The life Down Under

Kevin Sorbo: "It took me 15 years to become an overnight success." (24.08.97 Calgary Sun)



(11.93 - 07.99)


On November 15, 1993, production started on a series of TV-movies about Hercules - as part of Universal Television's "Action Pack".

"I thought I was going to wear a toga," said Hercules star Kevin Sorbo with no small measure of relief. <...> Of course, it wasn't all fun and games as the actor would attest. For five weeks, he trained under martial arts instructor Douglas Wong, underwent a weight training program and studied horseback riding. And when there were rather memorable happenings, or should we say BEATINGS, during the making of the five Hercules films. "It seemed like every time I turned around, I was taking a pounding," the actor mused. "There was this one incident with this 400-lb guy who knew nothing about acting. Because of the way the cameras were positioned, we could miss each other and still sell the punch. But this guy was no actor and he had a huge ego, so he kept getting closer and closer with his punches. Finally, during one take, he just brushed by my nose. I walked over and said: 'Listen man. This is not real. It's a movie. If you want to win your fights, get your own show.' I thought at that point everything would be cool but, sure enough, on the very next take, he connected - and I went flying." (16.10.96 Glitter v.5, #2)

Kevin Sorbo: I was hired to do four two-hour movies over a period of seven months. Halfway through, they added a fifth (movie), and it was nine or 10 months. Initially we were working six days a week, 15- or 16-hour days. They were killing me. (14.01.97 Times - Picayune)

Kevin Sorbo: Anthony Quinn was a great Zeus. He taught me a lot. (05.10.98 WPIX TV online chat)
Sorbo: "We bonded quickly, and he told me some amazing stories." (Unknown source)
Sorbo admits that he was at times bothered by his character's image in some of the original movies, in which he was often spouting dialogue that made him look just slightly more intelligent than a sack of doorknobs. "I kept my mouth shut in that first movie because I was the new kid on the block," he says. "We were feeling ourselves out, trying to find the characters, trying to find where we wanted to go. There was dialogue I didn't want to say, and I didn't speak up. Beginning with the second movie, I decided to start putting my opinions into it. Not to say that I had anything to do with the writing, but I did have something to do with making the dialogue more comfortable for me." (10.95 Sci-Fi Universe #10)
Kevin Sorbo: Nobody has told me how to play it. I really think I found it in the second movie. The first movie I was a little bit lost, sort of floundering. That also came from the script. The second script fed into what I thought Hercules felt he should be. I remember exactly, I was doing a fight scene, and I remember exactly the time, the day and where I was. It was like an out-of-body experience. And I said "yeah, this is it." It was cool. It was neat. I remember it like it was yesterday, and it's over three years ago. (07.97 Interview Renee Witterstaetter in Auckland, NZ)

Kevin Sorbo: We were into the third movie and I was just sitting on the set one day. They were getting ready to do a shot. And I was kind of hanging out, watching the lighting things and stuff. And, I said, "You know what, I got a feeling this is going to be made into a series." I go in there in a couple of days later, and they said, "What have you heard?" I said haven't heard. It's just a gut feeling. Well, in about a month, six weeks, sure enough the studio called and said, "Look, we want to pick it up for a season, maybe do a series out of it." The contract talks started happening. ((12).11.96 Total TV)


haere mai (kiwi) = welcome

It turned out that for the next five years Auckland, New Zealand became Kevin's home.

