when he cracked my neck, it forced three of the blood clots that was in that aneurism into my brain and I suffered three strokes, two of them went to my balance center, one went to my vision. I realize I’m lucky; I had three bullets to the brain;I could have been killed instantly. I could be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, and incapacitated, but I spent the next four months as a guy playing the strongest man in the world on a TV series; a guy in his thirties in better shape than most guys in their twenties; learning how to walk again and balance myself again; I still have a ten percent loss of vision in both eyes. I went back to New Zealand after four months of rehab and had to drop out of the movie I was in obviously. I went from a fourteen hour work day to one hour a day the first month, then two hours the second month, three the third. I had to slowly work my way back up to a schedule where they could have me more on a show. They wanted me in every episode because I’m Hercules, and the show is called Hercules so, but they realized as sick as I was there wasn’t much I could do. I just kept going to the rehab and therapy I needed to to get better. It took me three full years to feel a hundred percent.

E: Wow!

S: I wrote a book. It’s called True Strength. It’s out now. I’ve been doing a lot of speaking engagements because of the book. I’m grateful for that. I hope your listeners go get it. It’s on Amazon. They can go to Truestrengthbook.com. to get video on it and more information about the book, but it was a long process.

That voice in my head was God. I know it was God. He was trying to warn me and I didn’t pay attention. I went through all the stages people go through when horrible things happen to them. It doesn’t matter if they’re young or not. I had a career that was going pretty strong. They put everything on hold for a while in terms of my action and career movie because Hollywood didn’t want to take their chances with my anymore. It was a long run to come back, but like I said, “I was very fortunate to keep working.” The work gave me a light at the end of a very dark tunnel, but I just kept pushing myself and pushing myself and it did ten times more than what the doctors told me I should be doing to get myself better.

E: When you were, lets say depressed, not saying you were because I’ve lived with chronic pain, so I know a little bit about rehab, but when you get sort of down, like “Goodness I can’t do the things I used to do.” What was some of that true strength that kept you going? Because that’s a long rehab.

S: Oh, trust me, I got depressed; I suffered vertigo; I had this sensation I was falling backwards, twenty four hours a day..

E: Oh gosh.

S: For about a year and a half, no matter if I was standing, sitting or laying down. It didn’t matter. The sensation was I’m falling backwards, falling backwards,and I had a sound; a buzzing sound at the back of my head. This stuff just drove me crazy. I told my wife, “I’ve never understood suicide, but I understand it now.” She looked at me and I said, “No, no, don’t worry, I’m not going to kill myself. I love life and a very strong willed person.” That’s what got me through this, not only my faith in God, but my strong will. You know what?  I railed against God; I railed against everybody; I do what most people, especially what most people do in our country today. Hey, they blame everybody else for their problems in life, but because of my strongwilled New York wife and my strong will and because of God telling me to, “Stop feeling sorry for myself.” I looked at this as a gift, as an opportunity for me to change the things that I’ve been doing in my life that were wrong or bad, or whatever it was. I said, “ This is a chance for me to be more grateful or more appreciative for the things I have in my life and not take it for granted.” It did open my eyes. It made me a better husband; made me a better father; made me a better actor, I’ve embraced the stuff that happened to me, and that’s why I tell people in the book, “Don’t let people set limitations, especially after you’ve encountered this.” It’s amazing on the road;on the speaking engagements; meeting people who’ve gone through either strokes, heart attacks, car crash, cancer,whatever it is; crying, and telling me that the book has made them feel better and finding their own true strength. Hence, the title.

E: Let’s talk about your movie, God’s Not Dead. When you started this project, did you have any idea you’d get some of the responses you received ?

S: I don’t think so. I think we knew we had something good. The script was great; the cast was wonderful, the crew; all the pieces were there and the director, Harold Cronk,is a friend and he came in and did such a great job with this wonderful script and all the actors came in prepared. We knew we had something interesting here, because it was a different sort of faith based movie. It was a movie that dealt with a scientific viewpoint of atheists and a scientific viewpoint of Christians and why we know God does exist. You have both sides of the argument going on there but you have five stories going on that movie, they all meet at the end; sort of like a faith based crash movie. You know, it’s a small budget movie, two million dollars. Well the darn thing made sixty two million in the box office and it was all word of mouth. It was people out there letting the industry know that they want more movies like this. They love the movie; they love the characters; they had a story, they had characters you could identify with; characters that you could relate to and it’s just complete word of mouth. It’s now, in forty countries, I heard. This thing could reach one hundred million dollars worldwide; it’s already dollar for dollar, the most successful movie of the year by far.

E: One of the youtubes I saw was a Newsmax reporter and it was an unfortunate interview, but I love the statement that you made toward the end of it: “Morals are declining. I don’t care if you’re religious or not, morals are declining.The country is going under. We are getting worse and worse and everything is ok according to half the population of this country.Not everything is ok.”  We live in a context, where I often say, “Christianity’s the only religious group that you can vilify and get away with it.”

