Back in the 1990s, Kevin Sorbo set the TV screen alight as the eponymous hero of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The actor looked set to go on to even bigger and better things, too, when he later took a role in sci-fi hit Andromeda. But since then, Sorbo has seemingly vanished from Hollywood entirely. So, why don’t we see the star anymore? Well, it turns out that there’s a good reason – and Sorbo hasn’t completely given up on the world of entertainment, either.
Yes, as fans know, Sorbo made his name in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. The show – which was shot in New Zealand – proved a massive hit, soaring in the ratings during its six-season run. Sorbo’s likeness even found its way into many kids’ homes in the form of action figures, while Hercules: The Legendary Journeys itself ultimately sparked a host of other series that were set in ancient times.
Then, following the conclusion of the adventure epic, Sorbo switched genres to become High Guard Captain Dylan Hunt in the futuristic show Andromeda. The space opera was brought together from sci-fi legend Gene Roddenberry’s archive, and it too proved a success. Debuting in October 2000, the show ran for five years, scoring high ratings and a clutch of awards along the way.
A native of Mound, Minnesota, Sorbo had found his way into TV through his work as an ad model. He’d initially taken up the profession to help fund his college studies, and in this manner he was able to double major at Minnesota State University Moorhead. But Sorbo’s advertising career didn’t end after he had left school.
By 1993 Sorbo had appeared in over 150 ads, in fact, with the work even taking him abroad to Australia and Europe. He also gained some notice as the face of Jim Beam whiskey. And in a string of commercials, the future star built up something of a catchphrase by often saying the words “This ain’t Jim Beam.”
Ultimately, though, Sorbo turned to acting in shows such as The Commish and Murder She Wrote. He also tried out for the role of Superman in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and as Agent Mulder in The X-Files – although he missed out on both prestigious parts.
Fortunately, Sorbo had more joy when he auditioned for the title role in TV movie Hercules and the Amazon Women in 1994. Four more Hercules films followed in the same year, too, and a TV series came into being off the back of their popularity.
This show, of course, was Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and it made Sorbo recognizable globally. The series proved a huge hit, in fact, scoring some of the most significant ratings of a syndicated program during that period. And along the way, Sorbo showed his talents as a director and writer by helming two episodes and helping to pen one.
While playing Hercules, meanwhile, Sorbo was chosen as the lead in what was initially slated to be the third Conan film; Arnold Schwarzenegger, you see, had decided to duck out of the role of the eponymous barbarian. But because Sorbo didn’t want to retread the character, the film was instead restructured as Kull the Conqueror. And the 1997 movie provided the actor with his first big part on the silver screen.
As he publicized Kull the Conqueror towards the end of 1997, though, Sorbo discovered that he seemingly had an arm injury. Yet at first he wasn’t too concerned – not least because he’d previously hurt his funny bone. None of the doctors the star consulted thought that there was anything much untoward, either. So, Sorbo just carried on as usual, ignoring what he thought had just been a niggle.
And the actor got back down to working out, which he did with gusto. Then, on one occasion, he suffered a pain that burned through his left shoulder. But yet again, Sorbo didn’t think that too much was awry, and this led him to merely make an appointment to see his chiropractor. At the office, the practitioner gave the star’s neck a crack, claiming that this would relax some of the tense feeling in his upper body.
Then, on his way from the appointment, Sorbo started to experience dizziness and blurred vision, and his health would only worsen the following day. So, his partner, Sam Jenkins, rushed him to hospital, where doctors found that he’d suffered an aneurysm. It seemed that a defect in one of Sorbo’s arterial walls had caused the blood vessel to balloon.
And there was further bad news to come. After treating the aneurysm, doctors discovered that Sorbo had also had three strokes – which explained the symptoms he’d reported. It was uncertain, though, whether the aneurysm had anything to do with these. And Sorbo himself pondered whether or not the manipulation of his neck may have somehow brought on the strokes.
Such a state of affairs was entirely possible, too. Although it’s very rare, chiropractic work can damage the vertebral artery, cutting off the supply of blood to the brain. And in Sorbo’s case, his risk of stroke from other causes was extremely low given his great physical shape.
