Kevin Sorbo is an American born actor best known for his lead role in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. He played the muscle bound demi-god in the hit TV series that ran for 6 seasons. It became one of the highest rated syndicated television programs in the world. Sorbo also played the lead in the fantasy film Kull the Conquerer and starred in Gene Roddenberry's TV series, Andromeda. He's been in Christian flicks like God's Not Dead.
"I'm an actor. I'm not saving people's lives. I just hope I give them some escape from reality for a while and give them a good laugh and a good cry."
I recently interviewed Kevin at his home in Southern California and tested his strength in a friendly arm wrestling match. Guess who won?
Kevin Sorbo was raised in Minnesota by parents who taught him Christian values. When he was 13 years old he went to a Billy Graham crusade and responded to the altar call.
Kevin remembers, "It was a very happy emotional night for me. And I just always remembered it."
Reporter Michelle Wilson—"So do you think that that was the moment, that was the day that you said, 'Okay, I'm going to live for you, Jesus?'"
Kevin says, "I guess, in a way I felt like that was the day, cause it's such a marked day in my life."
Like all boys growing up, Kevin loved playtime.
Reporter Michelle Wilson—"Were you like a little young Hercules and didn't know it?"
Kevin remembers, "I was a young Hercules and I knew it. I remember in the back yard playing and running around and pretending even by myself, that I was slaying dragons and all this kind of stuff."
In college, Kevin majored in business. But secretly he wanted to be an actor. So he dropped out of the university and started his acting career in Minnesota in the late 80's. Eventually, he moved to Hollywood. After being turned down for the lead in two TV series he landed the huge break out role as Hercules which filmed in New Zealand. His 18 hour a day schedule included a grueling workout to keep him in shape. Kevin prided himself in doing most of his own stunts.
"I relished and looked forward to it. I had an amazing stunt team that made me look like I knew what I was doing."
In 1997, while filming a season three episode called, "Prince Hercules," he met leading lady, Sam Jenkins.
Sam remembers, "I can't deny it. I was intensely attracted to him right away."
Kevin remembers, "The very first scene is us outside the castle walls saying good-bye and kissing."
Reporter Michelle Wilson—"Were you nervous?"
Kevin says, "I was. I rarely forget my lines. But my first scene with her, I couldn't remember my lines."
Kevin and Jenkins started dating and soon got engaged.
"I started thinking about like picket fences and kids, and I was like seriously! I can't believe I'm telling you this. But yeah. I thought, 'I've known her one day!'" says Kevin.
"He brought up the fact that he was going to have boy, boy, girl when he got married and had kids. And I was like, 'That's so weird. That's what I'm having,'" says Jenkins.
Kevin was on top of the world. He was engaged to the woman of his dreams. Hercules had become the most watched TV show on the planet. He was promoting his first motion picture, and he was being groomed to become the next action hero. Then his life took a radical turn.
"My shoulder was just killing me. I was getting these pains, it was driving me nuts. There was numbness in here. These three fingers were getting colder and colder by the week."
Kevin went to the doctor who looked at his shoulder and thought it was just a pinched nerve. When his symptoms didn't clear up Kevin went to his chiropractor.
"And he's working on me, I'm on my back and I hear a voice say, 'Don't let him crack your neck.'"
The chiropractor cracked his neck. When Kevin left the office everything went haywire.
Kevin remembers, "I feel two very loud pops in the back of my head. I feel it. I feel like fingers jabbing in there. I feel this and my vision is all over the place."
Reporter Michelle Wilson—"You said in your book which I love. I love the way you write by the way, that it was as if an 8.9 earthquake had struck your head and you were feeling the aftershocks of that."
Kevin says, "Oh, it was unbelievable. The buzzing, the vibration, the humming that was going on. I just looked up at the sky and I said, 'I'm going to die today.'"
Over the course of a couple of days Kevin's condition grew worse. His eye sight began to fail, his balance was gone and his speech was slurred. When he went to the hospital doctors admitted him into ICU where they ran tests and found an aneurysm in his left arm.
Kevin remembers, "The lump was an aneurysm, my left side clavicle had opened up and now thousands of clots were in my arm and they thought they might have to amputate."
In addition, Kevin had suffered three strokes. The invincible "Hercules" was now incapacitated. He had a talk with God.
"I just broke down and cried. I felt like there was a death in the family. I felt like somebody had died and it was me!" says Kevin.
Reporter Michelle Wilson—"What did you ask him to do for you that day?"
Kevin says, "'Help me to find the acceptance in this.' If this is the best I'm going to be, then help me fight through this every day. Because it was tough.'"
Reporter Michelle Wilson—"You're going through all of these health challenges. You met your wife when you were at the peak of your career. Were you kind of scared that she was going to bail out on you and say perhaps, 'No I didn't sign up for all of this.'"
Kevin says, "I was scared. I was scared for my future, my career, my life. Am I going to be able to have kids? I was scared for a lot of different reasons. And we're 4 months from saying for better or for worse and she gets worse before she gets to say those lines."
Jenkins says, "I wasn't scared. I did not think that this was going to change our lives. I had for some reason, a great deal of faith."
Kevin started rehabilitation to learn how to walk again. As his speech and vision got better he thought the best thing for him to do was to keep filming.
Jenkins remembers, "As he healed, the healing brought him more faith."
After its sixth season, the Hercules series ended. Although Kevin still had a 10 percent loss of vision in both eyes, he continued acting in movies and hit television series.
"I've done 40 movies since then as well. So I'm shooting one now and I've got another one after this, so knock on wood, thank God I'm still working," says Kevin.
Kevin and Sam married and by the way—they had two boys and a girl in that order just as they said they would.
"He is the best man that I know. And this has only made him better. He's a good guy. He's a great dad. He's a great husband. And he's a great man," says Jenkins.
Kevin says, "Faith is not tangible, you can't touch it. It's something that's a belief, something that's inside of you. And I needed hope and faith to keep pushing myself past every single day of what I was going through and what I felt. My true strength comes from God and certainly from my family right after that. They're the most important things in my life."
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