Fifteen years ago, at just 38, "Hercules" star Kevin Sorbo mysteriously suffered from an aneurysm and three strokes. It took him a couple of years to feel normal again. But today he is living happily and healthily ever after in southern California with his three kids, Braeden, 11, Shane, 8, and Octavia, 7, and his wife, actress Sam Jenkins. (They're celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary this weekend.)
His book, True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal and How Nearly Dying Saved My Life, is out in paperback, and he is a spokesman for A World Fit for Kids, a nonprofit program to keep teens in school. He talks with Family Goes Strong about his stroke rehab and recovery – and about his family and his work. Excerpts:
How is your life after the strokes?
That was an anomaly, a fluky thing. I've passed every physical you can possibly think of. [But] I've had repercussions from the strokes. I still have dizzy spells. I still have 10 percent loss of vision. [But] I went on to finish my last two years of "Hercules." I did Gene Roddenberry's "Andromeda." I've done about 50 movies in the last seven years.
And you're doing voice-overs for videogames?
I'm doing "Skylanders" and "God of War" and "The Conduit." I'm getting more and more voice-over stuff.
Do your kids think it's cool you were Hercules?
Of course. It's back out on Netflix. It was in 176 countries at its peak.
What are a few projects your fans can look forward to?
I have a movie coming out [on DVD] January 22 called "Abel's Field." And "Shadow on the Mesa," a western, is coming out this fall on the Hallmark Channel.
How did the strokes affect your life – and your life with Sam?
We'd been engaged eight months at that point. She got the worst part before she said, "for better or worse." I was a guy who was 7 percent body fat, working out two hours a day. The aneurysm that happened in my left shoulder — they didn't know why that happened. I just had the unfortunate experience of going to my chiropractor and him cracking my neck, and within minutes I suffered my strokes.
How did you recover?
The whole process to get better for me was to push myself. If I went out to a restaurant during those first two years, the noise around me was too much for my brain to handle. It would send me into spins. The dizziness would come back. I had a sensation I was falling backward 24 hours a day for the first year. It went away. I just kept pushing myself. I had migraines. I don't get those any more. I was retraining my brain. That's what stroke survivors have to do. The physical fitness that I had prior to my strokes was instrumental in my recovery.
How much do you work out these days?
I work out every day, about an hour and a half a day. I do cardio. I still lift weights every day, but I don't lift heavy any more.
So are you still Herculean size?
I'm still 6-3, 6-3 ½. I was 230 to 235 when I did the show. I'm 215 now. This is my high school weight.
Does the rest of your family exercise?
The kids all do sports — basketball, karate. That's the way I grew up with my brothers. You pass it down. It's good for kids. It's healthy for them. That's part of my after-school program. I've been a celebrity spokesperson now for World Fit for Kids for 15 years now.
Do you all work out together?
Yeah. I built a really nice gym at the house. It's my man cave. It's got the stereo TV. I'm the ultimate multi-tasker. I've got a little trampoline my little girl could bounce on forever. I'm teaching them just to tone their muscles. It's fun for me. They have a blast coming in.
What is your family doing now?
We're in Hawaii. We try to come here every year. I like to come here after Christmas. I usually play golf. Two years ago I was out here playing, and I got a hole in one! My dad was a [seventh and eighth grade math and biology] teacher, and in the summers he worked at a golf course. I grew up playing the game.
You starred in "Hercules" and "Andromeda." Would you go back to TV again?
I would love to. We're kicking around a couple of ideas right now. I've got two TV series I feel really good about. Hopefully one will be picked up.
And "Hercules" and "Andromeda" are still around…
Both shows are in about 100 countries each.
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