Kevin Sorbo: The homesickness thing really was tough the first year and a half. It took me about a year and a half to go, 'This is home'. This is home. ((12).11.96 Total TV)


In February 1995, Kevin Sorbo, who was beginning to make a name for himself in "Hercules", did a screen test for Kull. Producer Raffaella de Laurentiis: "We saw so many people for the role. It was unbelievable. It was only when I found and tested Kevin that I felt it was OK to make the movie. I saw immediately that he brought a fresh, younger approach to the role." (12.97 Starlog special: Legendary Heroes)

"We really didn't know how popular the show had become around the world because we were toiling away here in New Zealand." <...> Sorbo says he was surprised when he took his first break last summer [1995] from "Hercules" and was nearly mobbed at a Los Angeles airport by fans shouting, "There's Hercules!" (25.05.96 Tampa Tribune)
"Hercules has a lot of my personality," says Kevin, as he sips on bottled water and towels off after a 90-minute workout. "The character has a sense of humor and isn't afraid to show his vulnerability." ((08).95 Starbiz)

...Consider Sorbo's two-year bi-country relationship with Erin Dodson, a Los Angeles children's clothing designer, whom he met on a blind date. She has managed to visit him 13 times, and they recently took a Hawaiian vacation. "It gets hard because we talk once a day for five minutes, on his lunch break or whatever," says Dodson. "We do the best we can." Sorbo agrees that "we're just playing it by ear. She's got her career and I've got mine." For now, his place is in Auckland, where he puts in 16-hour shooting days up to six days a week. Sounds kind of lonely, Herc. "You do want somebody to go to the movies with," he admits. "I'm a guy like anybody else." (03.07.95 People)

By the fall it became clear that their relationship didn't survive the long-distance separations. Or, as journalist put it, "Sorbo... is back in the agora again after recently calling it quits with sweetheart Erin Dodson". (16.10.95 People)


Click for the photo album


<...> Sorbo says that filming schedules are dictated by New Zealand's unique weather patterns. "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." It's a luxury Sorbo wouldn't mind having, especially now. He was recently offered a film by Universal, and, on a more personal note, he admits to getting homesick. "It hit me last week that I've been here for 20 months now, and I just don't feel a part of Los Angeles anymore," he sighs. "I don't really see the effect of the show. I can see reviews, and I can hear the producers saying the numbers are great, but down here I'm just going to work and occasionally getting noticed for my Jim Beam commercials."
Still, Sorbo comes across as anything but bitter or bored with the role. And thanks to an ever-increasing number of diverse acting offers, he has little fear of being forever typecast as Hercules. "I don't think I'm going to become a victim of the show," he stresses. "I feel very confident in myself and my talent. Yes, I've got a long way to go as an actor, but like with anybody, I'll get better with on-the-job experience like I'm getting now. I may even get to direct one of the upcoming episodes. Maybe I'm not qualified to direct in general, but I'm certainly qualified to direct this show." (10.95 Sci-Fi Universe #10)
Lucy Lawless (Xena): "Kevin really hasn't changed very much [since the first movie]; he's a nice guy and good to work with. This has, in a funny way, become Kevin's home, and I think he's looking at buying a place because he has been down here for two years. He has a lot of friends here, and it's quite enriching, living in another country for a period of time. He seems to be handling it fine." (01.96 Starlog #222)
What tests Sorbo's patience are the tabloids, which follow his every move. When he was spotted at the Chicago baseball game with Hercules wardrobe girl Francesca King, papers reported the pair were romantically involved [03-04.96]. "We were both in town at the same time and she'd never seen a baseball game. Next thing I knew there a couple photos taken and stories that we were dating hot and heavy. The truth was we went out on a couple dates, maybe three, six months earlier but it never made it on paper then. You can't even go out with a woman friend without being linked with that person," he adds a little more angrily. "It suddenly becomes 'Hercules Hunk Is Dating The World'. But there is nothing I can do about it, because that is what sells papers." (19.07.96 TV Guide, NZ)
"Any actor who gets work is lucky," said Sorbo over coffee at a Santa Monica hotel during his sabbatical from the series. "It's like being struck by lightning to get a job. Also if you get a hit. I got struck by lightning twice, and I lived to tell about it." Sorbo is assured of steady work for the next two years, and now there's talk that Universal may want to extend for a third year. "Now do I want to add a third year?" he mused, laughing dubiously. "Two and a half years of beating myself up the way I've been doing. The show is a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work, too." The workday is 12-16 hours, much of it involving running, jumping, fighting and falling. He does as many of the stunts as safety permits. <...> Despite the remoteness, Sorbo enjoys the New Zealand experience. The fans aren't as prevalent as they are in the United States, partly because Hercules didn't appear on New Zealand TV until two months ago. (12.04.96 The News-Times)
"Yes, it is I, Kevin Sorbo himself attempting the impossible, a message on the internet, the web thingamajig, the, dare I say it?!?!? The "C" word.... COMPUTER!!!! AAAHHHH!!!! I plead partial insanity. I plead myself as a technological Handicap. I didn't realize I was e-mail compatible. I throw myself at the mercy of the PC and modem court circumnavigating their evil, twisted, intellectual minds across the globe. Show pity for I have an excuse, an alibi if you wish, as to why it has taken me so long to speak to the Herc faithful. I, are you seated? I am a computer retard. There I said it. It's out for all the world to see. The tabloids will have a field day. I can see the headlines now: "Herc Hunk Can't Hack It!!!" But, wait!! There is hope. For you see, I have just purchased my first computer. A laptop with all the correct megabytes and software, hardware stuff you can cram into it. I have books for computer idiots. I have a PC person coming over to program my peanut brain. I will learn your language. I promise you. It may take 3-4 years, but, I will figure this madness out.
Now for a quick update. I was just back in the good old U. S. of A. for a three week trip. Divided between L.A. and Las Vegas. The former for some P.R. type work, the latter for sun, lots of golf, and a bit of gambling. My mind and body needed the rest. This past year, though fun, was a tad brutal.
We, the Herc show, have a 2-year pickup, and I am back in New Zealand, as I type this, working on the new season. Thank you all for your support and interest in the show. My pal and cohort in action, Michael Hurst, thanks you all as well. I will be in radio contact. Love, hugs and kisses for those who want them. Cheers, Kevin." (19.04.96 message from HERCSTAFF, Hercules Forum -- I'm not able to verify the authenticity, I'm placing this here because it seems to have Kevin's intonation)
Kevin Sorbo: Michael Hurst and I are good friends off the set as well. He is a good man and a lot of fun to hang out with. We do the dinner thing when we can, grab a few brews afterwork and discuss those manly things like sports and how we could solve the world's problems. <...> New Zealand life has most definitely changed since the show started to air here. People are usually quite nice, but I must say I sort of liked the quiet before it started to show. ((spring).96 MCA forum Q&A)
Sorbo shies away from personal questions about who he is dating. He's single and has apartments in Los Angeles and New Zealand. After working 14-hour days on the series, he relaxes by strumming his guitar. <...> Taking the role was a risk, he says, because if it flopped, he'd be labeled as a loser. But if it succeeded, he might be labeled as Hercules forever. "I want to work in feature films. I'd like to do romantic comedy but I'll probably have to do action adventure now. But I enjoy this role." (25.05.96 Tampa Tribune)
Kevin Sorbo: I don't have any time to relax and unwind. I go to this person to work on my body to try and work on stress points. I have a lot of stress in my neck and lower back. I try to get a weekly massage. (06.96 Answering for H:TLJ's Forum)
Sorbo does most of his own stunts which is fine by him: "I realised when I took the job that they wanted me to do my own stunts. I had no problems with that; it comes with the territory and I enjoy it. It's like being at football camp every day." <...> The actor has returned to Los Angeles for only about three months since filiming on the series began last year and he admits he gets homesick. "Auckland is growing on me and I'm really enjoying myself," he says, "but my heart is still in America, even if my body is in New Zealand." (19.07.96 TV Guide, NZ)


While Sorbo's portrayal of the mythical strongman has accomplished everything for his career, it's done nothing for his love life, a subject which he's candid. "I'd love to get into a relationship," he says coyly, "but I have a hard schedule, working 14-16 hours on production days, and it'd be hard for anyone to put up with it. Would I like to have a girlfriend who'd be there all the time? Heck, yeah. But you try and have a date and then it rains and you call and say you have to work and they're not willing to put up with my hours. And I don't have the patience to deal with all that right now either." (19.07.96 TV Guide, NZ)


Kevin Sorbo and Sam Jenkins had missed the opportunity to meet each other twice (once in Germany as models, once more at movie "Twenty Bucks"). For the third time Destiny seized them.

