Written by Neil Greenaway
At Wizard World Des Moines 2016 I had the chance to sit down and talk with Kevin Sorbo of Hercules & God's Not Dead about his take on acting. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 05/15/2016, and you can read their version of it here.
Neil Greenaway: Hi! I’m Neil Greenaway, and I am sitting here with Mr. Kevin Sorbo, Hercules himself, at the Wizard World Des Moines. How are you doing today, Kevin?
Kevin Sorbo: I’m doing pretty good, you know, it’s been a busy day doing a lot of publicity. Kinda plugging the con. But I got some golf in today, which is something I have to do wherever I go.
NG: I understand that you are one heck of a golfer.
KS: You know, I grew up with the game. My dad was a golfer. He was a teacher, but he worked at a golf course in the summers. So we all just got good at it.
NG: Honestly, are you any good?
KS: I was a 2 handicap in high school. That’s not too bad. And I’m a 5 right now, so….
NG: You’re maintaining.
KS: Maintaining, yes. I shot a 78 today, and I’m happy with that.
NG: Nice. So, what are you here getting publicity for? What’s the new movie or project?
KS: You know, I’ve got a number of new movies coming out. And obviously I come here because there are a lot of Hercules fans, a lot of Andromeda fans. I’ve shot about 48 movies. It’s interesting being at Comic Con, because this movie is not really a Comic Con movie. I did a movie two years ago called God’s Not Dead.
And it ended up being the #1 independent movie in Hollywood. The third highest dollar for dollar movie in the history of Hollywood. A 2 million dollar budget, made 140 million dollars. So, a 70x return on that was pretty good. But mostly, I come here for the sci-fi stuff, or some of the campy movies I’ve done. It’s just fun. And I enjoy doing it. I try to do 5 or 6 of these a year.
NG: Now, I actually just saw that God Is Dead 2 is playing here in Des Moines right now. Did you have anything to do with the sequel?
KS: No. God’s NOT Dead. Because of the success of God’s Not Dead, they made a God’s Not Dead 2. So, I heard, I hear… I don’t know if it’s doing that great. It’s doing ok. But for whatever reason, God’s Not Dead just caught fire and went crazy.
NG: I will be honest, I haven’t seen the sequel yet. But I have read a lot of the reviews, and I have been noticing a lot of comparisons between the sequel and yours. And I’ve been hearing a lot about just how brilliantly sinister you came off.
KS: Thank you.
NG: That Kevin Sorbo makes an excellent bad guy. If you did not know that yet.
KS: Thank you! You hear that Marvel? You hear that Marvel?
NG: Oh, please, Marvel. Everybody else gets to be Marvel.
KS: Come on, for crying out loud. Seriously. They need to wake up. And Stan Lee? I know Stan! But I don’t think he has any power over who gets into the movies.
NG: I hear Marvel has a character… named Hercules. Just throwing that out there.
KS: Uh, hello. Hello.
NG: I also just recently found out that you were Hercules in the God Of War series.
KS: God Of War! God Of War 3 and God Of War… Revelations? Or something. It was like… I don’t know. But I did the voice for those, yeah.
NG: I did not play those games, but I think that is a brilliant nod.
KS: It was fun. And I had a good time doing it.
NG: That’s cool. Now, I understand that recently you have been getting into a lot more of the faith based movies.
KS: I’ve been doing quite a few. You know, it’s funny. My first one I did was with John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers), Kristy Swanson (the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Debby Ryan (from the Disney channel). And it’s called What If?, from the same writers and company that did God’s Not Dead. And then it just sort of multiplied. But I’m mixing it up. I mean, I got a movie called Julia X where I play a serial killer. So that’s a little different.
NG: We had just heard of that. I think that is an amazing idea.
KS: Well, you gotta check it out. It was fun. Unfortunately, and I think it’s a good movie, but the director and the producer… I mean, sorry, the financer and the director got in this huge fight over rights. And it stayed in court for three years. And so, I think that what happened was three years… It doesn’t mean you can’t release a movie after it’s been done for three years, but what happened was some (a lot) of pirated copies got out. And it just flooded the market. Especially over in Europe. So that kind of killed the movie for getting its theatrical release.
NG: Now, that’s actually interesting. We’ve been doing a number of pieces on Bleeding Cool recently dealing with licensing agreements and, specifically, pirated art and creators rights. Does that affect you as an actor?
KS: Oh sure it does. Sure it does. It effects Hollywood. It effects everybody. I mean, let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty of doing it. So it’s out there. How do you stop it? I don’t know. You know, people buy blank DVDs, blank CDs. Why are they buying them? You know?
