Kevin Sorbo is one of Hollywood's most notable Christian actors, appearing in a number of films such as God's Not Dead and Soul Surfer, and starring in the iconic television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
Despite his impressive résumé, acting is merely one of many creative outlets for Sorbo: He's also a director, author, and producer, most recently developing a TV series titled Miracle Man with NBC.
In an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald, the husband and father-of-three opened up about his career and life as a Christian in Hollywood, his passion for seeing the United States return to its Judeo-Christian roots, and why he believes Hollywood is "waking up" to the faith-based film industry.
GH: In the past, you've been critical about the production quality and content of faith-based films. In your opinion, what's the biggest problem with faith-based films? Is the faith-based film industry getting better?
KS: I think that most people would agree that faith-based movies back in the 70's, 80's, and even the 90's were very cheesy, poorly written, and poorly acted. A lot of people were turned off by them, because they were also too preachy. We live in a world where people don't want to be told what to believe in and what not to believe in. You have to walk a fine line to hold an audience - obviously, you've got the choir up there, but you don't want to just preach to the choir, you want to preach to the "independent voters" - someone who is searching for what to believe.
The biggest change in the faith-based film industry is that the writing has gotten so much better, and there is now talent on both sides of the camera. More people are coming out and not being afraid to say they're Christian; I don't know why in Hollywood you have to be afraid to say you're a Christian, but there's a lot of bashing of Christians going on over the last decade.
I think everybody has upped their game, they've gotten smarter and more efficient about promoting films. From what the Kendrick brothers do, to PureFlix, to Sony's "Affirm" division, faith-based films have really picked up. It's just getting better and better, which I think is great. Hollywood is slowly waking up - there's an audience out there, and the independent film world is well aware of it. You can see that they're filling a void for people, because there are so many things on primetime television that are so crass you don't want your children watching. People are looking for entertainment that can touch them and move them. I love to see what's going on right now, it's great.
GH: You frequently discuss politics and social issues on your social media pages. This election season, what are some issues you are most passionate about? And what issues should Christians be focusing on when choosing a candidate?
KS: For one, Christians need to get out and vote. We have 80-90 million people in this country who say they're Christians, and in the last presidential election, only 20% showed up to vote. We get the country we deserve, and we can see where the country's heading. I have friends from Europe, and the reason they left their countries was because of exactly what's going on in our country now. We are a secular country; this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and that's gone. The majority of people are secular now, and we're a socialist country. All you have to do is look at what Socialism has done to countries all over Europe, and look at what Communism did in countries like Russia.
When I was filming God's Not Dead, I remember we were filming my death scene at 2 in the morning in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and it was election night. When the final polls came in from the West Coast that confirmed Obama as being re-elected, people came out on the streets screaming, "Four more years of free stuff!" They were chanting that and laughing. I thought, "Look at that - isn't that amazing? It's all they care about." It was people running and jumping, people that were healthy and strong that decided, "I don't want to work, I want to live off of other people's tax dollars." We need to change that, we need to wake people up.
I didn't grow up with any money; my dad was a schoolteacher, for crying out loud. I was the fourth of five kids, I wore hand-me-downs from my older brother for clothing. I started my own paper route when I was a kid for seven years because I wanted to go out and buy my own stuff. I didn't blame my dad; he was a schoolteacher. I remember him anguishing at the end of every month how to pay the bills with just $3 left in his bank account. I never felt like we were without anything, because I had loving parents, I had caring parents. But the family structure today is totally shot, it's gone.
We live in a country now where everyone wants to be offended, and they throw labels at you. People call me a racist and I go, "I'm just pointing out facts, I'm pointing out the truth." But people really can't handle the truth, they don't want to hear the truth, they want to live in a fantasy world. We need to do something to get this country back on track, to get it back to where it was - not bigger government. This country was founded on individuals, and our forefathers are rolling over in their graves right now seeing the change in this country.
I know people come after me on social media, but I don't care. I'm not preaching to the choir, I'm trying to wake people up. I post things to urge people to at least look at what's going on.
GH: You have a large family - how do you balance acting and family life?
KS: We homeschool, for one thing, so when I'm home I see the kids all the time. They're very active in sports, so I'm a cab driver when I'm here. When I'm not here, the family's still with me, because if I'm gone for more than a week at a film shoot, they travel with me. If I go to a speaking event, which is one or two nights at the most, I'll take one of my kids with me, so they get to travel with Dad. I'm hoping to get on a series again; we sold one to Sony and NBC and they're hemming and hawing over it, but it would be a great show for television, a great show for families to watch. Maybe that's what they're afraid of, like "Oh my gosh, this has moral values in it, we can't have that!" So, we'll see what happens.
GH: Your latest movie, Caged No More focuses on sex trafficking in the United States. Why are you so passionate about this issue?
KS: I was shooting a commercial years ago in Egypt, and I was working with an Italian director. He told me that his best friend and his wife went down to Egypt for their honeymoon, and they were at one of those markets where there were thousands of people in the streets, and everybody was bartering for tourist goods and clothing and hats. He turned away for a minute, turned back, and his wife was gone. He spent the next two years looking for her. It's an incredibly sad story. The officials down there told him she was kidnapped and drugged and while she was laying there like a rag, who knows how many men came and had sex with her every single day until they got rid of her and killed her. It's always kind of stuck with me. I know it's a big problem here, as well, because I have a friend who deals with it in this country. So when this movie came along, I just wanted to be a part of it. From an actor's standpoint, it was also fun to be able to play two different characters at the same time.
GH: You've been in numerous successful ventures, such as Hercules, Soul Surfer, and God's Not Dead. What was your favorite?
KS: I have to say Hercules. I mean, that was seven years of my life. The others were, you know, three, four-week shoots. Without Hercules, I wouldn't have the career I have now. It was in 176 countries at its peak, it passed Baywatch as the number one show in the world, I worked with an amazing crew and cast in New Zealand - most of them went on to win awards. I was there from 1993-1999, it was a fantastic part of my life. As far as a favorite movie - I would say "What If." I loved "God's Not Dead," but I think "What If" was a better movie. Same company, same writers as Pure Flix.
GH: What script and character qualities do you look at when choosing a role to play? Have there been times you are offered a role that goes against your faith and how did you respond?
KS: I give a film 20 pages, and it doesn't have to be a family film or a faith-based film. If a character and storyline is interesting to me after 20 pages, then I'll read the rest of the script and make my decision from there. If I can't get through the first 20 pages, then I put it aside and pass on it. There have been roles that have come to me - I'm not going to name any specifically - but roles that I was uncomfortable with, and I just said, 'I'm not interested in it, and I'm not going to do it.'
GH: Do you think your faith has prevented you from opportunities in Hollywood?
KS: Oh, there's no question about it. If you could do an undercover video in Hollywood behind closed doors like those Planned Parenthood videos where those women discuss crushing baby's heads and pulling out body parts - trust me - I mean Ben Affleck one time came out and said, "I will never hire a conservative Republican to do a movie with me." I was like, "How immature is that?"
I don't have a problem who have a different point of view than me, whether it's political or religious. I don't have a problem with most Muslims, because I know most Muslims are good people. I don't have a problem with most Jews, because most of them are good people. I don't have a problem with most Christians, because most Christians are good people.
But my faith certainly hurt me in Hollywood. I did Hercules for 7 years, it was the most watched show for a good number of years. But then, for me to get called into read for anything - it just dropped drastically when I came out of that conservative Christian closet so to speak. I used to read for a lot of pilots and TV shows, and it's very rare now.
Thank God for the independent film world, because I still get called to read for movies all the time; I've shot 48 movies in the last ten years, and most people don't even shoot 4 movies in their entire career as an actor. So, I'm very fortunate and I know that. Hollywood doesn't owe me anything. If they want to be that way, they can be that way. I can't stop people from their immature hate. Talk about calling people racist - I'm in an industry that screams for tolerance, but they have no tolerance whatsoever. They'll fight for their freedom of speech, but only if it's for what they say, only if it's their point of view. These people don't want to debate, they want to shut you down.
GH: What's next for you?
KS: I've got a movie with Dean Cain called The Carpool Lane, it's a wonderful script; Dean plays a high-profile lawyer and I play a homeless man, and it has a wonderful twist at the end of the movie. I have another movie coming out called Flash and another called The Santa Suit, which has become a favorite Christmas movie for a lot of people. And I'm directing and starring in a movie called Let There Be Light which is a faith-based Christmas movie which will come out Christmas 2017. We're going to do quite a big ad campaign for that to push it before the movie comes out, it's gonna be a game-changer. It's a wonderful script written by Dan Gordon, who is an amazing writer, talented man. He's Jewish, but he spends a lot of time here in the States, and he says, "The only way to change this country is through Jesus Christ," which is amazing.