Kevin Sorbo gained fame almost overnight after landing the role of Hercules in the television series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. His muscular build and wholesome but drop-dead-handsome face were perfectly suited for the television incarnation of the demi-god, and both Sorbo and the series quickly gained a legion of devoted fans.
It certainly seemed that the gods were smiling on Sorbo … and then it all fell apart. Despite his lifestyle—healthy diet, exercise, all-around clean living—Sorbo suffered a series of mini-strokes that nearly killed him and left him weak and practically helpless. That sort of health crisis would have been difficult for anyone to manage, but for a man accustomed to living like Hercules, being a weakling was especially challenging.
In addition to the impact on his personal life, Sorbo’s condition was also a serious threat to the television series; in fact, his health issues were kept secret from the general public in order to protect the show. Co-star Michael Hurst and regular guest star Bruce Campbell among others took on larger parts and scripts were re-written to accommodate Sorbo’s fragile state, resulting in some of the more creative episodes (including my favorite, “Yes, Virginia, There is A Hercules”).
True Strength is Sorbo’s own account of the years spent searching for a definitive diagnosis and explanation for his debilitating symptoms. The frustration and fear are front and center in this candid memoir. Readers who have experienced similar health issues will relate to and appreciate the raw emotion that Sorbo shares; others will likely be surprised to learn that money and fame cannot fix everything. To Sorbo’s credit, he is able to make the details of his illness and its aftermath as compelling as any mystery novel.
Interspersed throughout the book are sections written by Sam Jenkins Sorbo, Bruce Campbell and Michael Hurst. Having followed the first-person journey written by Kevin Sorbo himself, these new perspectives are particularly interesting, revealing as they do the concern and compassion of those closest to the man as he struggles with both the physical and emotional toll of chronic illness.
The son of Zeus was continually tormented by Hera; illness proved no less formidable a foe for Kevin Sorbo. While Hercules depended upon his physical and moral strength to overcome the obstacles thrown at him by his stepmother, Sorbo gives much of the credit for his recovery to a higher God but does not discount the power of determination and the support of his family and friends.
One needn’t be a fan of the actor to appreciate the story told in True Strength. It is, in its own way, as inspirational and insightful as any myth.