Kevin Sorbo was born in 1958 in Minnesota. He made his television debut in 1986 in the series “Santa Barbara”. His fil debut came in 1993 in “Slaughter of the Innocents”. He is best known for his role as Hercules in the hit television series of the same name.
Square-jawed, 6’3″ leading man Kevin Sorbo shot to television stardom as a mythical action hero, although it was the sense of fun he brought to his roles that maintained his place as a fan favorite for years to come. Getting his start as a male model, Sorbo first attracted attention with a memorable appearance in a 1992 PSA for HIV awareness. Early dramatic roles came in the form of TV movies like “Condition: Critical” (NBC, 1992) and guest spots on such series as “The Commish” (ABC, 1991-95). Everything changed for Sorbo when he landed the role of a lifetime as the Greek demigod in producer Sam Raimi’s “Hercules and the Amazon Women” (syndicated, 1994), the first of five made-for-TV movies that led to the wildly popular series, “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” (syndicated, 1994-99). At the height of the show’s popularity, the actor also starred in the feature film “Kull the Conqueror” (1997). Even after Hercules’ journeys came to an end, Sorbo’s loyal fans followed him to his second successful series, the Gene Roddenberry project, “Andromeda” (syndicated, 2000-2005), on which he played the captain of a sentient space vessel. In the post-“Andromeda” years, he continued to work consistently, with appearances in such feature films as “Meet the Spartans” (2008) and “Soul Surfer” (2010) and on series like “Hawaii Five-O” (CBS, 2010- ). A man of action, armed with a hefty dose of good humor, Sorbo remained a popular presence on screens both large and small.
Born in Mound, MN on Sept. 28, 1958, Sorbo attended Moorhead State College. Often finding himself the center of attention, thanks to his athletic prowess and rugged good looks, Sorbo fell into the role of “big man on campus” quite naturally. A self-confessed stereotypical jock, Sorbo admitted to having spent most of his collegiate career either in the gym, on the sports field, or frequenting happy hour with friends. By junior year, Sorbo was already working steadily as a print and commercial model. Though he secretly wished to study drama, Sorbo was fearful of being ridiculed by his fellow jocks. Instead, he chose a major in marketing. Nevertheless, the allure of performing proved too powerful, prompting Sorbo to quit school in the late-1970s to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. A stint with a Dallas-area theater troupe led to his traveling abroad, where he appeared in several European TV commercials prior to his return to the U.S. and Hollywood in 1987.
Over the next decade, Sorbo found steady work in commercials and print ads, becoming a recognizable commodity on Madison Avenue by appearing in spots for Budweiser, BMW, Diet Coke and numerous other products. Determined to expand his skill set, Sorbo studied acting in Los Angeles and auditioned for as many challenging roles as he could find. His ambition paid off in 1992, when he landed a nationally televised public service announcement regarding heterosexual HIV awareness. That same year, he won a key role in the made-for-TV medical thriller “Condition Critical” (NBC, 1992), starring as part of a team trying to find the cure for a deadly disease. The following year, picked up guest-starring parts on several TV series, including “Murder, She Wrote” (CBS, 1984-1996) and “The Commish” (ABC, 1991-95).
In 1994, acclaimed producer-director Sam Raimi received the greenlight to develop a syndicated action series based on the mythological Greek demigod, Hercules, to be filmed in New Zealand. Taking a firmly tongue-in-cheek slant on the mythos, Raimi sought an actor who could convey over-the-top heroic gravitas with a balance of humorous self-awareness. Of the dozens of actors who unsuccessfully auditioned for the role, Raimi credited Sorbo as the only one who instinctively and instantly “got it.” Sorbo’s earnest conviction and self-deprecating humor had finally paid off with a star-making vehicle. After a number of well-received TV movies, “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” (syndicated, 1994-2000) became a regular series and ran for six years. Consistently landing at the top of the ratings, “Hercules” was one of the highest-rated syndicated shows in the history of television and spawned an even more popular spin-off show, “Xena: Warrior Princess” (syndicated, 1995-2001).
At the height of his TV series’ popularity, Sorbo parlayed that success into his first starring role in a major motion picture as “Kull the Conqueror” (1997), a sword-and-sorcery adventure based on the works of “Conan the Barbarian” creator, Robert E. Howard. Following the cancellation of “Hercules,” Sorbo cut off his lengthy blond locks and announced his next project – the sci-fi epic “Andromeda” (syndicated, 2000-05). Based on an unproduced concept by the legendary “Star Trek” creator, Gene Roddenberry, “Andromeda” was the story of a highly-advanced starship and its ragtag crew. Cast in the role of the stalwart Captain Dylan Hunt, Sorbo once again played another larger-than-life swashbuckler. When his duties onboard “Andromeda” came to an end, Sorbo renewed his focus on other TV projects and feature film work. He played the recurring role of Frank Atwood, the shady ex-con father of Ryan (Ben McKenzie) in the final season of “The O.C.” (Fox, 2003-07), then took part in the critically-reviled, yet commercially successful sword-and-sandal parody, “Meet the Spartans” (2008).
Amidst a slew of other direct-to-DVD projects, Sorbo turned up as the mysterious Mr. Phoenix in “Bitch Slap” (2009), a bawdy action-thriller paying homage to low-budget sexploitation movies of the ’60s and ’70s. He also lent his voice to a pair of video games – first as a character named Prometheus in “The Conduit” (2009), then to a new take on the familiar role of Hercules in “God of War III” (2010). In more mainstream theatrical fare, he also had a small role in the inspirational docudrama “Soul Surfer” (2010), the story of Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) who returned to competitive surfing after losing her arm in a shark attack. As he had been doing for years, Sorbo continued to rack up guest spots on shows like “Hawaii Five-O” (CBS, 2010- ) and “Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23” (ABC, 2012- ).
By Bryce Coleman
The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.