S: Which is amazing me to, because I don’t see Christians strapping bombs on themselves and blowing up people, churches, and buses, and cafes. We’ve got a religion out there that for some reason our government wants to protect in the Muslim world. Of course, not all Muslims are bad. It’s amazing to me if you have any criticisms toward the Muslims, you just get attacked. I’m going, “But look there are three hundred million in a one point two billion Muslim society, three hundred million that they’re estimating, that are hell bent on destroying the Western way of life, destroying Christians; murdering Christians; they’re blowing up churches in Nigeria and Egypt; they’re killing Christians. Where is the news media covering that? No where. It’s unbelievable! I don’t get it. I wish someone would explain to me why our mainstream media protects these people. These mainstream media guys have no clue that these Taliban guys, these hardcore Islamic terrorists, would cut their heads off in a heartbeat. Yet, if you’re a Christian, you get attacked for it. I wish someone could explain to me what’s going on in the world right now. Everything is backwards right now. Everything that they try to do and say to do is the right thing to do is the opposite of what they should be doing.

E: It’s a funny fight we have right now, because if you mention Judeo-Christian values or the notion that America is a Judeo-Christian culture, you really are marginalized very quickly. Your right regarding mainstream media, in Hollywood, it’s got to be a completely different world, right?

S: Well look I’m a conservative and a Christian so I guess there’s a double whammy against me in Hollywood. Even if you say you’re a true independent in Hollywood, they look at you like you are just an idiot. It’s amazing to me, we can get into a political discussion but we don’t’ need to go down that road. I don’t get it. For an industry that’s screams for tolerance, they have no tolerance. They only want freedom of speech for want they want to say; if I have a different point of view, they don’t want to hear it. Their only argument is “You’re wrong.” They don’t deal with facts; you can hit them with all the facts in the world that totally displaces everything they say, that they think is right, and all they say is, “You’re wrong.” “Well, tell me how I’m wrong?” They don’t have an answer for that. They deal with emotion, they deal with anger; they deal with hatred and they deal with these negative entities that are just so damaging. You can see it in the products that comes out of Hollywood; you can see it in the product that comes on television sets. This country is going downhill. I’m not some whack job that goes around preaching on street corners that we’re all going to hell, but I’m telling you right now this country, our Founding Fathers, are turning over in their graves. For atheists to have a larger voice, being the smallest minority in the country, larger than the majority of people in this country who believe in God, you know taking down the Nativity Scenes because it offends them. How can something offend you that you don’t believe in? Please explain that to me. You don’t believe it so who cares?

E: But it might be offensive, see. It might be offensive.

So how does Kevin Sorbo deal with this internally? Obviously, we could agree with each other and “Yeah, the injustice of it all,” but you and I are called to a higher king. We’re called to live a life of faith. God has you in a context where you’ve had a tremendous amount of success in many ways; certainly you’ve lost some opportunities that perhaps would have been available had you not been a conservative and a Christian. So how does Kevin deal with this in his heart and soul?

S: Well it’s all going back to my faith and my conservatism has definitely hurt me in my industry. It’s pretty blatant and fair to see. I’ve been very fortunate though to keep doing a lot of independent movies. A lot of people still want to work with me; I’m a professional; I show up; if I like a part, trust me, I will be there and I will give my heart and soul; I love the industry; I love to act; I love being on the set; I love the creative spirit of that and sounds corny, but I just have to be true to myself. I mean, I’m not a perfect person,I’m far from that. I’m totally aware of that and I’m flawed as any man could possibly be, but I think the message is to keep doing movies like, God’s Not Dead. And as I said, “If people want more movies like this, they’ve got to support it.” They’ve got to get out there and do exactly what they did for God’s Not Dead and for Son of God and for Heaven is for Real. They got to get out there and support these movies because more than what we make, Hollywood is all about making money and I don’t begrudge them that. Business is business, I get it! We all want to be able to have a home and feed our families and all that kind of stuff so I get it. But at the same time, if you want more movies like this than they have to go out and support it opening weekend and show that you believe in the movies and want to make them work.

E: This coming fall, 2014, you have a film coming out that was made in part in Cottonwood, Franklin, Tennessee, The Secret Handshake?

S: The Secret Handshake. Wonderful movie, Howie Claus wrote it and directed it; Howie did a great job. Howie is also known for a number of scripts he’s written. I think the one he’s up for Academy Awards was called Space Cowboys with Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, and James Garner. It’s a great movie. I hope we get this thing out there soon. I know they’re loving what they’re seeing and I hope some distribution companies that they’re talking to will get this out there before the years out. It’s a family comedy. We don’t call it a  faith based, but it’s still lumped it in with faith based because it’s family friendly. It’s a good movie and it deals with life; it deals with being a family member and having kids; having a wife and all those kinds of things, so I’m hoping that we get it out there sooner than later. It was a wonderful experience.

