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Q&A: Kevin Sorbo Conquers Herculean Health Struggles

Stephanie Nolasco Stephanie Nolasco
October 31st, 2011 6:00pm EDT
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To audiences, Kevin Sorbo was a demi-God in the ‘90s TV hit, “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” but off cameras the actor was fighting for his life. Few people knew that the now 53-year-old endured three strokes, which nearly destroyed his career as playing the strongest man on earth.  After over a decade of hiding his struggles, Sorbo now bares all in his memoir, True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal-and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life. In Sorbo’s first book, “Hercules” fans finally learn the truth behind his secret battles with his health and how he conquered them, all while starring in one of the most popular shows in the world. Yet, what’s life like after fighting monsters for millions of viewers, all while facing a long road to recovery? Sorbo speaks exclusively with Starpulse about why he chose to fight back, finding religion, and what he really thinks about becoming President.

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Why did you choose to come out with your story now?

Kevin Sorbo:
I think I work best under pressure. It’s like when you get that homework assignment and the teacher says you have three months to write a book report. I was the guy that waited three days before it was due. When I got really sick during the first couple of years, I kept notes as a way to monitor my progress. It became therapy.  My wife Sam kept telling me I should write a book. My response was, ‘Eh, not gonna do it.’ But she kept insisting every couple of months. Two years ago, I decided to do it. After keeping quiet about the whole ordeal, I felt ready to go public with it. I think I was afraid to stop working and never hear from Hollywood again (laughs). But I knew that it was time to tell my story and it became very therapeutic for me. It helped me get this monkey off my back.

I’m sure Sam is now saying, ‘I told you so!’

Kevin Sorbo:
It’s been a labor of love (laughs). She was very instrumental in this journey and made sure I had my facts right. There was some short-term memory loss during those years. She was very good at pointing out what was right or wrong.

You could have easily given up acting and focused on getting better. However, you were very determined to keep working. What is it about the craft that keeps you coming back for more?

Kevin Sorbo:
I would never tell people to get involved in this business (laughs). Hollywood is an evil town. There’s so much rejection and the chances of making it are almost none. Therefore, if you want to act, you have to be really passionate about it. I’ve always been passionate about the craft and I still am. As much as I complain about the BS of Hollywood, the politics behind it, and how you get a job in the business, the truth is that I love the time between ‘action’ and ‘cut.’ It’s my time. No one can take that away from me. I love the creative process and how writers can look at a blank piece of paper and write a story that becomes reality. It has a huge effect on people and I’ve always been attracted to that.

In your book, you mentioned how you heard a voice that cautioned you before you became ill. Have you ever looked back and wondered what your life would have been like had you taken that warning?

Kevin Sorbo:
Are you kidding me? I kick myself all the time. I don’t know how you are religiously, but I’m a Christian. I believe in God, I believe in Jesus. I believe it was God warning me and I didn’t listen to him. I have some atheist friends and when I first told them about my story, they called it a gut feeling. You can call it what you want, but I will listen to that voice from now on. Yeah, I get angry about it. I was warned twice and didn’t listen. I was struck down and have had a long recovery process. But, it made me realize that no matter how healthy you think you may be, anything can happen. I’m certainly a testament to that. You have to listen to that voice. Listen to your gut.

As someone who had many physical struggles, how does it feel to constantly be recognized as a character like Hercules?

Kevin Sorbo:
Even after having the strokes I loved the role. ‘Hercules’ literally saved my life. We became the most watched TV show in the world, surpassing ‘Baywatch’ in 1996.  I was very proud to be part of something like that. I felt like we accomplished something on a silly little show that had good family values, funny fight scenes, and crazy one-liners. It made me realize that this is what the world wants. People want to laugh and get away from their problems. That’s why I think the show did so great. I will always be grateful for the chance to play Hercules. It motivated me to get healthy. I pushed myself to do three times the therapy doctors recommended. I did everything, including yoga, Pilates, meditation, acupuncture, and just working out. I had to learn how to walk and run again because I couldn’t even do those things. It was brutal for my ego, but I fought back.

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Photo Credits: Barbara Henderson / PR Photos, Pixplanete / PR Photos, and David Gabber / PR Photos.