After being ignored for decades, the Christian film industry is now beginning to catch the attention of Hollywood as the acting and scripts continue to improve, says “God’s Not Dead” actor Kevin Sorbo.
Recognizing the poor reputation Christian movies had acquired in the past for being low quality productions with sub-par acting, Sorbo, who played Professor Radisson in God’s Not Dead, insists that the faith-based films of yesteryear were all about delivering a message without paying much attention to how the message was delivered.
“I think that most people would agree that faith-based movies back in the ’70s, ’80s, and even the 90’s were very cheesy, poorly written and poorly acted,” Sorbo told The Gospel Herald in a recent interview.
The 57-year-old Christian actor, director, author and producer also explained how the pushy approach used to evangelize audiences has tended to push movie-goers away in years past because they want to be enterained first and not feel that their lack of faith is being targeted Christian producers.
“A lot of people were turned off by them, because they were also too preachy,” Sorbo continued. “We live in a world where people don’t want to be told what to believe in and what not to believe in.”
Today, Christian filmmakers make it a point give the audiences what they want, while still giving the Gospel message in meaningful and impactful ways, explains Sorbo, is best known for his roles as Hercules inHercules: The Legendary Journeys, Captain Dylan Hunt in Andromeda, and Kull in Kull the Conqueror.
“The biggest change in the faith-based film industry is that the writing has gotten so much better, and there is now talent on both sides of the camera,” insists Sorbo,who also appeared in the Christian box office hitSoul Surfer, had a starring role in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys TV series and developed NBC’s Miracle Man TV series.
He also notes that a major change today regarding Gospel-centered movies is that Christians no longer as timid as they used to be about sharing their identity in Christ and who they are.
“More people are coming out and not being afraid to say they’re Christian,” the outspoken 6-foot-3-inch actor asserted. “I don’t know why in Hollywood you have to be afraid to say you’re a Christian, but there’s a lot of bashing of Christians going on over the last decade.”
Despite the fact that being Christian is often not regarded as not being polititcally correct, Sorbo shared how Christian story tellers have become more savvy about getting the Gospel message out to mainstream audiences.
“I think everybody has upped their game, they’ve gotten smarter and more efficient about promoting films — from what the Kendrick brothers do, to PureFlix, to Sony’s ‘Affirm’ division, faith-based films have really picked up,” the Christian artist expressed. “It’s just getting better and better, which I think is great. Hollywood is slowly waking up – there’s an audience out there, and the independent film world is well aware of it. You can see that they’re filling a void for people, because there are so many things on primetime television that are so crass you don’t want your children watching. People are looking for entertainment that can touch them and move them. I love to see what’s going on right now, it’s great.”
With the presidential election coming up in November, Sorbo has also been outspoken on social media about how Christians have the duty to be an intregal part of the political process in America.
“For one, Christians need to get out and vote,” he insisted. “We have 80 to 90 million people in this country who say they’re Christians, and in the last presidential election, only 20 percent showed up to vote. We get the country we deserve, and we can see where the country’s heading. I have friends from Europe, and the reason they left their countries was because of exactly what’s going on in our country now. We are a secular country; this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and that’s gone. The majority of people are secular now, and we’re a socialist country. All you have to do is look at what Socialism has done to countries all over Europe, and look at what Communism did in countries like Russia.”
He then indicated how Christians need to do something if they are not happy with how the country is run, recalling what went on when Obam was reelected.
“When I was filming God’s Not Dead, I remember we were filming my death scene at two in the morning in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and it was election night,” Sorbo continued. “When the final polls came in from the West Coast that confirmed Obama as being re-elected, people came out on the streets screaming, ‘Four more years of free stuff!’ They were chanting that and laughing. I thought, ‘Look at that – isn’t that amazing? It’s all they care about.’ It was people running and jumping, people that were healthy and strong that decided, ‘I don’t want to work, I want to live off of other people’s tax dollars.’ We need to change that, we need to wake people up.”
The Hollywood star reminded America that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth and that he and his family had to work hard for what they got.
“I didn’t grow up with any money; my dad was a schoolteacher, for crying out loud!” Sorbo exclaimed. “I was the fourth of five kids, I wore hand-me-downs from my older brother for clothing. I started my own paper route when I was a kid for seven years because I wanted to go out and buy my own stuff. I didn’t blame my dad; he was a schoolteacher. I remember him anguishing at the end of every month how to pay the bills with just $3.00 left in his bank account. I never felt like we were without anything, because I had loving parents, I had caring parents. But the family structure today is totally shot, it’s gone.”
Sorbo went on to say that being timid and reluctant to share one’s faith is doing a disservice to God, who wants us to be bold witnesses for Him.
“We live in a country now where everyone wants to be offended, and they throw labels at you,” he added. “People call me a racist and I go, ‘I’m just pointing out facts, I’m pointing out the truth.’ But people really can’t handle the truth, they don’t want to hear the truth, they want to live in a fantasy world. We need to do something to get this country back on track, to get it back to where it was — not bigger government. This country was founded on individuals, and our forefathers are rolling over in their graves right now seeing the change in this country.”
He concedes that he is not popular with many about being outspoken when it comes to his sincerely held Christian beliefs.
“I know people come after me on social media, but I don’t care,” the unapologetic actor insisted. “I’m not preaching to the choir, I’m trying to wake people up. I post things to urge people to at least look at what’s going on.”
Off the big screen
Sorbo was then asked in his interview about his life away from the camera, which is family-focused.
“We homeschool, for one thing, so when I’m home I see the kids all the time,” the Christian artist shared. “They’re very active in sports, so I’m a cab driver when I’m here. When I’m not here, the family’s still with me, because if I’m gone for more than a week at a film shoot, they travel with me. If I go to a speaking event, which is one or two nights at the most, I’ll take one of my kids with me, so they get to travel with Dad. I’m hoping to get on a series again; we sold one to Sony and NBC and they’re hemming and hawing over it, but it would be a great show for television, a great show for families to watch. Maybe that’s what they’re afraid of, like ‘Oh my gosh, this has moral values in it, we can’t have that!” So, we’ll see what happens.”
Hitting touchy issues
When Sorbo was asked about portraying sensitive issues on camera, such as sex trafficking in America that was targeted in his latest movie, Caged No More, he explained why he was compelled to do the film.
“I was shooting a commercial years ago in Egypt, and I was working with an Italian director,” the actor from Mound, Minnesota, said. “He told me that his best friend and his wife went down to Egypt for their honeymoon, and they were at one of those markets where there were thousands of people in the streets, and everybody was bartering for tourist goods and clothing and hats. He turned away for a minute, turned back, and his wife was gone. He spent the next two years looking for her. It’s an incredibly sad story. The officials down there told him she was kidnapped and drugged and while she was laying there like a rag, who knows how many men came and had sex with her every single day until they got rid of her and killed her. It’s always kind of stuck with me. I know it’s a big problem here, as well, because I have a friend who deals with it in this country. So when this movie came along, I just wanted to be a part of it. From an actor’s standpoint, it was also fun to be able to play two different characters at the same time.”
And when asked about his favorite production that he was a part of, Sorbo gave a decisive winner.
“I have to say Hercules,” he replied. “I mean, that was seven years of my life. The others were, you know, three, four-week shoots. Without Hercules, I wouldn’t have the career I have now. It was in 176 countries at its peak, it passed Baywatch as the number one show in the world, I worked with an amazing crew and cast in New Zealand – most of them went on to win awards. I was there from 1993 to 1999, it was a fantastic part of my life. As far as a favorite movie – I would say What If. I loved God’s Not Dead, but I think What If was a better movie. Same company, same writers as Pure Flix.”
He was also asked what he does when deciding whether or not to accept a role — taking into consideration his Christian beliefs.
“I give a film 20 pages, and it doesn’t have to be a family film or a faith-based film,” Sorbo divulged. “If a character and storyline is interesting to me after 20 pages, then I’ll read the rest of the script and make my decision from there. If I can’t get through the first 20 pages, then I put it aside and pass on it. There have been roles that have come to me — I’m not going to name any specifically – but roles that I was uncomfortable with, and I just said, ‘I’m not interested in it, and I’m not going to do it.'”
Sorbo also agreed that his Christian faith has definitely precluded him from doing a number of Hollywood ventures.
“Oh, there’s no question about it,” Sorbo answered. “If you could do an undercover video in Hollywood behind closed doors like those Planned Parenthood videos where those women discuss crushing baby’s heads and pulling out body parts — trust me — I mean Ben Affleck one time came out and said, ‘I will never hire a conservative Republican to do a movie with me.’ I was like, ‘How immature is that?'”
He added that he does not allow his faith to form a barrier between him and nonbelievers.
“I don’t have a problem who have a different point of view than me, whether it’s political or religious,” Sorbo continued. “I don’t have a problem with most Muslims, because I know most Muslims are good people. I don’t have a problem with most Jews, because most of them are good people. I don’t have a problem with most Christians, because most Christians are good people.”
Yet he learned that being a Christian in the entertainment industry can render one unpopular at times.
“But my faith certainly hurt me in Hollywood,” the entertainer explained. “I did Hercules for seven years, it was the most watched show for a good number of years. But then, for me to get called into read for anything — it just dropped drastically when I came out of that conservative Christian closet so to speak. I used to read for a lot of pilots and TV shows, and it’s very rare now.”
Overcoming the boundaries
Sorbo maintains that the world of entertainment has opened the door to Christian themes of late.
“Thank God for the independent film world, because I still get called to read for movies all the time; I’ve shot 48 movies in the last 10 years, and most people don’t even shoot four movies in their entire career as an actor,” he noted. “So, I’m very fortunate and I know that. Hollywood doesn’t owe me anything. If they want to be that way, they can be that way. I can’t stop people from their immature hate. Talk about calling people racist — I’m in an industry that screams for tolerance, but they have no tolerance whatsoever. They’ll fight for their freedom of speech, but only if it’s for what they say, only if it’s their point of view. These people don’t want to debate, they want to shut you down.”
Looking ahead, Sorbo shared that he has a number of coals in the fire and that he will be a familiar Christian face on the big screen over the next year.
“I’ve got a movie with Dean Cain called The Carpool Lane; it’s a wonderful script,” the Christian star informed. “Dean plays a high-profile lawyer and I play a homeless man, and it has a wonderful twist at the end of the movie. I have another movie coming out called Flash and another called The Santa Suit, which has become a favorite Christmas movie for a lot of people. And I’m directing and starring in a movie called Let There Be Light, which is a faith-based Christmas movie which will come out Christmas 2017. We’re going to do quite a big ad campaign for that to push it before the movie comes out, it’s gonna be a game-changer. It’s a wonderful script written by Dan Gordon, who is an amazing writer, talented man. He’s Jewish, but he spends a lot of time here in the States, and he says, ‘The only way to change this country is through Jesus Christ,’ which is amazing.”
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