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"Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" is shot almost entirely around Auckland, New Zealand, partially for budgetary reasons, but mainly because principal filming originally started in November - a relatively cold and rainy month in Los Angeles. The lack of olive trees doesn't bother Tapert in the slightest. "New Zealand has the distinction of looking like a primeval, pristine world. I think it works beautifully as a mythological backdrop." (10.95 Sci-Fi Universe #10)

 
[episode "Once upon a Future King"] The internals are filmed at a large warehouse in suburban Auckland (one of a handful around the city that Pacific Renaissance Pictures has taken over for shooting) which is crayoned with medieval style gates, alleyways, castle walls, banquet halls and throne rooms.
The climatic external scenes are shot in PRP's 100-acre complex located 30 minutes away. In addition to surrounding scenery, this former lion park houses nine massive sets, including a dock, an entire castle courtyard and various village marketplaces, endlessly redressed for the show's myriad storylines. The locations have all been prearranged in consultation with locations manager Sally Sherrat, whose challenge is to find a variety of settings all within one hour's travel from the city. (27.04.99 Hollywood Reporter)
 
To prepare for the role of Hercules, Sorbo worked with three different trainers, including martial arts master Douglas Wong (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story), who took him through an accelerated course of his white lotus system, teaching him to roll, fall and fight with swords and staffs. He also continued to train with weights and learned horseback riding. Despite the heavy demands of his production schedule, he works out daily, combining a variety of activities, including weight lifting, jogging, swimming and basketball. As a result, Kevin, who is 6'3" and weighs 215 pounds, is able to perform his own fights and many of his own stunts. (Official site of H:TLJ, MCA)
 
"It rains a lot down here, and they try to shoot around the rainy seasons," Kevin Sorbo explains. "So we can't shoot along the same schedule as most other television shows, where they shoot for eight or nine months and the actors get a three-four-month hiatus. I'm not going to get that luxury." (10.95 Sci-Fi Universe #10)
 
Kevin Sorbo: The biggest difference between the movies and the series is time. On the movies it felt like you got a chance to break down each scene and do it the right way. On the series you're always rushing. (24.04.99 Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
 
Certainly his regimen would impress any athlete. After shooting he works out for 90 minutes, then maybe tops that off with a jog. He eats six small meals a day, starting with a large, white-of-egg omelette. No caffeine, very little alcohol. <...> For now, his place is in Auckland, where he puts in 16-hour shooting days up to six days a week. (03.07.95 People #44)
 
<...> In the makeup van near a local sports club is Anaic Single, who heads a team of nine. Following a normal pattern for most episodes, her day has started at 5 a.m. to prepare Sorbo. (27.04.99 Hollywood Reporter)
 
The article said that Kevin is up every morning at 4:30, six days a week filming the series which to say the least, is grueling. (15.07.95 TV Guide)
 
Kevin Sorbo: "We work anywhere from 12 to 14 hours every day, five or six days a week. [And after that] I have to study my lines." (02.09.96 Womans Day, NZ)
 
 
Kevin Sorbo: "Each episode takes about eight business days to shoot. We have two full units that work very hard on the show down in New Zealand. We work on both sides of the Pacific. We have a huge crew here in Los Angeles that puts together the sound, the editing and the special effects. Our writers are here in LA, and sometimes I feel l'm out of the loop because we are so far apart. I change lines now and then, but by the time the scene gets back here to LA we've torn down the set, so they can't do anything about it!" (1999 Starburst Yearbook Special #42 - Santa Monica convention, 23.01.99)
 

By the time the show appears in final form, most of its actors appear happy and relaxed. This may be more a testament to their acting prowess than a reflection of any lightheartedness on the set. Producer Rob Tapert insists H:TLJ is one of the harder shoots he's been involved in. Though he describes the mood on the set as happy and enthusiastic, the 12-hour days and unusual shooting schedule make for tight, rushed shoots. Goofing around is limited to more than coming up with a joke that works, as most actors spend their free time practicing an extensive array of stuntwork and choreography. (10.95 Sci-Fi Universe #10)

 
The industrial foam plastic, used for Amazon masks and suits of armour, replaces the heavier fibreglass and papier-mache used in other productions. "It's a bit of a secret my friend Matt (Bylett) and another designer came up with," Mackay said. "Usually fibreglass or papier-mache would be used, but that is time-consuming and heavy for the actors. The foam enabled us to make 30 or 40 Amazon woman masks in one morning and the actors thought they were great to wear." (28.01.96 Sunday News, Auckland)
 
Cinematographer John Mahaffie: "I think there are very few shows that have been as ambitious in their approach to production values and that have lasted as long as this one. <> The hand-held camera mode (and two cameras side by side) has tended to become our formula for a lot of our action sequences with Kevin and we have almost a sixth sense now, even with one eye to the camera, as to where the other guy is moving." (27.04.99 Hollywood Reporter)
 

