By Carl Kozlowski, Contributing Writer
Kevin Sorbo attained worldwide fame as two iconic action characters in long-running TV series, HERCULES and ANDROMEDA. There’s always been a lot more to Sorbo than meets the eye, as he has always been regarded as one of the nicest guys in Hollywood rather than a clichéd, muscle-bound tough guy.
That inner core of calm and kindness stems from his faith, and it has also inspired part of the direction his career has taken in recent years, as he has been making the move from TV to movie star with a mix of action films and faith-based projects. In fact, he even won the MOVIEGUIDE® Grace Award for Most Inspirational Movie Performance for his role in the Christian-themed movie WHAT IF. . .
He’s now appearing in the special video release ABEL’S FIELD. In the movie, he plays a handyman at a high school in small-town Texas who befriends and mentors a hardworking but struggling high school student who’s left to care for his younger siblings when they’re abandoned by their parents.
Abel has sad secrets from his own hard-knocked life, and is forced to confront them as well in the movie, which is aiming to be part of a new wave of Christian-themed films that fit into and match the quality of a mainstream marketplace, ala SOUL SURFER and COURAGEOUS. Sitting in the bleachers of the Thrall High School football stadium between takes on the final weekend of shooting for the movie, Sorbo spoke at length about the moving picture and its many layers of meaning for him, as well as his career.
MOVIEGUIDE: What drew you to this movie?
SORBO: The story. It’s always the story. I read it and it’s funny because I met the director and producer three years ago in Santa Monica and we spent the last three years trying to find financing for it, and, at times, I said, ‘This is never gonna happen.’ We talked about it last week and said ‘Here we are, we’re wrapping on the movie this week.’
I like the development of the character, what this guy had to go through. As an actor, it’s fun playing roles you could never be like. In ANDROMEDA, as Captain Dylan hunt, he was a lot braver than I am but there was a lot of elements of myself in there. There’s really very little of myself in this character of Abel. There’s a couple things you can relate to; we’re all looking for forgiveness and redemption in our lives. He’s a very interesting, isolated loner type of guy to play.
MOVIEGUIDE: You were world famous for HERCULES, but now you won a Movieguide award…
SORBO: For most inspirational performance of the year. It was shocking because I figured it would be Denzel Washington for THE BOOK OF ELI, because he’s Denzel Washington. But, it was a nice surprise.
MOVIEGUIDE: You’re known for action first and foremost. Is it a challenge to convince people to let you play something more human?
SORBO: No question. From HERCULES, I went to ANDROMEDA, so for 12 straight years I played an action type of guy. Hollywood’s funny – you have any success in any kind of genre and they have blinders, saying ‘You’re only good at this.’ You have to prove to yourself you’re not just one way because you’re an actor. I did go out of my way, even on hiatuses I did sitcoms from JUST SHOOT ME to TWO AND A HALF MEN to DHARMA AND GREG. I really mixed it up a lot.
MOVIEGUIDE: When you do all these shows, you’re crossing all sorts of mainstream projects. Were you always openly Christian and were you raised that way?
SORBO: I was raised Christian. I grew up in a very Lutheran household. Ever since I was born I went to church every Wednesday and Sunday. It’s just part of my life. I’ve always had a belief in God, a belief in Jesus. I’m probably not the best Christian in the world, because you’re supposed to be out there witnessing to the world, and I don’t do that all the time. But, if somebody wants to talk about it, I’ll talk about it. I’m not afraid to admit it, I just don’t walk around with a sign saying ‘Repent or you’re going to hell.’ I don’t do that.
MOVIEGUIDE: Has it been a hindrance in Hollywood? You’ve got talent and charisma, so has it held you back at all?
SORBO: If it has, it’s been a quiet assassination of me. I haven’t had people say, ‘We didn’t hire you because you’re Christian,’ but it’s interesting, and Hollywood’s leading the way on that where you do have this assault on Christianity for some reason. Being a Muslim’s OK and they want to force it down your throat that it’s a peaceful religion, but as far as Christianity, it’s weird. I don’t get it when most of this country believes in God – 94 percent – so I don’t understand why the vast majority has to take the back seat and political correctness forces you to teach your kids what those religions are about.
I say freedom of religion. I honestly don’t care what Muslims do – well, the terrorists, I do – but as far as their praying and stuff, I don’t care.
MOVIEGUIDE: Being around certain factions of Hollywood that we know, I hear Christians or conservatives say their beliefs are hindering them, but there seem to be plenty of success stories like Gary Sinise, Tom Selleck, or Jim Caviezel who are conservative, so I’m wondering if that’s an excuse, and they just need to learn how to pick a good script?