In June, 1996, while filming "Prince Hercules" the actress who was playing Princess Kirin left Kevin feeling like he'd been hit by one of Zeus's lightning bolts.

Kevin Sorbo: Let me put it this way, when we were in make-up the first day she was in her chair over there and I was in my chair here... she left and I looked at Annie, my make-up artist, in the mirror and said "Annie, I'm in trouble. I'm in big trouble." And we've had a lot of, you know, people come and go from the show... and it's uh... I don't know, something just blew me away.
Sam Jenkins-Sorbo: I didn't want to date an actor and I didn't. It's just that the whole actor/actor thing... and so we really...
Kevin: And so I said... "I'm not the same as all those guys."
Sam: And you know he started putting the moves on me and I was like "right!"
Kevin: I move very quickly... I must say.
Sam: He asked the first night... he came up to me and he said the first night that we shot he said, "Are you married? Are you engaged? Do you have a boyfriend?" The very first night! I answered: "" And then he said "Oh, I'm screwed, alright."
Kevin: I said, "How are we going to work this out?"
Sam: And then of course it turned out to be the real thing. I called my girlfriend after I had been down here for 10 days and said that I was in love. And she said "What?!" <...> You know what the most unusual thing about Kevin is that he's so normal. He's an exceptional human being but he thinks like he's normal. Does that make sense? I mean I came down here fully expecting an ego-maniac. There's a guy who's good-looking, he's tall, he has a great body. I mean it's like a given, the world knows this. He has got a number one show world wide it's his show... no argument there. I mean I just assumed I was going to run into somebody with a large ego. Even if he was a nice guy... it would be like he's a nice guy... but he doesn't even know it.
(05.03.98 Entertainment Tonight, TV)


"I want to get in a suit, chop off my hair and play a whole different part," says Sorbo with a hopeful glint in his eye. "It's so easy for people to keep blinders on, so they can see you just one way, but I plan to change all that." (19.07.96 TV Guide, NZ)
It's taken Kevin Sorbo a long time to get used to living in Auckland. At first, he was terribly homesick for his native Minnesota. <...> He manages to nip home as often as he can, in between trips to Fiji or the Whitsunday Islands of Queensland to top up his golden tan. (29.07.96 Woman's Weekly, NZ)
Kevin's just had his brother and little nephew to visit, and after weeks of pleas, he's managed to find room for his nephew in the show as extra. "I guess I could say he's my number one fan," says Kevin. "he has photo's of me all over his bedroom wall. It's all very flattering, but it does put a lot of pressure on me, I can tell you." (29.07.96 Woman's Weekly, NZ)

Kevin Sorbo's luxury Newmarket apartment has been a closely guarded secret... until now. It's got floor-to-ceiling windows and a view over the tree-tops of Auckland's Domain. This is the $900,000 apartment Kevin Sorbo reckons is fit for a half-man, half-god. Whether he's sprawling on his king-size bed or cooking up a man-sized pot of pasta in his gleaming stainless steel kitchen, Kevin knows this is one place he has been able to escape the pressures of fame. For Kevin's life has taken a turn for the worse in New Zealand. On-screen he may spend most of his time battling evil gods but off-screen he's discovered an even more dastardly foe - late-night Kiwi drunks. Suddenly, the beery bully in the corner of the pub just can't resist challenging the son of Zeus to a fight outside. "There have been some guys who have done that, and it cracks me up. The character's just not played that way. He's not macho or a bully, he's fallible, he makes mistakes. I always try to explain to people that it's just a TV show. I'll tell a guy that if he wants me to yell to the world that he scared Hercules, I will," says Kevin. "There are a few New Zealanders who have this macho thing. It's all pretty silly to me," he adds with a laugh. (29.07.96 Woman's Weekly, NZ)