Reporter: This is a second unit filming action scenes for H:TLJ, and in yet another anonymous warehouse in the suburbs. The lead actors here are stunt doubles. A crew of up to 30 stunt men and women work on the two shows, putting together four major fight scenes a week.
Peter Bell (stunt coordinator): Basically for a show like this you got to be a good fall person. You see people taking a lot of falls, not just falling over. It's your feet wide up in the air, falling flat on your back or doing spiral falls or doing back flips and landing on your stomach. That's what makes a good fight scene. It's actually seeing a good hit, the person flying through the air and, whack, hitting the ground hard. That's what people - when you see that and you see the whole lot and people hitting the ground people go "Oww". People really feel it. (06.11.95 "Hits and Myths", New Zealand TV)

 

Sorbo spends an hour and a half a day in the Les Mills World of Fitness gym in Auckland. <...> He also puts superhuman effort into watching his diet. That means six small meals a day, easy on the meat and heavy on the pasta, and laying off the alcohol and caffeine. But every now and then he splurges, he says, "on a double-chocolate syrupy thing. Just add a banana for potassium." (16.10.95 People)
 
Kevin Sorbo: The worst was when I took a sword to the back of my head. They had to rush me to the hospital and I had to get nine stitches. Those swords weigh like 8 or 9 pounds. You swing them around and you can hurt someone. I've also been stabbed a couple of times, but never too badly. I did hurt my back quite badly, though. The next day I couldn't even get out of bed. And one time, I missed the mat I was supposed to land on and fell onto solid concrete. That didn't feel too good. (03.11.96 New York Sunday Daily News)
 
Thanks to his own experience as a fight arranger, Michael Hurst works closely with the show's stunt coordinator Bell to make Iolaus' fight scenes as interesting and exciting as possible. "Let me tell you, the stuntmen are a rare team, and you get to know them pretty well. In fact, there are a couple of them that I'm pretty much always paired against, and they look after me. They know my rhythms now, and so we get quite a few convincing-looking fights out of it." Sometimes the realistic-looking fight scenes come with a heavy price tag attached. "At the moment, I have a broken bone in my arm. It's just one of those things that happens." (08.96 Starlog Yearbook)
 
Stunts are Sorbo's biggest rush. They happen often, because someone's always chasing Herc. Sorbo does most of his own fight scenes, although "falling down five flights of stairs I leave to the stunt guys". Before first season, he studied martial arts with master Douglas Wong, who took him through an accelerated course of his white lotus system, a kind of sword and staff-embellished advanced kung fu. "Of course, in a real kung fu or karate contest, I'd get my butt kicked," Sorbo says. "But we do connect here when we throw punches - and you feel it. I have learned to pull punches and miss by 6 inches, but I was just really into this one stunt recently, and I threw an elbow out and hit a guy on the nose, and he went down. And Michael (Hurst) broke an arm in a stunt about five to six weeks ago." (03.12.95 Austin American-Statesman)
 
TVG: So what is the hardest thing about being an action hero?
Chuck Norris: Not having the time to train. And if you get hurt, ther's no time to recuperate.
Kevin Sorbo: Absolutely. <...> [You] are in most of the scenes, and you just don't get any time to rest. There's always bumps and bruises, cuts, sore back, sore knees. (14.08.99 TV Guide)
 

The publicists at MCA-TV say Sorbo is very dedicated to his Herculean role. He works with three different trainers to keep him willing and able for the daily requirements of a man who's only half mortal... (17.12.95 News Tribune)

 
Kevin Sorbo: I do work out a lot. I go to the gym and spend 90 minutes there every day, after a 14 hour day. I work out all the time, I just don't lift heavy weights. After each workout, I do some cardio, like a 3 or 4 mile run. It's my drug. Working out is a way to relieve a lot of stress. (03.11.96 New York Sunday Daily News)

 

Q: Hercules has encountered monsters, creatures, giants and various *non-human* beings. How do you, as an actor, interact with something that is not there and make us believe that you are seeing what we see?
Kevin Sorbo: That would be Kevin O'Neill's department. I get on the set and they show me what the monster will look like. Sometimes they have a tail and a head and sometimes we have nothing or a drawing. What it does is it makes you go back to your childhood. I find it pretty easy and fun. They'll give me the dynamics of the fight, the height of the animal, where my eye-line is and where its head is. They then tell me what to do, like you're going to pick up the rock and you're going to throw it at that. Your back to being a little kid in your backyard fighting whatever you're fighting. You know what it is, it's not caring if you're looking like a fool, just go for it. I know in my mind what the final product is going to look like. (06.96 Kevin Sorbo answers for H:TLJ's Forum)

 

Although his period of intensive preparation is well behind him, Sorbo still lives a high-action lifestyle. "It's very physically demanding," he says. "I'm not a martial artist, but I do about 90 percent of my own stunts." (04.96 Sci-Fi Entertainment)
 
