PASADENA, Calif. Kevin Sorbo is one of those actors who quit a successful television show but he's not one of those actors who left TV behind.
The former star of "Hercules" returns next month in another hourlong syndicated action hour, only this time around he'll be a starship captain in "Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda." And, while he's still on the small screen, he admits he had visions of big-screen stardom dancing in his head.
"Initially, I was going to go after a film career," Sorbo told television critics. "I've got to be honest, that's kind of what I wanted to go after. That's sort of what my dreams have always been.
"But I had such a good experience on 'Hercules.' And then this came along. I looked at the potential with the cast because now it was going to be an ensemble cast, it wasn't just going to be Herc and his buddy. It was going to be seven people and a lot of different things could happen."
Sorbo has cut his hair for the role it's still long, more Prince Valiant length rather than Hercules length and he's somewhat more trim.
"It's a whole new galaxy for me," he said. "I've actually dropped 20 pounds. You know, 'Hercules' was fun, but I'm kind of doing leaner, meaner. I can still kick butt, though. I mean, I'm tough."
"Andromeda" is based on bits and pieces of show concepts the late Roddenberry worked on decades ago. It's from the producers of "Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict," who include his widow, Majel Barrett Roddenberry. And she's more than pleased to have Sorbo starring in the series.
"What can I say? Just look at him," Roddenberry said. "And on top of it, he can act. And he is a gentleman. And he is a sweetheart. And I think you guys are really going to get to love him if you haven't already from 'Herc.' "
For his part, Sorbo said that as a longtime "Star Trek" fan he's excited to be involved in "Andromeda." He first got hooked on "Star Trek" when he was a kid, watching with his older brothers.
"You kind of do what your older brothers do," Sorbo said. "And I became more hooked on the show in reruns, when I got in junior high school and high school and college. It became sort of a ritual. . . . I've probably seen every episode 50 times. That's not an exaggeration.
"I was always just drawn to the characters. I was always drawn to the relationships of it. . . . I loved the relationships between the original characters. Whether it was Spock or Captain Kirk or Lieutenant Uhura, whoever it may have been, I liked the relationships. I think that's what makes us watch TV. If the conflict and the drama isn't there between the characters, what's going to make it interesting for people watch? That's why we watch anything, whether it's a 'Hercules' or an 'ER' or, hopefully, and 'Andromeda.' "
Tough enough to undertake another hourlong series. And tough enough to decide that syndication, which is often seen as less prestigious than network television, was the way to go again.
"I was actually contemplating doing a network TV show. We were in negotiations for it before this one even came to me," he said.
The other show, at CBS, never got off the ground. "Andromeda," on the other hand, has already received an order for two complete seasons.
"Not many TV shows get a 44-episode kickoff without proving themselves first," Sorbo said. "At networks, you get, what, six (episodes)? You get 13 if you're lucky."
The producers of "Hercules" would have been happy to continue producing the series; it was Sorbo's decision to leave that killed the show. Not that he's bashing the show that made him a star.
"It was wonderful for me to do that series, and I had a great time with it," he said. "And, as an actor, it was time to move on and do something new."
And to move closer to home "Hercules" was filmed in New Zealand; "Andromeda" is being produced in Vancouver, Canada.
"It's still part of North America," Sorbo said. "I'm only 2 1/2 hours away (from Los Angeles) instead of 13 hours away."
Which is nice for both Sorbo and his wife, actress Sam Jenkins. And Vancouver offers her more opportunities as well.
"The last time I counted, there's 41 productions in Vancouver right now," he said. "As opposed to New Zealand, there was one and then two when we had our spinoff show ('Xena: Warrior Princess').
"It's nice to be closer to home. It really is. It's just an easier gig for me now," Sorbo said.Comment on this story
"Andromeda" also offers a more favorable working schedule. Episodes are shot in six or seven days as opposed to eight or nine. And, given that most of it is shot in a studio as opposed to outside locations, it's easier to keep to that schedule because weather doesn't interfere."So I basically have about a 7 1/2-month shooting schedule as opposed to a 9 1/2-month shooting schedule," Sorbo said. "So I have 4 1/2 months off continuous each year, and I'm looking at other projects."