Interview: Kevin Sorbo
As you know, Kevin’s film, What If…, opened in theaters this weekend. You also know that he has many, many other projects, including those he is producing. But, you might not know how he picks scripts or what he looks for when casting or even that he is a poet and musician.
Kevin was gracious enough to grant me an interview during last month’s Shore Leave Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. He offered great insight into his approach to acting, directing, and producing, as well as spoke briefly about his personal life.
Since his meteoric rise to fame is legendary, I ask you to please peruse the following for a full biography, photos, and more information:
Kevin Sorbo Official Site at http://www.kevinsorbo.net/
The Official European Kevin Sorbo Fan Club site at http://www.kevin-sorbo.com/home.html
The Official International Kevin Sorbo Fan Club site at http://www.ozfans.com/Kevin_Sorbo.html
Here’s my interview with the indomitable Mr. Kevin Sorbo:
SW: You’ve been in the (entertainment) business a long time. What is your appeal in the business? What do you bring to the table?
KS: I think for whatever reasons I’ve been lucky enough to have success in the business. I think a lot of times you have to make your own as well. You have to be ready for that door to open. You have to have a confidence level. I always believed in myself.
When I moved to L.A., I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t have any uncles or aunts or anybody in the business. In Junior High I remember writing these phony letters to Johnny Carson to say, “One day I’m going to be on your show.” I never sent them, but I knew, I don’t know why, I just knew when I moved to L.A., I said, “I’m going to have success. I’m going to make it happen.”
I think every actor brings something of themselves to what they play. I’ve always made friends easily and I’m the type of person that guys will say, “You know, he’s a cool guy. I’d like to hang out and have a beer with him.” Or something like that. And chicks might dig me. I don’t know (laughs). I think that it’s that “X Factor” that people can’t put a finger on, and I just think that I always believed that I’d have success.
I remember Kevin Costner coming to acting class one time to talk to us because I used to study with a guy that he used to study. He came to speak to us (when) he was doing The Body Guard with Whitney Houston. He walked in class and said, “None of you will have success in this business.” And I knew exactly what he was talking about. But, eight years later, I was well into my series on “Hercules,” and I got to meet him again. I’d reminded him of that story because I walked up to him and told him, “I’m going to make it.” And he said, “Well, good for you.” And I did, and he said, “Well, look at you. You proved me wrong.” So, I just think you have to have a belief.
SW: What do you bring to the table producing and directing? Why would people want to invest in what you have to offer?
KS: Well, I’ve always believed there are always exceptions to the rules, but I’ve always believed very good directors come from people that were actors as well, that understand that part of the world. I’m still learning all the time on sets the technical side of it and asking questions of the camera crew and the editing department and whatever. There’re so many different parts of this business that can help make a movie a hit or a failure, and you just have to tap into those things at the right time and the right places in every script that you read and I understand what it’s like being on a set.
I don’t know everything. I don’t pretend to know everything. I know what I want as a director. I know what I want and I walk up to each department head and say, “This is what I want the outs to look like. This is what I want the lens to be able to do. What lens is that?” “Well, it’s this.” “Well, fine. Put it in.” I know what I want. And when I read, I’ve a very, very vivid imagination and I see the pictures as I read the pages. I see the vistas or the close-ups or if I want to be right tight, tight on the lips as a drop of blood comes out of the corners. I can see that and I know what I want visually.
SW: You’ve had a hand in casting. What do you look for in other actors?
KS: It still is the process of elimination, but for me more than anything it’s a feel. It’s just a feel. It can be off the look, it can be off the way the person moves. As long as they know their lines and know where to hit the marks, I’m not worried about it. I want to look at what they do; what they bring physically and emotionally to an audition scene and see if they’re really connected to what they’re doing because some people just walk in and expect things to happen. Some people walk in and they’re scared to death. But to me, it just comes down to a feel, and I think, “That’s the person.”
