There’s a good chance Kevin Sorbo was the object your 90s dreams back in the day or, at the very least, you knew someone who found something so incredibly appealing about the long haired, always tanned demi-God as portrayed by Sorbo in the popular TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. With the show’s end in 1999, Sorbo was one of the many actors of the time who was able to pick up work in what was to be another beloved franchise, crossing into sci-fi with Andromeda. Maintaining a fruitful career within the entertainment industry following on from the success of such huge franchises as Hercules and Andromeda became always poses a challenge, but as the years went on, Sorbo found himself flourishing behind the scenes as he was as an actor, flexing some good producing and directorial muscle.
“Somebody once told me that the definition of being a director is like trying to paint a ship with a toothbrush.” he says. “I found that interesting, because when I did direct on Hercules and when I started directing, all of a sudden, your 14 hour days become 20 hour days. It’s a whole different beast. I love it, but I still love acting more, my passion is still in acting more than anything else. I was an Executive Producer on Andromeda, so I learned a lot because everything was in-studio there. On Hercules, we were on ten-day episodes and we were all over the place on the North Island of New Zealand. It takes a lot of time on long, long days. On Andromeda, we didn’t want to be like Stargate, which was shot down the road from us, because every Stargate planet they went to looked like Vancouver, British Columbia! We wanted it to be a lot more green screened, so everything was in-house and it made it a little easier. We shot seven-day episodes, visual effects were upstairs in another part of the studio and the production office was over here and the art department was over here; I had to really be there and I learned a lot, it was like being at school for five years. It was great. If I wasn’t an actor, I think I’d like to be an editor, I think editing is awesome. Especially today, it’s so much easier, because everything is done on a computer. I still like acting though; I do have a movie I’m directing in the Philippines, hopefully this year, we’ll see what happens.”
Currently in Adelaide with Hercules co-star Michael Hurst (and many other guests) for Oz Comic Con, it’s the first time Sorbo has been to South Australia. Though the weather really hasn’t provided him the with the opportunity to hit the beach, he reflects on his time in Australia so far, which had seen him hit up Perth to meet fans out west.
“I probably do about six cons a year,” he explains. “I get invited to about five or six a month, because it’s [Hercules] is still all around the world. I can only do a couple, but I enjoy doing them. When I do them, certainly in America, it’s about 75% Hercules and 25% Andromeda or a mixture, I’ve done over 40 movies as well. Unfortunately, I don’t think a lot of my movies made it down here, but in the States there are some that are very successful and that have people following. Here, it’s like, 50/50. This is a big sci-fi country and they love Andromeda! It’s funny, because they [convention staff] send down the PDFs for the photos and on the first go around, they only had two from Andromeda and about seven or eight from Hercules and people would come up and go, ‘How come you don’t have this?’ and by lunch, they’d printed up about four more! The guy who was working on my table, one of the local guys out of Sydney was working as my handler, he says, ‘Guys, people want Andromeda ones!’ It was a nice surprise, because I’m proud of that show and I’m a big Gene Roddenberry fan. To be part of his legacy of Star Trek was kind of cool.”
Sorbo as Capt. Dylan Hunt on Andromeda
Turning attention to current projects and what has been keeping the actor busy when he’s not attending these fan conventions, Sorbo’s dance card remains busy throughout the year. Heading back to Canada to film, as many actors do these days, he lists just some of the projects he’s going to be involved in in coming months.
“I shot six more movies last year,” he says. “Three of them are coming out, two of them just came out, actually. One is called Mythica, we did a trilogy, sort of like Lord of the Rings, but with a much cheaper budget! It’s amazing. You look at the technology, even since Lord of the Rings, it’s expanded and it’s become so much cheaper. So Mythica 2: The Dark Spore just came out and another movie called Confessions of a Prodigal Son. I’ve got The Secret Handshake, which will be in theatres at the end of May in America; a lovely little family drama-comedy, written by Howie Klausner who also wrote Space Cowboys. Wonderful movie. I’ve got a Western coming up soon called Steel Renegades and I’ve got a movie called Left Behind, which is based on the novels that I think were about 15 different books…they did is last year with Nicolas Cage and I’m doing the next two. We’re shooting in Niagara Falls with a Toronto based company in September and October.”
As we talk connecting with fans who’ve remained followers of his career over the last few decades, we both agree that it’s with events such as Oz Comic Con that bring out some the real dedicated fans. To be one of the biggest names on American television at the time Sorbo was admittedly could have been a double-edged sword; avoiding being typecast and indeed, always having that desire to be chasing the next job or project would always be something to think about. As Sorbo says, he’s been incredibly lucky to have struck up relationships with the people he has worked with over the years and remains totally aware of how much of a grind the entertainment – especially in the US – industry is.
“If you’re lucky enough to make a career out of it, yeah!” he says of the opportunities he’s had to travel with the job. “I studied with three different coaches in my seven years in Los Angeles before I got Hercules and they have me come back yearly to talk to the students and it’s interesting to talk to them. I tell them, ‘You get in this business because you love the craft, you love to act. Don’t get in it because you want to get rich and famous, because the chances of that happening are very, very small.'”
“I look at the number of actors I worked with in acting classes for those seven years, there’s only a handful I know who have made a living out of it. A lot of the guys I used to go up against commercial wise or TV/movie wise for parts, 90% of them are gone now. They’re selling cars or real estate or whatever they’re doing, they’re not in the business at all anymore because everybody in LA is an actor! I got struck by lightning when I got Hercules. I got struck by lightning again when I got Andromeda. To keep on working after that…I just sold a series to NBC and I’ve got another series that Lionsgate is interested in, I’m knocking on wood! I’m still working! I can’t complain too much. I love the work, I don’t sit around. I remember when I first moved to LA, I’d bug my commercial agent; I’d say, ‘Hey I heard about this commercial audition…’ and they’d go, ‘Kevin, I’ve got a hundred other clients!’ I’d say, ‘I don’t give a crap about your other clients!’ My mantra was always, ‘Let me get in that door and let me have a chance to be rejected’, because you deal with a lot of rejection in Hollywood! I was either too old or too young, or too tall…there was always some reason why they wanted to get rid of you, but I knew since I was 11, ‘Boom, I’m going to make it, I’m going to be a success in this industry.'”
Your 90s crush: Kevin Sorbo as Hercules
Looking ahead to the weekend in Adelaide where he’ll be engaging in panel sessions, as well as the various autograph and photo sessions lined up at Oz Comic Con, Sorbo comments on this longevity and constant appeal of the fantasy and sci-fi worlds fans who turn up to events like these keep coming back to each year, with more and more passion.
“Even with Hercules, they’re [the shows] aren’t set in modern times; with Hercules, it’s a mythological world and with these space shows, they’re futuristic. You can’t say that’ll never happen, how do you know? It’s thousands of years from now, you don’t know! Look at technology and how fast it’s been going over the last 20 years! It’s interesting and I think that’s why a couple of those shows get a boost and people are following them.”
Oz Comic Con is held at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds this weekend, April 18th & 19th. For more event and ticketing information, head to www.ozcomiccon.com.