TTV: Anybody ever walk up to you on the street looking for a fight?
Kevin Sorbo: You get that a little bit. <...> I met a few guys, it happened mostly in this country, New Zealand. New Zealand and Australia. They got this... every country's got this macho image, but these countries are really... I think there's the isolation, maybe. I don't know.
TTV: Is it that prison colony mentality?
Kevin Sorbo: Drinking and getting in fights. Redneck mentality in a way. I've had... you've just kind of got to walk away from it. It becomes ridiculous. ((12).11.96 Total TV)


Kevin is traveling to Slovakia during the show's break to begin filming a new adventure movie, "Kull". (29.07.96 Woman's Weekly, NZ)

More about filming "Kull"


Kevin Sorbo: [about Sam Jenkins] We've just been dating for five or six months. She lives in Los Angeles, so its tough because I'm in New Zealand most of the time. (03.11.96 New York Sunday Daily News)


TV shows
Roles he lost
Roles he got


Laughs Sorbo, "Now that I'm locked into Hercules, all kinds of other offers are coming in. But hey, I'm workingl So how can I complain?" (16.10.96 Glitter v.5, #2)


TTV: In the US, they're going to start showing liquor ads on TV. Is your Jim Beam going to pop up? Is it going to hurt your image?
Kevin Sorbo: I said "no". They offered me quite a lot of money. You know, maybe it's hypocritical of me in a way because I let (the spot) run worldwide. But then you can say that about every actor. I've seen Kevin Costner in beer ads over in this country. I've seen Brooke Shields and Demi Moore in ads that you never see in America - that are far more risque, far more sexual or far more whatever. But they do it because the money's there and they say, "Yeah. Why not? It's not going to be shown in America. It's not going to hurt me and I might as well pocket a little extra cash." I did the Jim Beam ad five years ago. I shot that down in New Zealand of all places, so here I am back. It was like a foretelling of what was going to happen. <...> I will not begrudge people doing cigarette ads or beer ads or liquor ads if they want to do those things, but I will not. I don't think it's the message I want to get across to the country that I live in, even though the ad isn't... did you ever see the ad? It's actually pretty funny. <...> It's not like a bad commercial in terms of the sexual content of beer ads in America. But I just look at it and said, you know, it's probably something I should do and probably wouldn't hurt me, but I'm sure they're going to put it on at a time after nine or ten o'clock and it probably wouldn't hurt me. But I decided it wouldn't be a smart thing to do. ((12).11.96 Total TV)


Kevin Sorbo: I've been in New Zealand permanently for three years now. I sold my house, I sold my car. I'm a man without a residence in this country. <...> I have someone who comes over a couple times a week. I don't have time to clean. My God, I work 90 hours a week. I really can't worry about cleaning my toilet. I don't even had time to go to the grocery store or to the post office. (03.11.96 New York Sunday Daily News)


Learn more about that part of Kevin's life, that took place on the set - The Legendary Filming


Kevin Sorbo is now one of the most-sought-alter stars in the world and he is delighting in every minute. Women swoon wherever he goes, teenagers and children adore him. TV executives bow and scrape for a moment of his time, but Kevin will never forget his dark days. "I have seen the underbelly of this business and it's not pretty," he says. (07.04.98 TV Week, Australia)
"While the 20th century was preoccupied with lengthening the human lifetime, often with little regard to quality of life, the new millennium will give birth to a greater understanding and growing interest in fitness, exercise and nutrition. Not only longevity, but also lifestyle will be addressed earlier and more seriously in schools, in the hopes of giving our children a chance for more fulfilling and happier lives." Kevin Sorbo. April 25, 1998. (07.00 "Predictions for the Next Millennium: Thoughts on the 1,000 Years Ahead from Today's Celebrities"; 174 page hardcover book. Oliver Stone, Anthony Quinn, Jackie Chan, The Dalai Lama, plus many more from sports, government, and entertainment).


