Kevin Sorbo > Biography
Kevin Sorbo, the fourth of five children, was born on the 24th September 1958 in a strict Lutheran family of Norwegian background. He grew up in Mound, then the most rural part of the suburbs of Minneapolis. His native state, Minnesota, is known as "The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes" - very beautiful and one of the most healthy states of USA. Kevin's father, Lynn, taught biology and mathematics at school, his mother, Ardis, quit nursing to raise the children.
It's easy to realize how high Kevin values his early years by reading interviews - when asked about mythology, Australia, Star Trek or music, he goes: "As a kid I...." No one will be so ready to return to the childhood if it was not warm, safe and cosy. As a child, Kevin was very camera shy, and his Mom recalls him hiding when the grandparents wanted to take pictures. When he was 7 or 8 years old he had tasted golf. "My memory of golf growing up was that it was this big, free thing to do. I loved it." At the same age Kevin started working. He became "the paper boy" which meant getting up at 4:30 in the morning and delivering newspapers six days a week.
When Kevin was 11, his vocation seized him. His parents took him to see a musi-cal "Oklahoma!" in one of the neighbouring schools. "One of the main reasons I got involved in acting, when I was a kid I saw a play and it touched me so much. It opened my eyes."
However, outwardly nothing had changed. In the mornings he was dragging packs of newspapers, then he went to school where he aside from the lessons found energy to play American football (as offensive and defensive lineman) and many other sports. "I grew up playing everything you can possibly think of -- basketball, baseball, golf, tennis and bike riding. It has always been important to me in terms of camaraderie between peers, learning how to deal with other people and developing social skills." He was on the student council and was voted most versatile. At leisure he was staring at the night sky, kissing girls and dreaming about being indestructible and saving the world, about being a professional athlete, about building his own house, which he had sketched, and... about be-coming an actor. Kevin did not share his cherished dream with anyone - nor with the bosom friends, neither with girlfriends, nor with parents. "It was a macho sort of upbringing and something like acting was considered sissy stuff." Though he worried about damaging his cool image, Kevin did some plays in high school.
Kevin graduated from the high school in 1977 and attended Minnesota State Uni-versity Moorhead (then known as Moorhead State University). His first choice was architecture but his godfather, who was an architect, talked him out of it. So, he majored in marketing and advertising. Sport was not thrown up - he played foot-ball, baseball, basketball, hockey and started lifting weights.
"I was reluctant to enrol in drama classes, so I'd sneak in and watch. It was only in my last year that I really started to get involved - finally admitting to myself that that was what I really wanted to do." Kevin performed in several plays, gaining yardage on the theatrical stage. And that has brought an inevitable - in 1981 Kevin dropped out of the University. For what he considered a good reason. His parents weren't really excited about him leaving 16 credits shy of a degree. But they didn't push him. "They were just always behind me so it was a long road and they kind of traveled it with me. They're a big part, I think, of the reason why I'm a success today."
Kevin got Screen Actors Guild card (for a TV commercial for Target retail stores) and was delighted with a chance to join a theatre group in Dallas, Texas. But soon it became clear that the show-business world wasn't exactly waiting for him. "I liked the theater but I didn't have money for acting lessons. I worked as a bar-tender and bouncer but I hated working in smoky nightclubs." Because of his looks he was cast for print ads, small commercials and some modelwork. He was doing local plays. He managed to get a one-line role in a series. That was all. But Kevin refused to kill the dream.
At age 24 while working with a stage troupe, taking acting classes and shooting commercials, Kevin fell in love with a model, who convinced him to move with her to Europe. "I told my parents that I was going to go to Europe for three months and I stayed for three years." They lived, basically, in Milan, Paris and Munich. Kevin was working as a model and sometime actor. He became quite successful doing print ads and plenty of commercial work; he was personally handpicked by Gianni Versace to be on his runway shows. Kevin hung out with the actors and started a 10-game basketball league in Germany. He was taking a lot of black and white photos. He was writing sad poems - just for himself. "Most of the writing I did was when I was in my 20s, and they were very confusing years in terms of relationships I was involved in, and in terms of finding my place in life."
When the romance came to its conclusion in 1986, Kevin had returned to USA, to Los Angeles. He was thinking about Hollywood and even had closed the gap be-tween his teeth. But at the age of 28 he was said that he is too old to start. "I got a commercial assignment in Australia and I liked the country so I ended up staying another six months, did a couple of plays and a lot of commercials." He lived in Sydney and traveled around the Great Barrier Reef. Kevin still was not ready to see himself as a model or commercial actor, so he continued his acting studies. His visa was good for half of a year and he used it full. Then he returned to the States.