As a result of his ordeal, then, Sorbo felt weakened – although viewers had no idea. And in Hercules’ final two seasons, he subsequently needed his shooting schedule to be cut down, with more and more guest stars therefore brought in to lessen the burden. The problem didn’t ever just go away, either, as Sorbo would later reveal.
Sorbo opened up about his health problems in autobiography True Strength, which was published in 2011. Specifically, he claimed that he’d suffered a permanent reduction of his vision following the aneurysm as well as continued problems with balance, weakness and migraines. Luckily, though, Jenkins had stepped up to the plate to support his recovery.
Sorbo had married Jenkins early in 1998, having first encountered her when she appeared as a guest star in Hercules. The couple also went on to have three kids together between 2001 and 2005. And Sorbo himself clearly has a commitment to children’s well-being, as can be seen in his association with a charity called A World Fit For Kids!, which trains teen mentors for young people.
So, what did Sorbo do outside of the series that made his name? Well, for starters, he starred alongside Lucy Lawless in two episodes of Hercules spinoff Xena: Warrior Princess. On top of that, Sorbo’s voice could be heard in Hercules and Xena – The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus, which went straight to video.
And Sorbo would appear for the last time as Hercules in Xena: Warrior Princess in 2000. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys itself, meanwhile, was canned halfway through season six – allegedly because the star wouldn’t sign a new contract when asked to extend for three more years. Yet even after that setback, another door was to open.
Yes, Sorbo ultimately went from the realm of Greek mythology to space by landing the lead in Andromeda. And for five years between 2000 and 2005, he played Captain Dylan Hunt – the part-superhuman commander of the spaceship Andromeda Ascendant. After being rescued from a black hole’s event horizon, Hunt strives to restore civilization to a troubled universe.
During his spell on Andromeda, though, Sorbo came back to Earth for long enough to make some money for A World Fit For Kids! Indeed, he put his fame to good use by appearing on a 2001 celebrity edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and while there he scored a cool $32,000 for the charity.
Then, in 2006 – so after Andromeda had finished – Sorbo could be seen in teen drama The O.C.. Playing Ryan Atwood’s dad, he featured in several episodes throughout the fourth season. And in the same year, the actor also showed up in hit comedy Two and a Half Men. After that, though, TV appearances soon become sparse.
That said, Sorbo didn’t quite disappear completely. In fact, in 2007 he turned up in a sequel to 2004’s moderately successful Walking Tall: a movie called Walking Tall: The Payback. And although another installment of the franchise followed, neither of the low-budget sequels boosted Sorbo’s career very much. Both, after all, went straight to video.
Nonetheless, the roles did keep coming. Sorbo snagged a leading role in Lifetime’s Last Chance Café, for instance, and starred alongside Jenkins in Hallmark western Avenging Angel. He also found himself in a range of bit parts throughout the late 2000s and through the early 2010s.
Yet while Sorbo also showed up from time to time on the big screen, he seemingly didn’t make good choices. He appeared, for instance, in 2008’s Meet the Spartans, which defied a critical panning to become a hit at the box office. Reviewers weren’t generally kind when it came to 2010’s Tales of an Ancient Empire, either. Twitch Film’s Scott Weinberg, for one, described the sci-fi as “one of the worst films [he’d] ever seen.”
Eventually, though, Sorbo made a film that seemed to herald something of a change in direction. The 2012 movie Abel’s Field – in which the actor stars as a groundskeeper who enriches the life of a troubled teen – was broadly well-received by audiences, too, even though it was largely ignored by critics.
Somewhat unusually, Sorbo also showed up on a 2012 episode of Celebrity Ghost Stories, during which he recounted seeing the ghost of Minnesota’s “Bride of White Rock Lake.” And then there was yet another reprise of his most famous role. Yes, Sorbo could be heard as Hercules once more in God of War III – one of several video games in which he has made vocal appearances.