E: When you look at your bride and your kids, Kevin, what do you pray for them? Obviously, the country concerns us as fathers’ we’re anxious about that.

S: On one hand, I worry about what the country’s going to look like in ten, twenty years for them. I am concerned about where we’re going, where we’re heading. I also believe we’re reaching a tipping point. I think the majority of the people in this country are now saying, “You know enough is enough.” Get out there and vote for crying out loud. You know we get the governments we deserve. You want to see this country turn into a socialistic country, then that’s what you’re going to get. You want this country going back to what it once was, being productive and being the leader of the world, then do that. Because I’ll tell you what, if America falls out of being the leader of the world, which it is fast doing, who’s going to pick up that mantle? You want Russia to pick up that mantle, China? We’re not a perfect place, but we’ve certainly made the world a better place, for a lot of people and a lot of people take that for granted. I think history repeats itself because people do not read history,that’s the problem. The model that we’re going on right now, I worry for my kids. There’s no question. I just hope they grow up the way they’re growing up now. They’re growing up strong; they’re growing up dependent; they’re growing up thinking for themselves; asking questions all the time; and I just tell them, “You’ve got to fight for what you believe in.” I can’t make them think them one way or another, all I can do is lead them by example and hope they find that a good example to go by.

E: So, what other projects do you have coming out Kevin?

S: There’s from Pure Flix, there’s a movie called Revelation Road on DVD. It’s the part three of a three part series. I’ve already got two parts out there. It’s called Revelation Road and it’s sort of a post apocalyptic world. Revelation is in the title for a reason. I hope people check that out and check out the first two as well and they can check out the third part when it comes out soon this fall.

E: Love it!

S: I would love people to follow me. I’m on Kevinsorbo.net is my page with tons of information or they can follow me on twitter on the official facebook page of Kevin Sorbo. Long title, The Official Facebook Page of Kevin Sorbo, but a lot of people have stolen my name. So I hope people check it out. I post a lot of interesting things that make you think and hopefully make you laugh and make you have conversations.

E: Kevin, when you not only meet young actors or let me say men and women who want to get into acting, they want to have a career, what counsel would you give them as people of faith?

S: I tell you. You are going to be tested and it’s an industry that deals on negativity, it deals on elimination; everything is you’re too tall; you’re too young; you’re too short; you’re too something in Hollywood. Everyone is afraid to make a decision out here. It’s amazing anything gets done because if they make a decision in the wrong, they may lose their job so it’s an interesting dichotomy. You have to come out and be in this industry and you don’t have to come to Hollywood, you can do it anywhere and be an actor, but do it because you love it; because you love the craft. Don’t do it because you want to be rich and famous, if that happens that’s just a bonus. Do it because you love the craft of acting. I got into it because I loved the idea that I can make people think; make people talk; cry; make them get angry, same reasons why I love going to movies myself; to see the different emotions that hopefully a good and well written story can do to me.

E: Thanks again for your time!

S: No worries, thank you, we’ll do it again.

E: Alright man, blessings.

Jesus told us, “If you are of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” It’s hard for us to understand persecution, we don’t want to overstate it. Being persecuted for your faith in Nigeria is very different than being persecuted for our faith in America, so we want to be careful. That said, we will experience times where because we are called a follower of Christ; because we are called a Christian, we might be discriminated against. It is curious to me as to why Christianity is the only “religion” that can be vilified. Granted we’re speaking of a relationship with Christ, not a denomination, but the fact that when I say I’m a follower of Jesus Christ; I’m a Christian, I hold to certain values; that in our culture can inflame many. How do you live? Like Kevin, I can be confused, and discouraged, and worry about the future for my children, but at the same time the believer is called to have hope! We serve a king; we serve a sovereign, not merely a world government. And as grand as America may have been, and may be again one day; our hope is not found in flag; our hope is not found simply in legislative and judicial branches of government. Our hope is found in the King; the Sovereign Jesus Christ. We have a freedom right now and it’s freedom of religion; it’s freedom of faith. You can choose to believe in Christ without fear. That does not mean it will always be that way, but we can always be men and women of faith; no matter what the culture is like; no matter what the attitude and the climate is like; can you smile? Can you look towards the future with hope? Can you trust in Christ and Christ alone, no matter what your circumstances dictate? Choose to hope; choose to hope in not being a better country; choose to hope in being faithful. As I often tell my friends,ask God not merely for a miracle, but ask Him for an immovable faith. No matter what our circumstances might be, we trust in Christ and Christ alone, not merely our culture or our politics. This is Michael Easley inContext.

  • matthewdevries

    Great interview Michael! So looking forward to more inContext pieces. Keep up the great work.

    • michaelincontext

      Thanks Matt! Trust you are well. Appreciate the “share” if you have time. 🙂

      • michaelincontext

        Thanks, Matt! Trust you and your family are well!

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