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Published February 10 2013

Sorbo, star of ‘Hercules,’ returns to speak at MSUM

MOORHEAD – This weekend, a demigod returns to his roots.

Minnesota State University Moorhead alumnus Kevin Sorbo, who played the title character in the ’90s television series “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” will be in town Friday as the guest speaker for MSUM’s Founder’s Scholarship Gala.

Today Sorbo, who attended MSUM from fall 1977 to winter 1981, continued his acting career after “Hercules” ended in 2000. He played the lead role in Gene Roddenberry’s “Andromeda,” which ran from 2000-05. In 2011, he starred in “Soul Surfer,” along with Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt and Carrie Underwood.

Also in 2011, Sorbo released his memoir, “True Strength,” which recounted his recovery from a stroke in 1997.

Sorbo also leads a California afterschool mentoring program called “A World Fit for Kids,” which trains inner-city teens to be positive role models.

Given those accomplishments, the Mound, Minn., native was the perfect choice to bring back to Moorhead for MSUM’s annual gala, said Jenni Walthall, chair of this year’s event.

“We thought he’d be perfect, because he’s an alum, he’s obviously well-recognized, very successful, and we feel he’s a very positive role model,” she says. “We feel very proud that he’s gone on to do great things.”

We called Sorbo at his home in California last week to chat about what he enjoyed most during his time at MSUM and what he’s been up to recently.

Do you ever get tired of being known as “the guy who played Hercules”?

I always laugh at actors who say they’re known for only one thing. You know how many actors don’t get work?

I had two TV shows – “Hercules” ran for seven years and passed “Baywatch” as the most-watched TV show in the world. I’m honored and blessed to be a part of that show.

‘Andromeda’ had a five-year run. It was the first show Gene Roddenberry created after “Star Trek.” And I’m a “Star Trek” fan, so to play the next captain that Gene Roddenberry created is quite an honor.

To have both of those shows – I have no problem with people coming up to me about them.

I’ve done a lot of other things, though. I’ve shot more than 40 movies in the last seven years. I’ve been mixing it up. I’ve been in quite a variety of things.

For me as an actor, it’s fun to explore these different things, but for people to come up and still say, ‘Hey, I loved you in Hercules,’ that’s pretty cool for me.

What do you remember most about your time at MSUM?

I liked it there. To this day, I still have very good friends from my time there, and we get together every single year.

I was always a workout fiend. I remember playing basketball virtually every day, and lifting weights every day.

Friday and Saturday nights we’d go out, but any night was the night to go out. The Trader & Trapper, the East Gate Lounge – I know all those are gone now – and Mick’s Office, those were the big hangouts in my day.

You didn’t get into acting until after you left MSUM. What was the process there?

I always knew I wanted to be an actor. Since I was 11 years old, I wanted to be an actor. But when I grew up, I played football and basketball and sports instead.

As a jock, we always made fun of the guys in the drama class, so I had to sort of come out of the closet, so to speak, that I wanted to be an actor.

But I liked business, too. I was a double major at MSUM – marketing and advertising. I had a great time during those years.

But I know if I could do it over again, I would’ve just dived into the theater right away. I wouldn’t have held myself back.

A lot of it was fear, not believing in myself at the time. But once I made a decision to come to California, I was determined. There was just no way you were going to hold me back.

You recently received the 2013 Public Leadership in Neurology Award from the American Academy of Neurology for your stroke awareness efforts. How important is that cause to you?

Like anything in life, until something drastic happens to you or to your friends, we all kind of sit around apathetically, not making a move.

When it happens to you personally, you kind of go, ‘Wow.’ I know a lot more about strokes now than I did prior to having my own stroke.

It took me three years to recover from that, and that’s why the book was finally written. It was to let people know, look, if it happened to me, with the physical level I was at in my 30s, it could happen to anybody.

It was a book written not only about strokes, but to benefit those who suffer from car accidents, cancer, heart attacks – whatever it may be.

How do you react to that once you have it? How do you react to it once you’re lucky enough to survive it? What do you do to make yourself better?

What are you most excited about doing when you come back to Moorhead this week?

It’ll be fun to come back. I love to walk through campus – it’s funny how that stuff comes back to you, even after all those years.

College is a big part of anybody’s life. It’s a big deal where you end up going and where you decide to go. Those are things that stick with you forever.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

If you go

What: Minnesota State University Moorhead’s fifth annual Founder’s Scholarship Gala, with special guest speaker Kevin Sorbo

When: 5:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Comstock Memorial Union Ballroom, 615 14th St. S., Moorhead

Info: Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased online at www.mnstate.edu/FoundersGala or by calling (218) 477-2143

Can’t make it to the Founder’s Scholarship Gala?

If you can’t make it to the gala but still want to see Kevin Sorbo when he’s in town, there are two other opportunities to do so. The actor will be participating in an open forum at 11 a.m. on Friday at the Gaede Stage at MSUM’s Center for the Arts.

Sorbo will also be signing copies of his memoir, “True Strength,” at Barnes & Noble in Fargo from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday.