Beliefnet
Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Kevin Sorbo = busy guy. While some actors who have TV superheroes may have trouble shaking the typecasting and moving on to other roles, that is certainly not Kevin Sorbo’s problem. The former star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys has kept busy since that series ended after six highly-successful seasons in 1999. First, he immediately followed up with yet another hit show when he played Captain Dylan Hunt for five seasons in Andromeda (2000-2005) which was based on concepts created by the late Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame. His film work includes the Airplane-like parodies Meet the Spartans, An American Carol (from Airplane/Naked Gun writer-director David Zucker) and the recent faith-themed theatrical hit Soul Surfer, among many others. His upcoming slate of films suggests a schedule that is no less busy.

In addition to his acting career, the married father of three has found time to utilize his celebrity in service of various causes.  He is, for, instance, a spokesman for A World Fit for Kids, a non-profit organization that offers anti-gang, anti-drug and dropout prevention support to at-risk teens via mentoring programs. The foundation serves 12 schools — and over 12,000 students — in Los Angeles. The program was awarded the Governor’s Gold Star as the most successful after-school program in California.

In 2003, Sorbo was named to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as national spokesperson for The Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit group that aims to ensure that all kids have access to safe and enriching after-school programs.

This weekend, Sorbo fans can catch him co-starring with Della Reese (interviewed here yesterday), Teri Polo and the sparkling young newcomer Izabela Vidovic in Christmas Angel, GMC TV’s new Christmas film about a “wishing house” and a young girl’s quest to find a mate for her single mother. You can read my review of film here.

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Christmas Angel debuts Saturday (11/24) at 7:00 PM (ET) with encore showings at 9:00 PM (ET) and 11:00 PM (ET) and shows again the following night (11/25) at the same times.
I recently spoke with Kevin Sorbo about the personal journey that led him to take the role of Dr. Nathan Davis in Christmas Angel.

JWK: Why did you decide to take this role?

KEVIN SORBO: Well, you know, I happen to be a family man myself. I got three kids all under 11 years of age. You know, (it’s) not that I go out and look for movies like this.  But I love the script. I know the company very well, Pure Flix. I just finished another movie with those guys just recently down in Louisiana. It’s called God’s Not Dead which will be out in theaters next fall. I did a movie with them a couple of years ago called What If? which I’m very proud of. It’s a wonderful movie.

JWK: What was that film about?

KS: (In What If?) I play a guy who sort of goes on a different path then he was originally intending himself to go on. And, years later, he’s visited by an angel in the form of John Ratzenberger (Cheers) who tells him that he’s basically screwed up his life and God’s giving him the chance to see the life he should have had. I don’t care. I like the life I’m at. So, I get thrown into this sort of parallel universe that I didn’t want to go to. It’s a bit of a reverse It’s a Wonderful Life and Family Man, that type of feel to it. But it’s a wonderful movie and people should check it out.

Christmas Angel is in that same mold. It’s a wonderful part to play and I got to work with Della Reese who I’m a big fan of. I’ve known her work for years. I never met her. (Also) Teri Polo, who I know. Of course, you know her best as Ben Stiller’s wife in the Meet the Parents trilogy. Tamera Mowry-Housley was wonderful as well.

I like doing movies that have good messages and have good moral backgrounds to them and things like that — and send out positive messages. Because there are so many (negative) things out there on television and movies right now. Even the daily news, it gets depressing. I mean, if people you want real hope and change I think watching movies like this offers something like that — instead of listening to politicians who constantly say things but never come through with them — no matter what side of the political fence you’re on.

JWK: They say “politics is downstream of culture.”  So, hopefully, making movies like this can help change hearts, minds and attitudes a little bit.

KS: You know, you hope it works…There’s a huge market for movies like this. We just have to get it out there. That’s why you have to do promotional work like this. Hopefully, people will listen to it and take a look — because they’re screaming for it. I get that in fan-based mail. People say “Hey, we really want to see movies with good messages.” Well, here you go. But you have to get it out there because there are many things clogging the television waves. You’ve got to fight for every bit of television households you can get.

JWK: The show that thrust you to stardom was, of course, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

KS: No question, yeah.

JWK: While it wasn’t what you’d call a “faith-based” show. It did feature a genuine hero whose primary motivation was to help people. Today’s TV heroes are often a lot darker.

