The Strength of An Actor: KEVIN SORBO
Best known as Hercules, Kevin Sorbo has played a variety of roles for both television and movies. Under the many layers of those various roles is a guy who is dedicated to his family and his faith and candid about his views regarding Hollywood. He is quick to credit his solid upbringing and as a result he has been instrumental in the advancement of an after-school mentoring program reaching thousands of kids.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: You were an athlete growing up and played multiple sports in high school and college…so when did you decide to go into acting?
Kevin Sorbo: Not until my university days. I wanted to be an actor since I was 11 years old, but I sort of kept that quiet. I was a closet thespian so to speak. We made fun of all the kids in the acting class, even though I wanted to be there, peer pressure was just too much from my fellow jocks so I went, “Yeah, yeah who wants to be an actor?” I kept it quiet and didn’t do anything with it until I got to the university.
RM: You’re most well-known for your role as Hercules in the television series, Hercules, the Legendary Journeys. So did playing sports help you take on that role physically?
KS: Oh there’s no question. I know actors say they do their own stunts… most of them don’t. But I definitely did the bulk of my stunts. Probably about 85 percent of them, except for the crazy ones where I could really, really break a leg or a neck. I left those to my stunt double. My ego was still there during that decade and I wanted to do most of the stuff because it was fun. The series had a seven-year run… we actually passed Baywatch in the 90’s as the most watched TV show in the world. It was really quite an honor to be part of something like that.
RM: What has it been like working with your wife in TV and film? Does it make things more comfortable, or more challenging?
KS: Sam’s easy to work with – that’s how we met. It was during the end of season four on Hercules, she came down to play a princess. I had a good gig for a single guy, every two weeks they sent a beautiful woman for me to work with, so I had honed up on my flirting skills pretty well. When she came along it was one of those timing things and we hit it off and we’ve been married 12 years and have three kids.
People want to see movies with good messages, strong messages and positive messages; not all the negative stuff that comes from Hollywood.
RM: Speaking of having three kids, how do you juggle it all?
KS: [My wife] stays at home all the time now, she acts only occasionally. She has turned into a writer. She just wrote a book and she’s working on my autobiography along with me right now. And we’re home schooling as well, so they [family] travel with me quite a bit. It makes it easier. Otherwise I’m just gone too much. I just finished a movie in Toronto and they came up for a couple of weeks for that; I spent two months in Hawaii shooting a movie with Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt, then I was shooting in Tulsa after that for two months – it’s a lot of juggling.
RM: You have been busy! I feel like there is a big need for family-friendly films that aren’t cartoons… this year you had What If… and you’ve been working on other films with great messages and themes.
KS: There’s a huge market out there that is underserved. Hollywood wants to call it a niche market but when you’ve got, in most polls, 90 percent of people saying they believe there is a God, it’s not a niche market. It’s a completely underserved market. And The Blind Side’s success really opened the doors for these studios to wake up a bit and say, “You know what? We need to open up a faith based division.” People want to see movies with good messages, strong messages and positive messages; not all the negative stuff that comes from Hollywood.
RM: What role does faith play in your life now?
KS: I’ve always been a Christian. Certainly I’ve had my ups and downs with falling further away from God but, I’ve always been a believer. I’ve always believed in Jesus, I’ve always believed in God, we go to church and it’s a big part of my life. I can’t answer all the questions and most of us can’t about how we all started… but someone had to start all this. Somebody out there knows a lot more than me. I’m just here having my little ride and lucky enough to be in a career that can spread a positive message as well.
RM: Hollywood can be a pretty vicious place. How does faith affect your decisions, picking roles, who to work with, or trusting people?
KS: Our business got hurt just like anybody else – it’s tough out there right now. There are less movies being made; less television [shows] being made; they still got to put it out there though because people still want the product. A lot of shows that wouldn’t have lasted three, four or five years are lasting into season six and seven only because it’s so expensive to start up a new show. The studios just say, “I know we aren’t doing great in the ratings on this show, but let’s keep it going because at least there is an audience of some kind.” Studios don’t want to take chances right now. People’s salaries are being cut, and all these things are happening. It’s not like I take anything that comes along, but I’m still an actor and I still enjoy trying on different hats so to speak. I really mixed it up this past year-and-a-half with a lot of different roles. Besides What If…out there right now, I have another faith-based movie called, Soul Surfer, coming out. It’s the one with Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and Carrie Underwood.
RM: That’s the Bethany Hamilton story correct? (The 13-year-old girl whose left arm was ripped off after being attacked by a tiger shark while surfing.)
KS: Yes it is. I’ve already seen it and it’s amazing. Sony is so far behind this thing… and it’s going to be a released this spring. I’ve got another faith-based movie called Rebound that I start shooting in Salt Lake City in February, and then I have three other faith-based films that I’ve raised 50 percent of the money for through my production company. I guess I’m leaning more toward faith-based films, but I’m mixing it up. I leave next week to shoot a comedy where I play the leader of a bunch of really idiot bank robbers, but it’s a kids’ film, its rated G and it’s about teenage kids that solve the crime.
RM: So what do your kids think of Dad and being able to watch your material now?
KS: I think they think it’s pretty cool. I think initially they thought everybody worked in movies or television. My nine year old, he gets it now; he’s the oldest of the group. Unfortunately, I think he wants to be an actor, but I’m trying to talk him out of that. But we’ll see.
RM: You’re the spokesperson and chair for A World Fit for Kids! Why did you get involved with this mentoring program?
KS: I grew up in a very lucky environment. My dad as a public school teacher didn’t make a whole lot of money but I still grew up with a very strong safety net – my mom and dad, my neighbors, my coaches, my community, my schools – and I want to return the favor to kids that didn’t have that growing up. I work with the inner city schools here in Los Angeles. We work with over 12 thousand kids, and the school district here, like many big cities, has a huge dropout rate. LA County has a 54 percent dropout rate starting as low as fifth grade – it’s crazy. But the 12 thousand kids that this program works with from first grade through twelfth, has a 98 percent graduation rate. We received an award a few years ago from Governor Schwarzenegger for having the best after school program in the state of California and we’ve decided to go nationwide with it. We’re branching out to other cities now.
RM: Who would you say was a mentor or role model to you growing up?
KS: It’s a mixture. Certainly it’s my mom and dad, but a lot had to do with my athletic coaches. I’m a big believer in sports for kids. No matter what sport that is. I think getting involved with other peers and learning what competition is all about is really important. I think sports is more than just the physical activity – which I’m a big believer in – but I think it’s really important for kids to interact with each other and learn about winning and losing. It’s a very solid base for kids to learn about the real world when they get out there. You’re not going to win all the time. Use failure as a learning tool, don’t use it as a negative, and use it as a positive to make yourself better at something.
Our conversation with Zachary Levi was so meaningful and deep that we couldn’t fit it all into once feature… so…
Whether you know him from Chuck or as Flynn Rider in Tangled, Joseph in The Star, or Shazam, Zachary Levi…
The Thorp family sounds like any Southern California family you’d encounter… a Sales Executive father, a mom in the fashion…