Nielsen Syndication Ratings for Action Dramas in ALL syndicated TV shows: 23) "Xena" 3.7 [waste - 1.2]; 25) "Hercules" 3.6 [waste - 0.6]. (22.02.99 Whoosh!)
Service providers to H:TLJ said they had been told the show could finish by July. One source said there had been no official notification, but everyone on the set had been talking about the show finishing. (20.02.99 NZ Herald)

Kevin Sorbo is said to be "tired of living half a world away from his family and friends and America in general." A representative from the publicity side of Renaissance Pictures said that "several issues are left to be resolved in terms of the show. Until those are resolved [the production company] cannot commit beyond 8 episodes at this time." (24.03.99 GEOS - News)

"I'm actively pursuing more work now. I'm 99.9 percent sure the show is over, which is sad." The reason for that, Sorbo suggested, is purely financial. H:TLJ producer and syndicator Studios USA made a deal three years ago with USA Network for the reruns to air daily on the cable channel. But, said Sorbo, the episodes were sold at too low a price. Without the big bucks such a successful show usually commands, production has just gotten too pricey. Sorbo's contract runs through the final shows. He said there were some negotiations early on about his continuing in the role, but the company wanted him to take a "huge" pay cut. "I understand; that's the business side of the business," he said. "You've got to remember, that's the way the game is played." Sorbo said he's discussing roles in three new series and a couple of films. Still, despite the offers of work - all of which will bring him Stateside - he's sad about the end of 'Hercules'. (15.04.99 New York Daily News)
Robert Tapert (producer on H:TLJ): "There were stories around that the Studios asked Kevin Sorbo to take a big pay cut. That was part of any standard negotiation. In reality, the studio wanted to replace "Hercules" with a new show. <...> My attorney and I met with his people, we laid out a game plan where we wanted Kevin to commit to three more years of Hercules, and we'd find a place to sell it. But it would require him committing to three more years of Herc and he just didn't want to do that." (01.01 Whoosh!)
According to Sorbo, Studios USA (which syndicates H:TLJ) hammered out an agreement with Renaissance Pictures (the company that produces the show) that called for only eight episodes to be produced for the 1999-2000 season. Why the abbreviated season? Because that would give Studios USA just enough segments for ultra-lucrative, five-days-a-week strip syndication. Negotiations on a deal for a full season were fruitless. "They've got the number of episodes that they want to have," Sorbo says. "It's sad for everybody. I'm still enjoying the show and so is everybody else. We have a blast doing it. This has been a wonderful ride. On the one hand, it's sad that you're leaving when you're still so hot and the episodes are doing so well. On the other side of it, it's nice to leave when you're on top." (09/10.99 Cinescape)
Robert Tapert (producer on H:TLJ): "I was hoping to at least get the full season order, and that's kind of what Kevin wanted, but the number thats his representatives were talking about for him to continue on the show were more than the studio was willing to spend at that time. I did everything I could to keep H:TLJ on the air. Kevin had this offer from the Tribune group to do "Andromeda" and they gave him everything he wanted." (10.00 Xena Magazine)
"Universal Studios wanted to go three more years with the show, but I'm the culprit. I'm the bad guy [choose the intonation by yourself - apologizing, sarcastic or insulted]. I wanted to move on and do something else. I loved Hercules, and still miss my friends. I miss New Zealand. But I thought seven seasons was enough. I started actively looking probably six months prior to H:TLJ wrapping up in July 1999". (04.02


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