As the title star of Hercules in the 1990s, Kevin Sorbo was known for his strength and vitality. But off-camera, he hid a deep secret: His abilities had been severely limited since falling victim to an aneurism and multiple strokes — in one day — in 1997. Now, 14 years after the illness that nearly killed him, he is breaking his silence in a new book, True Strength.
“I’m one of those guys — even in college, you have paper due at the end of the semester and I wait for the last week. It had just gotten to a point where I said, ‘You know what? I just have to do this,’” Sorbo says of his decision to write the book now.
Coming clean about his strokes was “strange,” Sorbo says, because the Hercules studio had tried to keep them under wraps for years. Stunt doubles were hired and scenes were rewritten around the star.
Sorbo says he was “immediately grateful” for the smoke and mirrors.
“They let out the aneurysm,” he says.
“It was all over the news, so people knew that I was sick. But the studio still had two years left in my contract and they wanted to go another three years beyond that because it was the most watched show in the world. I didn’t want anyone to know that this guy who was larger than life, playing this big superhero guy — I thought that I was Hercules in a way and then I would suddenly go to 90-years-old overnight.
“It was tough for my ego. I thought that my life was over and that I would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. So I’m really grateful to the studio for working around me to get through an episode without me.”
And yet, despite the debilitation, Sorbo made Herculean efforts to get back on his feet.
“I’m a very strong-willed person and I have a very driven personality,” he says.
“When they told me that this was what I had to do to get better, I would do 10 times more than that. I pushed myself. I would throw myself into the situation and tell myself, ‘Hey, no pain, no gain.’ I looked at this as a gift and decided to accept it.
“Initially, it made me mad, but after a while, I got it. It changed my life completely. I became a much more patient person. I became a far more compassionate person and that’s why I wrote the book.”
These days, the actor says he’s feeling good, despite frequent migraines and some dizziness when he overdoes his workouts.
He acknowledges his gut as a means to let him know he’s reached his limit. It’s a resource, he claims, we all need to learn how to tap into.
“You know when something is wrong,” he says. “Guys, we just have this stupid ego. Guys are so insecure about our manhood — we do not want to admit weakness to anybody. But you know what? The reality is, you really just got to listen to that voice. Look past your ego and take care of yourself.”