In 2014, meanwhile, Sorbo robed up as a wizard for Mythica: A Quest for Heroes, which was ultimately successful enough to spawn a whole franchise. And the actor hadn’t needed to be asked twice about starring in the fantasy flick. Indeed, in an interview given to Hidden Remote in 2014, he claimed, “I am a big kid. Love the genre.”
In the same year, Sorbo played an atheist professor whose views are challenged in Christian movie God’s Not Dead. And although the film didn’t have the kindest reception from critics, audiences nevertheless flocked to see it. God’s Not Dead became a box-office hit, in fact, scoring $62 million from a budget of just $2 million.
More films of a religious bent followed, including post-Rapture meditation Revelation Road: The Black Rider and Let the Lion Roar – in which Sorbo portrayed John Calvin. And the actor even played God himself in the Breathe Bible audio version of the New Testament.
Sorbo would explain, too, why he felt some Christian films had scored well at the box office. In 2016 he told The Gospel Herald, “I think that most people would agree that faith-based movies back in the ’70s, ’80s and even the ’90s were very cheesy, poorly written and poorly acted… You have to walk a fine line… and there is now talent on both sides of the camera.”
However, Sorbo felt that, as a Christian, he had experienced some bad treatment from Hollywood. In 2014 he said to FOX411, “There’s a negativity towards Christians in Hollywood and a negativity towards people who believe in God.” He was also sure that this attitude accounted for the downturn in offers that he had suffered.
Sorbo explained to The Gospel Herald, “I did Hercules for seven years, [and] it was the most-watched show for a good number of years. But then, for me to get called in to read for anything – it just dropped drastically when I came out of that conservative Christian closet, so to speak. I used to read for a lot of pilots and TV shows, and it’s very rare now.”
However, it’s arguable whether Christian faith gets in the way of good parts. Chris Pratt, for instance, is well known for his religious beliefs, and yet the Jurassic World star is an extremely hot property. So, too, are Lady Gaga – who is outspoken in her Catholicism – and Mark Wahlberg. In fact, in 2010 Wahlberg himself told the Catholic Herald, “Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life.”
Regardless, Sorbo also feels that his conservative politics have been held against him. He told FOX411, “There’s also a negativity towards people who aren’t liberal. There’s no question that it has hurt me in Hollywood that I didn’t vote for Obama.” And Sorbo is not quiet about his convictions, either. In 2016, for example, he said to TMZ that he believed Jesus would vote for Donald Trump.
In fact, Sorbo unloaded further to FOX411, saying, “There’s so much anger in Hollywood. They don’t like the truth. They’d rather be lied to, and they just attack anybody who doesn’t agree their way. Yet they scream for tolerance, and they scream for freedom of speech – but only if it’s their way.” And he added a plea for understanding, continuing, “I don’t begrudge them their beliefs. Why do they begrudge mine?”
Nevertheless, Sorbo’s trenchant views didn’t prevent him from being cast in Supergirl in 2017. There, he finally got to star with Teri Hatcher, who had played Lois in the Superman reboot that he’d lost out on 24 years before. Across three episodes, he appeared in the role of King Lar Gand of Daxam.
Meanwhile, Sorbo’s most recent starring role to date is in The Reliant, where he portrays a man who defends his family as they are caught in civil uproar. And although the action film features a fair amount of violence, Sorbo has emphasized that it’s another “faith movie.”
The star has even claimed that the big studios are showing more of an interest in such films. Speaking to Fox News in 2019, he said, “Hollywood does [have them], they’re doing more and more… Faith-based movies, I think, in the last ten years, certainly, have exploded. There’s more and more out there. Hollywood does them. They don’t do them as many as the independent market does, but they’re certainly out there.”
So, the future looks rosy for the Hercules star – particularly if his next venture goes to plan. He added to Fox News, “One of our latest movies that will be out next spring… we got a call from Netflix… They wanted to open an inspirational division of Netflix, so we have open channels. [We’re] talking to them all the time to get that ball rolling. They realize there’s a market out there [for faith-based films].” In time, then, you may just see Sorbo’s face appearing on your Netflix home screen.