MAIN LIBRARY — Kevin Sorbo understands pain, as well as progress.
The American star of popular small screen hits like the sword and sandal series “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and sci-fi “Andromeda” suffered a stroke in 1997.
“I want people to hopefully be looking at this like a positive,” Sorbo said.
The stroke, and other aspects of Sorbo’s career as an actor, are the subject of his new book “True Strength: My Journey From Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life.”
Sorbo has taken the book, as well as his experiences good and bad, on the road.
“I read a little bit, tell my story — the CliffNotes version of it — and take a lot of questions,” Sorbo said.
Sorbo will be at the Santa Monica Main Library today at 7 p.m. in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Auditorium to discuss his experiences. A book signing will follow.
“So far, the response is amazing,” Sorbo said.
At readings in Los Angeles and New York, stroke victims and the families of stroke victims have approached Sorbo to share their own stories, he said. But even those who haven’t had serious health problems have spoken with Sorbo after the readings to talk about the affirmative impact they have felt.
Sorbo, who had covered up the stroke until now, said that with time he feels that he has gained enough distance and perspective to say something meaningful about his experiences.
“It took me three full years afterward to say, ‘everything’s going to be better now,’” Sorbo said. “The next few years were like a safety net.”
Sorbo’s story started before he came to Hollywood, when he was attending Minnesota State University. He double majored in marketing and advertising, but underneath it, he minored in drama.
“I met a girl at that time who was a model,” Sorbo said, admitting that his story should sound familiar.
Sorbo followed his girlfriend into modeling and across the ocean. Sorbo worked well in Europe, modeling and doing commercials.
He found that he stood out in more ways than one.
“Most of the other models were smaller than me,” Sorbo said.
After a few years, Sorbo’s work took him to Los Angeles, where he could pursue his original passion — acting.
Sorbo claims there was nothing special about the way he got the part of Hercules, which would prove to be his breakthrough role.
“I got an agent, a manager. I got my break on ‘Hercules.’ ‘Hercules’ was seven auditions over two months, and I was lucky enough to get it,” Sorbo said.
“I think every actor could write the same book,” he added.
With “Hercules,” Sorbo found steady work. A typical day of shooting could last more than 14 hours, he said.
A couple of seasons into “Hercules,” Sorbo noticed a lump near his shoulder. Only slightly concerned, Sorbo visited a chiropractor.
“He cracked my neck. Within a few minutes after leaving his office, that’s when I suffered the stroke,” he said.
Terrifyingly enough, Sorbo suffered the stroke while he was driving in Los Angeles.
Despite the stroke, shooting on “Hercules” continued. But Sorbo’s schedule shrank, and his 14-hour days turned into one hour days to compensate for his weakened condition.
The experience initially left Sorbo in physical and mental confusion.
“Thirty-eight years old and I suffered a stroke. I was in better shape than most guys in their 20s,” Sorbo said.
“I’m playing Hercules for crying out loud,” he said.
At first, Sorbo’s medical diagnosis looked grim. Doctors told him he might have less than a year to live, Sorbo said.
“I said to myself, ‘there’s no way these guys are right. I’m not going to live my life like this,’” he added.
Slowly, and with the help of physical therapy, psychiatry and alternative medicine, Sorbo recovered from the negative effects of the stroke.
The biggest challenge was learning to trust his own body again, Sorbo said.
“You can make up your own mind whether you want to get better or not,” he said.
And get better he did. Sorbo continued to work on “Hercules” and on his health.
“I just kept pushing and pushing and pushing,” he said.
Today, Sorbo golfs, runs a charity health program and continues to stay busy acting.
“I’ve got another movie I start next month, a movie in January, and a new TV series in spring,” he said.
The stroke was definitely a turning point for Sorbo, and he has learned to see it as a turn in the right direction.
“I wasn’t back 100 percent, I’d never be as good an athlete as I was, but I wasn’t going to let that control my life. That’s what I’m hoping people find,” he said.
“I’m hoping people get past their fears.”
Sorbo’s book is available on www.amazon.com. More information can be found at his website, www.kevinsorbo.net.