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BWW Interviews: Kevin Sorbo Discusses “True Strength”

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There's no doubt about who is speaking on the other end of the telephone connection.  The voice is deep, rich and mellifluous.  It's the envy of any classically trained actor, yet there's incredible humor and intelligence in it.  It can only belong to actor Kevin Sorbo.

"I got it from my father.  He taught for thirty five years and had a very deep voice.  Dad would walk around the house singing all the time and maybe some of that rubbed off.  My brothers have deep voices, too."  That may very well be true, but his brothers didn't rocket to fame with a syndicated television series called HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, which he followed up with another hit series entitled GENE RODDENBERRY'S ANDROMEDA.  He's a pleasure to talk to.

Sorbo is promoting his memoir that was published in October, 2011.  Titled True Strength:  My Journey From Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life.  Yes, the actor who played mythical Hercules for seven seasons nearly lost his life as a result of three strokes resulting from an aneurysm in his shoulder that had been radiating blood clots throughout his body for months. There was enormous pain involved and a horrendous sound in his head. He had been left partially blind and incapacitated for several months.  At the time he was thirty eight years old.

True Strength is a compelling book.  Well-written, it grabs the reader from its introductory pages and becomes something that is virtually impossible to put down  The writing flows beautifully and there's a smoothness to it that ranks Sorbo with some of America's finest authors.  He surely has a flair for the written word.

One of the most satisfying aspects of the memoir is Sorbo's decision to let other people write chapters throughout the book.  In literary terms, these might be considered  "interchapters" not unlike the way John Steinbeck interrupts the narrative in his masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath with vignettes about life in and around America's Dust Bowl. Memoirs are usually written from a personal point of view and as a result become rather one-sided. That's not the case with Sorbo's book: the reader gets a 360 degree view of what the actor and those around him during his near-death experience.

"I'd asked my wife to write the first one because she was with me while I was going through this whole ordeal.  She had a different perspective on what I was experiencing. Although I felt what I was going through, my wife, Sam, saw what was happening.  When she wrote her first chapter, I decided to ask Michael Hurst, my sidekick from HERCULES to contribute to the book, and another HERCULES cast member, Bruce Campbell to do the same."  Their contributions to the memoir serve up enormously touching observations about how the experience physically deteriorated Sorbo.  HERCULES main producer Eric Gruendemann and Sorbo's mother, Ardis, also provide chapters that are filled with remarkable observations. What emerges is a rather complete story of how a young man from Minnesota embarked on a successful career in modeling and acting only to face the very real aspect of mortality. It's a tale about what UCLA's Rob Huizenga, MD has said, "True Strength shows that a hero's true final scene isn't a miraculous cure concocted in a screenwriter's mind; it's a painful, protracted journey from despair to acceptance of an illness that knows no rules."

Sorbo's narrative is incredibly detailed and the actor explains that writing it presented some genuine challenges.  "I'm an early riser.  I like to get up to get watch the sun rise, so I'd do my writing at that time.  There were days when I'd struggle and get only a single page written.  At other times ideas and recollections would come easily and I'd wind up with ten pages or more completed." Throughout the process, he had the fullest support of his wife, who he met when she made a guest appearance on HERCULES.   The actor credits his wife with being a vital part of his recovery process.  "She was my rock" he says.  "She kept me positive and helped me navigate the rough waters.  I was lucky to have met her, but now I see God had a plan from the beginning."

Although his recovery was far from complete, Sorbo returned to HERCULES and the creative team kept his involvement to a minimum.  For the first time in the show's history, stunt doubles were used for the action scenes that the title character was involved in.  There was even a segment where Hercules was transformed into a pig , enabling Sorbo to do only the dubbing of the pig's voice and not make any on-camera appearances.  Eventually he did recover and finished his contractual commitment to the series.    

HERCULES was followed immediately by GENE RODDENBURY'S ANDROMEDA.  A series he became involved in at the suggestion of Roddenbury's widow.  Both of these

Series made Kevin Sorbo a familiar face to a worldwide audience. The actor has also resumed his film career and has six movies "in the can". Did his television and movie popularity ever present a problem to him? "No, I can't say it did.  Oh, people would come up to me on the street and tell me how much they enjoyed the shows or they'd ask for a photo or autograph.  I was only too happy to cooperate. Remember, they were watching my shows every week and I was in their living rooms, so they felt that they knew me.  It was all okay with me." 



About Author

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Joe Panarello is one of those people who have most certainly been born with theater in their blood. As an actor, Joe has played such varied roles as Harry Roat in Frederick Knott's Wait Until Dark, Jimmy Smith in No, No Nanette and Lazer Wolf in Fiddler on the Roof a vehicle he's performed in several times and designed the sets for on one occasion. He's also directed productions of Thornton Wilder's Our Town, Neil Simon's Barefoot in the Park and Henrich Ibsen's Peer Gynt. Joe is a respected author and although his latest work, The Authoritative History of Corduroy won't be published until this summer, it is already being translated into several different languages by a group of polyglot nuns in Tormento, Italy.. The proceeds from their labors will go to the restoration of the nearby Cathedral of Gorgonzola.



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