I may read a script and think, “Okay, physically, this is what I want the person to look like,” and somebody comes in and blows me away, and I think, “Okay, it doesn’t have to look that way.” So, once again, it’s that they have that “X Factor.”
*SW: Do you approach reading scripts differently between acting and producing?
*KS: The question’s a good question. When I look at a script, do I look at it, if I am producing, do I look at it from a producer’s eye, or if I’m acting or directing, do I look at it through those eyes? I actually look at everything from an actor’s point of view right away, but I think I always have that in the back of my mind as a director. I think you all read books, how many times have you gone to the movies and you said, “The book is so much better”? Because as good as Hollywood can be, we’ve got the best camera; the best editing is in our own brain. There’s always going to be a difference. Everybody could read the same script and come up with a completely different movie, but a completely different looking type of movie. And I always look at it through the actor. I think, “Do I want to play this part? Am I interested in the script?” That’s the way I look at it. It’s really as simple as that. It’s got to catch me by the first… I’ll give it 20 pages max. If I’ve lost my interest in only 20 pages I’ll throw it away.
I started my own production company about two and a half years ago, and it’s been a good learning experience for me because right now the toughest thing is distribution and money. That’s the toughest thing because the economy is hurting everybody. And I get it; I understand it. I’ve got so many scripts. I’ve got, I think, 87 scripts now that I like. I’ve probably liked 500 in the past two years, and I’ve got 87 on my bank, and I’ve got about 10 that have some kind of funding going. And most of the movies I’ve done in the last two, two and a half years, I’ve done on my own. I’m not even paying my agents and managers any more. I said, “You guys, this is a wake-up call because I’m getting a lot of work by doing my own work.” And I get tired of them not doing their work because they’re lazy (laughs). They’re lazy. If you watch “Entourage,” that’s what they’re all like. They’re like Jeremy Pivens’ character. That’s what they’re like, and I just found that I would rather do it on my own. I’ve made a lot of connections in the business and I’ve been doing it for long. But, I’ve got some good movies if anybody knows some investors. I have some goooood movies. Good stuff out there.
SW: How do you gauge what you like best about doing a role, doing a film, producing, directing, acting? What do you look at?
KS: I look at the script. If the first 20 pages got me involved, I’m there. I don’t have any one particular criterion other than if the script is great, then from there I’ll break it down. I get sent scripts now saying, “There’re four characters here you could play, pick the one you want,” so I’ll read and I’ll say, “You know what? The only one I liked was this guy.” I’m interested, I like it, but this guy’s the one I want to do for whatever reason. Maybe if I read it two months later it would have been a different character.
But, everything is just a feeling with me more than anything else. It’s back to that “X Factor” yet again. It’s a gut feeling. I’m more emotional than I am intellectual when I look at things sometimes (laughs). Is this touching me in a way? Is this a comedy? Is it funny? Is this movie going to make me feel the way I want to (feel)? Am I going to be able to make the audience feel what I’m feeling when I read the script like that? I think the reason I wanted to be an actor is I loved what people did on television or on movie screens to bring out emotions in me.
SW: When you talk about the experiences that you’ve had like when you talk about Anthony Quinn, what makes them special for you?
KS: There were scenes with Anthony Quinn… When you work with somebody of that stature, there were scenes that certainly stick out to me. There was a scene in one of the (“Hercules”) movies when I go down to Hades and I look at him and I ask him because I’m about to jump in there, I ask him, “Can I die?” And it was just a cool scene. There are times I have these out-of-body experiences on really wonderful scenes, wonderful emotional scenes where I’m looking at myself being in the scene with this person. And that was one of those scenes. It happened a few times with Anthony, and you get the butterflies; you get the goose bumps. It’s a cool feeling. It’s hard to explain.
The first thing that comes to me is when I was back playing athletics. It’s a buzz I got by getting announced at the beginning of a football game, running out on that field and people going crazy. It’s that buzz. It’s that gladiator thrill, you know? And it’s fun when that happens.
SW: You are so natural with ad lib. How? Is that a good thing?
