Sunday, March 17, 2013


Updated 3/19/2013



On Saturday night, March 23rd, a new Western movie, SHADOW ON THE MESA, will premiere on Hallmark Movie Channel.  Starring Kevin Sorbo, Wes Brown, Gail O’Grady, Shannon Lucio, Greg Evigan, Meredith Baxter and Barry Corbin, it’s written by Lee Martin, and directed by David H. Cass Sr.  I recently had a chance to talk with Kevin Sorbo about MESA, Westerns in general, and the role that made him an international star, HERCULES.


HENRY:  How did a Minnesota boy become an international star by way of New Zealand?


KEVIN:  (Laughs) It was written in the stars since I was eleven years old.  I told my parents I was going to be an actor.  I set that course at a very young age, came out to L. A. not knowing a soul, and I’m a thirteen year overnight success. 


Henry:  How did you get cast as Hercules?


KEVIN:  Typical audition, like anything else.  Your agent gets a breakdown, says we’re looking for these types of guys to do some movies in New Zealand.  I went to audition, then they called me back a second time, then a third time, a fourth time; over two months they called me back seven times.  They looked at over 2,800 people in North America.  I got the gig!  Originally it was going to be five two-hour movies down there, and I knew by the second movie that they were going to make it a series.  Just had a gut feeling that we had something that people were going to love.  Sure enough, they told us by the third movie that it was going to be a series.  I did seven years, and we ended up passing BAYWATCH as the most watched show in the world.

Kevin Sorbo as HERCULES

HENRY:  Outstanding.


KEVIN:  Pretty cool.  We shot from 1993 through 1999, and most of my crew went on to work on LORD OF THE RINGS when we finished shooting. 


HENRY:  I knew New Zealand was a great location for that kind of work, but I did not know that it was the same crew. 


KEVIN:  Yeah, Peter Jackson was coming to the set pretty much every year to see what was going on, kind of look at the progress of the crew.  Because initially we had a handful of people, heads of departments, who knew what they were doing, had done some things before, but things were pretty green down there at the time we started.  Peter Jackson said, if it wasn’t for HERCULES, we wouldn’t have the crews we have today.  We were a great training ground for them.  Great training ground for me. 


HENRY:  What did you like most about doing the series?


KEVIN:  I loved it – I loved the humor of the show, I loved doing the fight scenes – I’m an ex-jock, played football, basketball, baseball, all sports, and to me it was just all part of working out – doing all these fight-scenes and stuff was a blast.  I learned a lot about martial arts, and I’m the first to admit that if a real black-belt came up to me I’d get my butt kicked, but I got good at fakin’ it.  I had a great time doing it with my crew, and I still keep in touch with a lot of the guys in the stunt team.  And Michael Hurst, who played Iolaus, we get a hold of each other once a month to catch up on life.  It was just a blast; it was a wonderful chapter in my life, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.


HENRY:  Was there any downside, anything you liked least about it?


KEVIN:  I guess sometimes the distance.  But you know, when I went down there, I was not an attached person, and I wanted a career and I loved the show.  I can’t really say I got home-sick.  I got bummed out once the show became a major success, and I started getting invited to every major party in Hollywood, and I could never go, so being 7,000 miles away in New Zealand was kind of a drag.  But I had a great time there.  Wonderful people.  I’m a very outdoorsy kind of guy, and it was a good lifestyle.  


HENRY:  There’s a lot of humor in your work, a tongue-in-cheek feel. 


KEVIN:  I threw that stuff in on HERCULES early.  I started ad-libbing little one-liners at the end of each scene.  It wasn’t to piss the writers off.  I didn’t want to take anything away; I left it where they could take it out of they wanted to.  But they loved it, and Sam Raimi, who was our executive producer, that’s his style from THE EVIL DEAD and that type of thing.  He started telling the writers to throw that stuff in.  You couldn’t take HERCULES seriously; you had to have people laughing with us, not at us.  And I think that was a part of the charm of the show.  When I do these autograph shows – I get invited all over the world, and I pick three or four to do a year – everybody at the Q&A says it looks like you guys had a lot of fun, and we did. 


HENRY:  When the 111 episodes and half-dozen movies were over, did you want it to go on, or were you happy to let the character go at that point?


KEVIN:  I was ready to move on to something else.  Universal Studios offered a three-year extension, but at the same time I got a phone call from Majel Roddenberry.  I was a big STAR TREK fan, so I was flattered that she called to tell me about a project her husband wrote after the original STAR TREK series finished in 1969.  She said, “I think Gene would want you to be Captain Dylan Hunt.”  And like I say, I’m kind of a geek Trekkie in that way.  They gave me a two-year guarantee, and shoot in Vancouver, which I love as well, and you know, I wanted to do something different.  I didn’t want to become the Gilligan of my series, and never get any work again (laughs), so I had a nice five-year run on ANDROMEDA, too.


HENRY:  So the fact that it was created by Gene Roddenberry was a big attraction for you.


KEVIN:  Oh, no question.  I went to his house in Bel Air, that Majel had kept – she’s passed away too, five years ago.  They kept his office the same way it was when he passed away in the early nineties.  Saw his desk, saw his papers there, and it was pretty cool.  There are a lot of Trekkie out there who would pay a lot to do what I did.


HENRY:  While HERCULES was mostly outdoor action, ANDROMEDA was more soundstage-bound and often very intellectual ideas.  Did you prefer one over the other?