KS: It was very family friendly.  It always had good moral values…The writers were great (at) doing that. They followed mythology but they had fun with it, as well. Hercules, the character they created — and I think I helped create as well — was one that was a good guy. Violence was a last resort but, even in the fight scenes, they were almost always done in a comical way. We had our dramatic moments, certainly, but it was almost always done in a way that was fun and made people laugh. I got a wonderful letter from an editor of TV Guide during the nineties when that show was on and he said “This is the one show that we never miss as a family. We think it’s the best show on TV.” It was wonderful — and I think the world reflected that. At one time, we were in 176 countries and were the most-watched TV show in the world.

Hopefully, Christmas Angel will do that too — be the most-watched movie in the world!

JWK:  What message do you think Christmas Angel is putting out into the world?

KS: It’s a belief that that people can be good, people can be generous, people can be helpful. People can help those who are in need when they need it…

…I didn’t grow up with anything. My dad was a public school teacher. Anybody who knows the public school teacher world (knows) there’s not a lot of money in teaching. You do it because you love what you do. I’m one of five kids. I remember hand-me-downs from my brother and stuff like that but my dad always instilled hard work…We’re Christian. We grew up Christian. That was instilled — good morals, good ethics, good work ethics. You know, work hard, believe in your dreams, follow your dreams, don’t give up, don’t let failures hold you back. I mean those things were preached to me. They’ve taken a firm rooting system in my beliefs and what I’m passing on to my kids.

JWK: It seems to be that, over the past ten years or so, the culture, particularly television, has taken a dark turn away from the do-good heroes that you portrayed in Hercules or, say, Scott Bakula did in Quantum Leap.

KS: You can hear it in the music that comes out now. I mean, it was interesting. A song from the seventies came on and my wife looks at me and she goes “That decade had a lot more uplifting songs.” Today, there’s a lot of negative messaging and it beats on you after a while. And people are growing up with that stuff and they start believing it themselves.

You know, I’m not gonna get on some pulpit and say, you know, get rid of these programs. I think there’s room for everything. I’m all for freedom of speech, trust me…but it’s sad. You do see it. There’s a darker edge. We glorify the bad guy. The good guy becomes a subject of ridicule. It’s just weird to me…I don’t understand why Christians are taking such a bashing…and why do we glorify people that do destructive things? I don’t quite get it.

JWK: What’s up for you in the future?

KS: Well, I’ve got about six or seven movies that are coming out. I’ve got them in the can. I just finished shooting one called God’s Not Dead. You can put it in that faith-based category, as well. It’s with Pure Flix…That one will be on screens — in theaters actually — a year from now. It’s gonna come out next fall…I got another one called Abel’s Field which is a modern-day telling of Cain and Abel meet’s Friday Night Lights. That’ll be out in January. I’ve got another one called FDR. It’s a comedy…sort of like Naked Gun. David Zucker fans will love this. It’s very funny…I’ve got Julia X coming out which is a dark, psychological thriller. I sort of really mix it up.

JWK: Anything else you’d like to say about Christmas Angel?

KS: I hope people check it out. It’s a great movie. It’s a lot of fun. It’ll air this November 24th and 25th on GMC Cable — 7, 9 and 11 PM eastern time. Go to GMCTV.TV for more information for additional times. Catch the trailer there as well. I’d love your followers to follow me at @KSorbs on Twitter. (Note: Fans can also follow Kevin via his website and Facebook page.)

JWK: Anything else you’d like to pass on to Beliefnet readers?

KS: Tell them to go get me book. It just came out in paperback. It’s called True Strength.  They can go to TrueStrengthbook.com. It deals with the strokes that I suffered on Hercules and the recovery that I had to go through. I’ve been doing a lot of speeches across the country with it. It’s been a very positive reinforcement for me…I’ve been meeting a lot of different people that have gone through different things in their lives. They found the book to be inspirational and motivational for them.

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JWK: That recovery period for you must have been very difficult.

KS: Oh, my God, yeah. I went from 14 hours a day on Hercules to down to one hour a day and had to work my way back up during those last two seasons of the show. It was tough. The studio kept it very quiet. The only thing they talked about was the aneurism I had but they didn’t talk about the strokes that the aneurism caused. I’m lucky to be alive, man. It took three years of therapy to recover but I did it.

Reminder: Christmas Angel debuts Saturday (11/24) at 7:00 PM (ET) with encore showings at 9:00 PM (ET) and 11:00 PM (ET) and shows again the following night (11/25) at the same times.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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