Once Kevin settled in Los Angeles in the middle of 1987, he got down to business seriously, studying with such highly respected teachers as Janet Alhanti, Roy London, Bill Trayler and Richard Brander. He could afford it now as he became one of the most successful commercial actors in the business appearing in commercials for everything from beer and CD interactive to automobiles. "I looked at myself as an actor who did commercials to make ends meet. I was able to get myself involved in plays, showcases and acting classes that were good for me and my career." There was a period when it seemed that all his persistence would not bring any result. A lot of auditions, few small roles and plenty of rejection. But during his lonely years in Hollywood Kevin had never thought about quitting.
Then something has changed - either in Kevin, or in the Universe. And in 1991 he started getting more work in television, as guest star and leading man. Some-where in the middle of 1993 he received an invitation to come in for a script reading. The question was about four television movies about the popular Greek demigod. The first move was to refuse even open the script. "I laughed. I thought it was a joke. You hark back to who it was that did this before. I mean, I'm not a little guy, but I'm not a huge guy either." At last he read the script, and he liked it. He appreciated the humour and was intrigued with a "different sort of Hercules".
Kevin had to go through a grueling audition process over a two months period. "Part of me was actually scared that I might get the part, and I wasn't sure if this was the right thing to do." He was getting frustrated and about ready to retract, when, on his 35th birthday, he got a phone call informing that the part was his. He was hired to do four movies over a period of seven months.
To prepare for the role, Kevin worked with three different trainers, including mar-tial arts master Douglas Wong, who took him through an accelerated course of 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." He also continued to train with weights and took horseback riding classes.
Kevin set off to Auckland, New Zealand. "My greatest concern was that they'd make me wear a toga. When I first saw the costume, I was pleasantly surprised." They started filming on November 15, 1993. Kevin was doing all his own fighting scenes and a lot of stunts.
Extraordinary high ratings of the TV-movies led to occurrence of a series "Hercu-les: The Legendary Journeys". That's why since September, 1994 Kevin's place was in Auckland. At first, he was terribly homesick, but the work kept him busy. It was very physically demanding: 16-hour shooting days up to six days a week. Bumps, bruises, cuts, sore back and sore knees. "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." Month by month he was making friends and learning to love New Zealand. "Hercules" became a top-rating American TV-show, conquering the world.
1996 turned out to be a very eventful year. In January Kevin made his directorial debut on the show with episode "The Golden Apple". "I had reached the point in my life I figured I'd never get married and I was sort of content with that because I had sacrificed everything for my career." But in June, while filming "Prince Hercules" he met his future wife, actress Sam Jenkins. In August he went to Europe to do "Kull the Conqueror". "We had 10 different languages on the set. It was always a problem to get anything done correctly, and after a while I just had to laugh at it." Kevin spent on the set 14 weeks, working minimum 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. That was his rest and relax between "Hercules" seasons. At Christmas-time he came home to Mound, where in the Town Hall they held ceremony honoring their former fellow-countryman. It was announced that the street that he grew up on would be renamed "Sorbo Lane" and a neighbourhood park - "Sorbo Park".
The next year seemed to be quite rich, too. In January Kevin proposed and Sam said "Yes". In spring he appeared at the director's helm again, doing episode "War Bride". "I know the characters, I know my crew, my crew knows me, and they help me out tremendously." Then came the turn of the "Two Men and a Baby", to which Kevin outlined the plot. "It was my idea, but I worked very closely with John Hudock who actually wrote the episode." Some time later he became the spokesman for the organization "A World Fit for Kids!", a charity that teaches skills to children in at-risk neighborhoods so they can then mentor younger children. "If it makes a difference in just one child's life, then it's worth it." During the summer weekends he did the voiceover work in full-length animated feature "The Battle for Mount Olympus". He had really hectic schedule. "At times, the physical part is difficult because there are lots of stunts and fights and your body just gets worn out. As far as learning my lines, I have to study at night when I get home from shooting, in my car, in my makeup trailer, during lunch and whenever else I can grab a few minutes."
With no rest Kevin dashed off to promote his movie, "Kull The Conqueror". His packed itinerary included interviews, public appearances and meet and greet ses-sions with fans. September was waiting him on the set of the "Black Dog", the second of a three-movie deal he signed with Universal. Kevin was glad to do something contemporary. Because his left arm had felt cold and tingling for some time now Kevin went to see his doctor in L.A. He found a lump beneath his left collarbone and suggested a biopsy. After he had seen his doctor Kevin went to his gym for his workout, but he felt such pain in his arm that he went to see his chiropractor. On his way home he suddenly lost parts of his vision and his balance. On the following day he suddenly slurred his words and Sam his fiancee took him to the hospital. They found out that he had an aneurysm in his left shoulder and later found out that he had suffered three strokes. He spent the next week at the ICU with massive doses of anticlotting medicine. After a short recovery period he tried to return to work to shoot Black Dog. His health failed him and after 2 days of filming Kevin was taken to the hospital again. He had to pull out of the "Black Dog" project. "Everything was work, work, work and five percent of my life was social. You can't do that. You have to balance out your life."