SORBO: I don’t think it’s an excuse. Hollywood is very left-wing, there’s no question about that. I consider myself Independent. I actually look at both sides of the aisle. If a Democrat is better than Republican or Republican better than a Democrat, I think that’s something to vote for. I think I vote intelligently. I vote with my gut. Hollywood votes more with emotion and anger and hatred, when the reality is ‘Guys, why don’t you actually look at the qualifications of the candidates and make an educated guess?’
Hollywood calls for tolerance except for people who disagree with them. That’s amazing to me: freedom of speech, as long as you agree with them. I find that it’s incredible to me.
MOVIEGUIDE: So, how does a conservative like Gary Sinise make it so well?
SORBO: I’m convinced its because they’re so firmly established, but I’m sure they’ve lost jobs before, too. I’ve been on sets where I feel the anger. People say, ‘I’m voting because of ‘this’’; and, I’m saying, ‘Ok but what about what he stands for?’ And, they say, ‘But it’d be cool to have this kind of president.’ Their vote counts the same as mine and that’s what scares me. Vote with an education. It’s fine if someone believes the opposite of me, but have an educated reason, not just because you think it’s cool.
MOVIEGUIDE: With ABEL’S FIELD, what do you think is the message, both for a general audience and for the teenagers its centered around?
SORBO: There’s a number of layers. There’s a mentoring message and that we can learn from each other instead of being absorbed in our own world. That there’s redemption and a second chance in life. You can change the road you’re on. You don’t have to be stuck in this road. We all get caught up in our worlds and are afraid to make changes in our worlds basically out of fear.
There’s no rationale behind it, but it’s the unknown and what’s beyond it. I tell people all the time, ‘If you don’t like the way you’re living, you can change it. You don’t have to live this way.’ You can use failure as a positive in your life instead of looking at it as a negative. People have to get past the fear. FDR was right when he said, ‘You have nothing to fear but fear itself,’ and there’s so much truth to that.
MOVIEGUIDE: At this phase in your career, when you have five movies coming out, and three potential TV series, are you still doing mainstream projects or just Christian ones?
SORBO: Oh yeah. The next movie I’m shooting, I play a not so nice cop. It’s an independent film, but it’s funny. I do have two more faith-based movies lined up. One’s called PERSECUTED and the other’s called GRACE UNPLUGGED, but then I’m shooting a pilot for NBC next year called ME TOO. It’s an action comedy, a dramedy where I play an aging James Bond kind of guy whose bosses realize he’s getting a little old, and they want me to mentor this younger kid, and we find out this kid is also my clone who they made when I was 25 years old.
It’s a very funny script. And, I sold two more shows to the Syfy channel. I got to the production side, and I’ve just been creating my own work. Managing agents can be great, but they’ve got other clients to worry about, and their other clients don’t care about me either. It’s tough out there right now, less and less work, so I decided to take it upon myself to create my own work.
MOVIEGUIDE: When you’re picking roles, how does the spiritual and political views of your life affect what you will or won’t do?
SORBO: There are certainly roles I wont take. One they offered me, I was playing an international businessman who’s very sick and perverted and blowtorches the face off a 13-year-old girl. That was HOSTEL. They said, ‘This is perfect for you. No one will expect it because you’ve played all those hero roles.’ I said I don’t mind playing a bad guy in a thriller, but I’ve got kids myself, and to do a violent act like that, it made me sick to my stomach just reading it. I’m open to parts if they’re interesting. I’ve got a psychological thriller called JULIA X that’s coming out where I play the serial killer, but it’s more weird. It has the feel of Kevin Costner’s bad guy in [the 1993 film] A PERFECT WORLD. He does a great job mixing it up.
MOVIEGUIDE: Whose career do you aspire to?
SORBO: Paul Newman, no question. I got a letter from him, a beautiful letter after my first year of HERCULES because I worked with Anthony Quinn then. Anthony put in a good plug for me, and years later, a friend of mine was interviewing Paul, and he took the time to write me a letter. My friend knows Paul Newman is the reason I wanted to be an actor. It was pretty neat to get a letter from him. It’s framed in my office.
MOVIEGUIDE: Is there a dream role for you?
SORBO: There’s a lot of dream roles, but I’d really like to do a WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, a really new kind of romantic comedy. I’m touched by movies where maybe people are alone in their lives and need that soul-mate so to speak. It still moves me to this day. I would really love to do a fun romantic comedy, and a Western.
MOVIEGUIDE: You did an autobiography.
SORBO: It was two years of a lot of work. It’s called TRUE STRENGTH. My wife was very helpful as well, a very brilliant woman. She’d correct things for me, bring up something to remind me, and I’d go, ‘Oh yeah.’ It was a very collaborative effort as well.