"Kevin Sorbo: Michael (Hurst) and I do lots of our own stunts. I think people watching the show can tell. I mean, you can see our faces, you can see us throwing the punches, you can see us getting hit. Anything really dangerous though, I've got one body-double down here, his name is Sam. Sam does a good job. He's a black belt. He takes the real nasty falls for me. He takes the real crazy spins and leaps through the air. We get beat up enough on the show. I probably should do less than I'm doing right now.
Q: Do you choreograph the fights?
KS: No, fight choreographer is Peter Bell. And he does all of them. But we learn them in a day. We learn them quickly. We have to."
(07.97 Interview by R.Witterstaetter)
 
Olympiana, President of Kevin Sorbo International Fan Club: I got to watch Kevin learn and then perform fights. It was amazing how quickly he learned them and then had to perfect them for a scene. He would learn the fight 2 hours before doing it. They would have maybe 5 takes maximum and that would be it. They choreograph them perfectly. Everyone knows exactly what they have to do when. There are so many great fight scenes. It is amazing how they make each one different. (07.96 Set visit report on H:TLJ's Forum)
 
Despite the show's frequent combat scenes, the gore level never rises above a few cuts and bruises. Which doesn't make them any less difficult and potentially dangerous to shoot. <...> Peter Bell, whose company, NZ Stunts Agency, has been contracted to the series since the first telemovie, has pre-scripted the moves for each sequence and takes his "stunties" through each fight sequence in slow motion. Sorbo has a stunt double, but does all his own fighting scenes. In keeping with the set's good vibes, everyone applauds after a complex [stunt] take.
"Kevin has good body coordination, so that makes life easier", Bell says. "The challenge has been over the years to try and create different action sequences." (27.04.99 Hollywood Reporter)

"You work long hours and it is a physical show for everybody on both sides of the camera, but there is a lot of laughs on the set," says Kevin Sorbo. (27.04.99 Hollywood Reporter)
 
Kevin Sorbo: "We all play practical jokes; everybody does. You were there, Olympiana, you saw yesterday, the set is pretty loose. <...> We've got a great team. We work such long hours. Everyone on the set is sort of like a minature David Letterman. We're all just kinda like smart asses in a way. We keep it loose and have fun. They are long days, 12 to 14 hours a day, so why not have it fun for everybody." (06.96 Kevin Sorbo answers for H:TLJ's Forum)
 

Olympiana, President of Kevin Sorbo International Fan Club: I can personally vouch that the set is relaxed. Kevin and Michael (Hurst) make it fun. Michael jokes around between takes. During a scene Iolaus is suppose to say a code word to Hercules when they are fighting the bad guys. In between takes he was having fun making up all sorts of other words to say. But, Mr. Kevin Sorbo enjoyed playing some practical jokes on Olympiana during her debut as an extra [in the episode "Prince Hercules"]. I was sitting in make-up and hair. The stylist had put some curlers in my hair next to my ears. They were hot so she gave me towels to hold next to each ear. They give you robes to wear over your costume. Ms. embarrassed to show her cleavage kept it wrapped tight. Well, it came unwrapped while I was holding the curlers. All of a sudden I hear, "This will make a good picture." I look up as Kevin is taking my picture. But he's not done yet. On the set he starts to tease me that during the scene when he is suppose to walk by us extras he is going to turn and stare at me. Then out behind his Hercules shirt he pulls out his hidden camera and takes another picture. Kevin has already shared the pictures with others. (07.96 Set visit report on H:TLJ's Forum)

 
Karen Sheperd (Enforcer): "One great thing about Kevin Sorbo is that he kept his crew happy and laughing. No big "star" trip on the set, nothing to prove. I don't remember any practical jokes, but I do remember lots of laughter. We would sit around between shots and Kevin and Michael Hurst would share humerous stories about their experiences on the show, leaving us giggling into the next shot." (03.02 "Lucy In The Sky" magazine, Sweden)
 
Kevin Sorbo: The easiest part is the crew that I work with. I hope it shows up in the final product, but we have a great time on the set, and a lot of the humor from the show comes from last-minute improvs on the set, just things that happen during the course of blocking scenes. (2-8.12.96 TVGuide on-line)
 
Claudia Black (Cassandra): "Poor Kevin, the guy needs a rest! He's terrific to work with, he kept his humor, but I couldn't believe the hours that they expected of him. It is an enormous task being the lead role. It's five or six years that he's been doing it and it really takes its toll." (spring 1999 anotheruniverse.com)

 

Kevin Sorbo: I play the guitar on the set. To me, that's just a nice way to kick back. ((12).11.96 Total TV)

 

Doing his own stunts has been a point of pride with Sorbo, but he now sounds as though the action show's Herculean demands have worn him down. "Nothing compares to this show. In most other one-hour shows, it's a larger ensemble cast. I know actors working on shows like that. Certainly they have the occasional 14- to 16-hour day. But then they get two days a week maybe where they work 6 hours or don't work at all. Ours is 14 hours a day, every damn day. It does beat you up physically." (02.05.99 Star Tribune)

 

Additional material on filming specific episodes can be found on pages with comments upon the seasons:

 

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