There were about 40 days to rest up before going back to New Zealand on the set of TV's "Hercules". But it turned out that the team had to resume production without the lead, as in late October it became clear that Kevin would be on the set later than was announced, apparently because it was taking longer for him to recover than expected. First episode he made was "Medea Culpa", where Hercules is just sitting and talking. The next was a little more mobile "Yes, Virginia". Kevin still couldn't be on the set more than an hour, and people had to be quiet around him, avoiding any cuts because of anti-coagulants he was treated with.
On January 5, 1998 Kevin wedded the actress Sam Jenkins in a low-key "only family and friends" ceremony. He still suffered from repercussions of his three strokes and it took him almost three years to gain back enough energy to enjoy his job, to enjoy golf, to be involved in charities and to being a husband.
"Hercules" contract was to end on March, 2000. Universal Studios wanted to go three more years with the show, but Kevin wanted to sign season by season to be free to any given opportunity of doing something different. He was tired of living half a world away from his family and friends. "New Zealand is beautiful, but when you're not living in the country you grew up in, you certainly miss those things that are part of that country." He was willing for a change of pace. "14 hours a day, every damn day. It does beat you up physically." The early spring of 1999 came with rumours about the show finishing and unsuccessful negotiations. Kevin aimed at a full last season but got from the studio only an abbreviated version from 8 episodes. By the time they started filming sixth season, Kevin was offered his choice of two undeveloped Gene Roddenberry's properties. Tribune Entertainment offered him a 44-show guarantee. "I signed on to Andromeda when Hercules was still filming, but saying goodbye to Hercules was very sad. I had a great time on that show." So, "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" ended on July 22, 1999.
On September, 1999 Tribune has officially greenlighted "Gene Roddenberry's An-dromeda". Kevin secured a five-year contract and a producing credit (listed from the second season) and a piece of the series. As part of his creative contributions, he played an instrumental role in casting actors to appear with him as regulars on the show. "I dropped the weight. I'm still in shape, still working out, but I wanted to create a different person. When this show comes on the air, I won't be Hercules. People won't forget about Hercules, but I'm not him."
On May, 2000 they start shooting in Vancouver, Canada. Kevin liked the fact that it was more of an ensemble show. "With this series I'm not working the killer hours I did with "Hercules" because I just refused to do it." He was glad to play starship captain, who was created by his childhood hero, Gene Roddenberry. "Dylan Hunt is determined, a real no-nonsense kind of guy. There is also this in-security because he has a sense of making things right, but he's not always sure how to go about it."
On August 22, 2001 Kevin greeted his first son - Braeden Cooper Sorbo. And a year later the proud papa showed himself in the entirely new area: designing furniture. "The project fulfills the business guy in me. I like being in something other than just the celebrity thing."
On "Andromeda" Kevin had longer hiatus and he used this time taping guest spots on popular sitcoms and not so popular dramas. His initial excitement about the series has gone. "Andromeda" was big worldwide, airing in 155 countries. But in his homeland he was asked if he was ever gonna do another show after "Her-cules". "The biggest battle I've had with Tribune is that I don't think they've done a good job marketing the show in America, Fireworks does a better job marketing it worldwide. I do everything I can to promote the show here."
On March 31, 2004 Kevin and his wife, Sam, had their second son, Shane Haaken Sorbo. "Sam is outnumbered. We're going for the girl." Kevin had a pleasure of working with the cast and crew he had respect for, and being challenged with the character. "It's a more dramatic role. It's darker." Unfortunately, the series was being severely underbudgeted and barely promoted. Though there were hopes for the seven-years run, the fifth season turned out to be the last. Filming of "Andromeda" was finished on December 17, 2004.
Since then Kevin has been playing golf, doing a lot of conventions and searching for other projects. And, of course, taking time to relax with the family. "When I'm not working, I'm a family man."
In 2005 he became the newest spokesperson for the Afterschool Alliance, a na-tional nonprofit organization. "Every young person deserves a safe place to go after school." On October 16, 2005 Kevin and Sam have welcomed their third child. "I don't want to take anything from my boys, because I love them so much. But having a girl - it's a different feeling." He is taking guest star and title roles, hitting various genres - sitcom, western, sci-fi thriller, romance, parody, drama, action... "I love to work, so I'm never going to say "no" to anything that looks good to me."
Future? He has ideas, deals and plans. He is thinking about directing a movie for Hallmark. He is hoping for the success of 2008 Kevin Sorbo Celebrity Golf Classic tournaments, which are intended to raise awareness and financial support for the organization "A World Fit for Kids!", served by Kevin as Chair and Spokesman. "Right now, things are kind of cruising along at a nice pace." If you want to learn more about Kevin please read his biography "True Strength" available from Amazon.com
written from Lana Rowan
Updated by Edith ….2012