NG: Well, that is very true. Now going back to What If?, I have just heard glowing reviews of that as well. I understand that is an amazing children's movie.
KS: I think that it is for all ages, it’s got a lot more humor in it. There are a lot of touching moments. I always tell people to have a box of Kleenex nearby. But it was fun. I had a fun. And John Ratzenberger was a hoot to work with. I’m a big fan of the original Cheers series. And it was, well, it opened a door for me. I’m actually directing and starring in one, in Birmingham, AL, a faith based film called Let There Be Light. It’s got a wonderful script that my wife co-wrote with Dan Gordon. People may know Dan from – he wrote The Hurricane with Denzel Washington. He wrote Wyatt Earp with Kevin Costner. He’s a really good writer, and we are very excited to get this thing going.
NG: Another thing that I had only just recently found out, but your wife played the Golden Hind on Hercules.
KS: She played the Golden Hind, yes. That is how we met on Hercules.
NG: I think that is awesome, how your on-screen romance turned into real life.
KS: Life imitating art, art imitating life. Whatever, you know. So we ended up married. And I told her, you know, every two weeks they send a hot babe for me to work with. So it’s a pretty good dating service for me. (laughs) She doesn’t like it when I say that.
NG: But hey, she married you anyway.
KS: That’s right, she married me anyway.
NG: That’s a sign of a keeper, right there. Let’s see. What else? When you are doing these faith based movies, when your career is taking that turn, are you still paying attention – are you still fielding offers from the fantasy and sci-fi front? I suppose that Julia X is definitely different.
KS: Oh yeah! I would love to do… I mean, I’ve got a movie coming up with Dean Cain. So we got Superman and Hercules working together. But it is a drama, called Carpool Lane. I’ve got one that I’m shooting in Toronto this year called Flash Drive, which is sort of like a Backdraft movie. I’m a fireman in that one. So, I’m mixing it up. And I’ve got a couple of other sports ones that I want to get done. I’ve got one, a very funny comedy called The Incorrect Man, which makes fun of political correctness. It is SO funny. And it really… It’s sort of in the vein of like David Zucker, like Airplane or Naked Gun. It’s just so over the top and ridiculous. To show how stupid political correctness is. Because I am not that politically correct.
NG: That is all right. I think that it got very IN to be politically correct for a while.
KS: It’s like everybody is looking for a reason to be offended. After a while, you’re going
“Well I love the color blue.”
“Well, I hate blue, and you’ve offended me.”
And it’s like, are you kidding me? Everybody is just looking for a reason to have a fight.
NG: On your future projects, I had just heard an interview with you (a different interview) where you had said that you would be working on the new Left Behind films. Is that still in the works?
KS: It is still in the works. It’s in the works. Is it happening? I don’t know. Because I know that they had trouble with the last one, with Nick Cage. It didn’t turn out like they wanted it to.
NG: And I suppose that would be a further question. Would your movie feed off of that, or would it be a new start?
KS: A completely different start. Off one of the many books. I don’t know how many books they wrote, but they wrote quite a few books.
NG: I have actually read the whole series. And I’m going to make a confession here, I am an Atheist.
KS: Really? Ok.
NG: But I really enjoyed those books. I read the whole series, loved them. And I watched the first film… not the Nick Cage version, but the…
KS: You watched the one years ago with Brad Johnson and Kirk Cameron in it? Man that was a long time ago.
NG: I actually still own that. (shame)
KS: Well, Dallas Jenkins is the son of Jerry Jenkins who, with LaHaye, wrote all those books. And I did What If? with Dallas Jenkins. What If? is a really well done movie. It really is. It’s a good story.
NG: If you got into Left Behind, and I know that you say it is still in the works, would you be playing Rayford (the main character)?
KS: We’ll see if it happens. I honestly don’t know where they were going to go with that.
NG: Because (I’m going to be honest) after hearing about God Is Dead…
KS: God Is NOT Dead.
NG: Right, God’s Not Dead…
KS: You’re the Atheist, so you say God Is Dead. (laughs)
NG: But my thought immediately went to Nicolai. I think that you would make a brilliant Nicolai.
KS: (pointing to the camera) You hear that? You hear that?
NG: Kevin Sorbo IS a bad guy.
KS: I enjoy that! In fact, I have another one that I am dealing with right now with a couple guys up in Toronto. And it deals with basically, the last temptation of Christ. And I want the Satan role. It is amazing. I mean, I read this guys script, and they wanted me for Pilot. And I said “No, no, no” I said, “Jesus has got to be in his early 30’s, because that’s what he was. But Satan can be anything. It could be a woman, it could be a building, it can be whatever the hell he wants to be. Because he is from Hell.”