KS: I think for all the shows I’ve done, especially “Herc” and “Andromeda,” I think it’s been a good thing. I’ve done it on everything I’ve been in. I always find a place for, “It’s never easy,” which I started on “Andromeda.” So, every movie I do, I try to find a place to throw that in. It’s sort of wink-wink with fans of mine around the world who know I said that. Yeah, I might throw it in there, so, yeah, the ad lib just sort of comes natural, especially when you’re on. That’s what ad lib means: when you’re on the set and during the blocking, even during scenes sometimes because there are things that have happened during an actual scene that would hit me while somebody else is talking. I’ll think, “Oh, I’m going to say this now,” and it comes out and it would just happen. And Universal, I mean, the writers for the most part initially were kind of like, “Well, you know, just stick to the script.” But the producers liked it, and so the writers would start writing that way for Michael and I. For example, for “Hercules,” they said, “I got the feeling Sorbo’s going to say this,” (laughs). You could see them try to write it, and they did a great job with it.
SW: Have you done improv (improvisational theatre)?
KS: I’ve only done improv in acting classes. I’ve never done it. I think it’s the scariest thing to do. It’s fun, but, it’s like, “Oh, my God, I’m going to be naked on stage.” You know? And there are some people who are so good at it (like) Wayne Brady. There’re some people who are just so good at it.
SW: Getting away from the business, how’s your poetry coming?
KS: I have an intern helping me right now from Yale (University). My wife did that as a college student, so she wanted to all these years later return the favor. We’re going through all of my poetry and looking for errors, looking for this, and looking for the order it should be in, and, hopefully, putting it in a book one day. So, it’s coming along.
SW: What about the piano and guitar?
KS: I’ll be religious for two weeks and for a month I won’t do it at all because I just get so crazed with everything else. But, I love it, and that’d be something I would love to get back to on a regular basis. I’ve got a really nice Yamaha Baby Grand (piano). I said if I’m going to do this, I’ll make myself to do it.
SW: Who’s better, you or your son?
KS: Oh, Braeden is already. It’s unbelievable! They’re frickin’ sponges.
SW: Are they all playing?
KS: Shane’s playing now, too. He loves it. He kind of puts up a fight, then he sits down and we make him practice, and you hear him and you say, “That was really good.” And he (says), “Well, dad, watch this,” and then he keeps going.
SW: What typical guy things do you do that irritate your wife?
KS: I’m actually a pretty neat guy, so she knows she’s pretty lucky that way (laughs). I clean up a lot in the kitchen (and) the bathrooms. I wash clothes. I’m always busy in the house. I’m always busy. If it’s not in the office doing this, making phone calls, doing that. If I’m walking through, I’m like, “Oh, I should bring that downstairs.” I’m pretty good at that.
I think she’s fine with me golfing because I usually go very quick in the morning. I’m back before 8:00 in the morning. But she knew getting into it. I said, “This is one thing you’re not going to take away from me. This is my church.” I do work on the golf course by myself. I love to golf alone. It’s my thinking place.
Um, um… my sarcasm (laughs).
KS: Yeah, yeah. She’s sarcastic, too, so… (laughs), but it gets to a point sometimes that we kind of bite into each a little too much (laughs), you know?
SW: Why should people follow you on Facebook and Twitter?
KS: Because I post a variety of entertaining and fun things, and they’re going to know a lot of information about not only what’s going on in my world, but I like to create a little controversy out there. I want to see if I put something out there political or about Hollywood or whatever, I like to see the responses. It’s kind of fun. I check when I can. I mean, I can’t reply to everybody. It’s impossible. I randomly will go through, and there’re a lot of names I recognize, so I’ll pick a new name that I haven’t recognized, maybe, and say, “Hey, how’re you doing?”
SW: Anything else?
KS: To tell people (that) I certainly want them to see all my movies, so keep tuned and I’ll let them know what’s going on.
*From Saturday’s Shore Leave Convention public Q&A
(Photos courtesy of Kevin Sorbo)