NG: Very literally.
KS: But it is such a great, well written role. And I said, “I want that part.” And also check out Julia X. I think you will get a kick out of it.
NG: Ok. If I could, I have to touch on Hercules, just a bit.
KS: Oh, yeah, sure.
NG: My wife and I just revisited the entire series. Start to finish.
KS: You are awesome!
NG: And then we moved into Xena as well, and just wrapped up Xena.
KS: Xena was our third year spin-off. Young Hercules was our fifth year spin-off. A lot of people don’t know about Young Hercules.
NG: I didn’t know about Young Hercules!
KS: It was two seasons, got canceled. (To my wife, off-screen) Do you know who played me as a teenager?
SaraJean Greenaway: (off-camera) Yeah, I had just read about it!
KS: Ryan Gosling! A 20 year old Ryan Gosling. The show got canceled, and Ryan was like, devastated. So I took him out to dinner, I said, “Dude, you are a good actor. You are going to be fine.” Now he’s on all these huge movies, and it’s like, dude, throw ME a bone! (laughs) You know? It’s like, geez.
NG: Were you in Young Hercules at all?
KS: What we did was, because it’s him playing me as a teenager. So we did an episode where I was talking to myself as a teen. So you had him sitting up in a tree somewhere, watching me. And it was me at the gravesite of my mother. And we’re just having this conversation. And that was kind of the introduction to that spin-off.
NG: One thing that comes up a lot is, I know people see you at conventions. You are big in the convention circuit. You are everywhere. But what about Michael Hurst? Does he still do the conventions?
KS: He does, but you know, we shot in New Zealand. And Michael is a kiwi. And even Lucy only comes over, maybe once every couple years. She doesn’t do many. But Michael and I just did two of them in Australia last year. We were in Adelaide and Perth. And it was unbelievable. I can only hope that it is busy like that here. Because I must have signed… We each signed about 400 a day, we probably took 200-400 pictures a day. It was crazy.
NG: Are you guys really as buddy-buddy as Hercules and Iolaus might have been?
KS: Not as buddy-buddy that way. Michael and I are friends, there’s no question. We formed a friendship over seven years of working together. But we don’t keep… You know, time and distance. He’s got his kids and his career, I’ve got my kids and my career. But you know, there’s an email every three months. Just: Hey, boom boom boom, what’s going on? Catch up.
NG: You guys are still in each others lives.
KS: Oh yeah. And he’s the premiere Shakespearian actor of New Zealand. He loved doing the series, it put his face on the map. It gave him money. But he is all about being on the stage.
NG: I’m not going to lie to our audience. I still picture him in the costume of the Widow Twanky, teaching Bruce Campbell how to dance. Seductively.
KS: Hey, he directed one of those episodes as the Widow Twanky. It was very difficult to take him seriously. He has the blue wig on, with the fake boobs. And he’s talking to me as Michael, real serious. And there is a photo of me looking down at him, just starting to laugh, where he was getting real serious in this scene. And the photographer caught it just at the right time. It was so funny.
NG: That is awesome. One more question, this time on a bit of a sadder note. In our preparation for this interview, I have just heard of the passing of Kevin Smith. That must have been tragic.
KS: Gosh, that was over, probably, 13 years ago. Or 14 years ago. Kevin was my golfing buddy. And Ares was… I wanted him for Ares from the start. If you watch the first season, of one hour shows, because we did 5 two hour movies first, you will see that they had a really goofy Ares. On stilts, and stuff like that. And I hated that. But Universal wanted to make all these dolls and toys, and action figures. And I said, “It doesn’t matter. You’re going to make an action figure of me, why can’t you make one of him?” And I had worked with Kevin before, and I said, “He’s the guy who’s got to be our Ares.” And it was a no brainer. So we got him in. But my last time seeing Kevin was, when my show finished, Xena went one more year. Because we started two years before them. And I went down to guest star in one of the roles. And Kevin and I… I stayed an extra week to golf with Kevin and hang out. We went to dinner, and then I went to his midnight improv show. He did a lot of sports theater. Or theater sports, as they call it. Oh, a very funny guy, a stand-up guy. It was like Whose Line Is It Anyway?, that type of show. And I went home, and he was going to start a movie in China. And about two months later, that’s when I heard about it.
NG: That is horrible.
KS: Yeah, it sucked. I have been back to New Zealand three times. And I go to his grave site every time and have our favorite beer. And I sit there and have a talk with him.
NG: Well that sounds really cool. I think that about wraps it up for us here. It was a pleasure to meet you, sir.
KS: It was nice to meet you as well.
NG: Thank you for your time.
KS: Thanks, guys. And come to the Con!