KEVIN:  I have to give HERCULES the nod because that’s where I got my break – that’s where it started for me.  Both series are still airing in about a hundred countries around the world.  It’s been interesting with HERCULES because it came out on Netflix a couple of years ago, and Hub TV, and all of sudden I’m getting these under-eighteen-year-olds coming up to me, who were too young when the series finished.  And now they’re watching it.  So this whole reprisal of the show’s going on.  And finally the Tribune Company came out of bankruptcy, so now ANDROMEDA’s going to be on Netflix soon as well, and that’s going to get another run going, too.     


HENRY:  You’ve worked a lot in Canada, and New Zealand, and the United States.  How do the countries compare?


KEVIN:  It’s funny, because I’ve been very fortunate to get the work that I’ve had.  But every time I work, I never work in California.  It’s very rare – I’ve done a lot of guest spots on sitcoms and they shoot here obviously, but for the most part I always shoot somewhere else.  Last year alone, I shot in Louisiana couple times, shot in Canada again. There would be just a little cultural differences.  But for the most part the crews, they all work hard, they’re all there to make something good, and have a good time.  And I like to have fun.  You’re working long days; let’s make something that people can enjoy, have a good time on the set, and not get all crazy with each other and cause tension.


HENRY:  As far as I know, 2007’s AVENGING ANGEL was your first western –


KEVIN:  Yup.


HENRY:  – where you’re playing a preacher-turned-bounty-hunter.  You followed a year later with PRAIRIE FEVER, with Lance Henriksen and Dominique Swain.  Now you’ve done your third western, SHADOW ON THE MESA.  What keeps bringing you back to the western form?


KEVIN:  I love ‘em.  I’ve got about six scripts that we’re trying to finance right now that are all westerns.  I think a lot of it had to do with my father, growing up as a kid watching the re-runs of GUNSMOKE, BONANZA, and all that stuff, so it’s sort of ingrained in me.  We romanticize about that, I guess.  There’s something amazing about the people that came out west, back in the 1800s.  I’m sure it was pretty brutal; (laughs) I’m sure they were all pretty stinky, but there’s just something about it that I think we all love.  I mean, after I shot AVENGING ANGEL I told Robert Duvall that I just shot my first western. He looked at me and said, “It’s the best thing, isn’t it?  Every actor wants to do a western.”    And I think there’s a lot of truth in it.  There’s something wonderful about them – like I said, I’ve got all these other scripts we’re trying to raise money for now.  I wish I could have done more.  Hallmark’s just the only one that keeps that genre alive.


HENRY:  I was just writing in the Round-up that there’s no one else you can point to and say they’ve made four westerns in the last year except Hallmark.


KEVIN:  There is the occasional feature that comes out, obviously, but they’re the ones who keep it going, and the biggest problem, they say, is it doesn’t translate well overseas for some reason, but I still love doing them; I hope we can keep on making them. 


HENRY:  The irony is that for years, overseas was the guaranteed box office for westerns, and that seems to have dried up.  Of course you did a lot of horseback riding as Hercules, before you became an official cowboy.  Were there any skills you had to learn, to do westerns convincingly?


KEVIN:  The whole gun action – which was fun.  Go to a range, shooting – I can see why people get hooked on it.  I wish I could have rode some more on this last one, SHADOW ON THE MESA.  I didn’t ride; the whole back-story on my character is that he broke his leg on a young horse he was trying to break.  The only time I didn’t get to ride a horse was on this one.


HENRY:  They’ll have to get you on two horses in the next one.  Now all three of your westerns have been directed by stuntman-turned-director David S. Cass, Sr.  Does he bring something special to the genre?


KEVIN:  David’s been around, you know.  All the stunts he did with Mitchum and Wayne; he’s got some great tales.  He knows what he wants; he’s very creative.  And obviously he’s learned his trade from other directors as a young buck, being on the set, throwing himself around, and getting beat up.  He’s used his training well.  I love Dave; we have a great camaraderie together.  He’s easy to work for, and he knows that I’m going to come prepared, that I’m willing to take chances as well. 


HENRY:  We touched a little on the fact that you grew up watching westerns with your dad.  Did you have particular favorites as a kid?


KEVIN:  You know, I’m a Clint Eastwood guy; I love Clint.  I’m very fortunate that over the last few years I’ve gotten to golf with him a few times, got to know him a little better; we’ve attended a few events together.  You look at HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER and all the Sergio Leone stuff.  He goes there (to Europe) and does those westerns that nobody said would do anything, and they became like the biggest westerns of all time.  And I like the Trinity guys, too, Terence Hill, Bud Spencer.  Love those things; totally crack me up. 


HENRY:  How about your favorite westerns as an adult; is it a new list, or is it the same group? 


KEVIN:  Probably the same group.  There are some good ones out there.  That one with Russell Crowe, 3:10 TO YUMA – I liked that one.  I enjoyed that one a lot.  But still, if I’m flipping channels and HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER is on or OUTLAW JOSEY WALES, I’ll stop and watch the rest of it, even though I’ve seen it twenty times.


HENRY:  And of course he’s so good not only as an actor, but as an actor-director. 


KEVIN:  I’ve told him, because we know each other now.  I’ve said, “Clint, if it’s one line, I don’t care.  I want to work with you one time.  Just want to be on the set, to say I’ve worked with Clint Eastwood.  So c’mon, throw me a bone!” 

Kevin with Shannon Lucio as his daughter

HENRY:  What western stars of the past do you connect with?  Do you see a Glenn Ford or a Randolph Scott role and say, I’d like to play that?


KEVIN:  I like Gary Cooper.   I think my acting style is similar to his in a way.  I just like the way he carries himself, and I’ve had other people tell me that in the past.  I grew up watching movies with my mom and dad, and Gary Cooper is one of the stars we watched a lot.  I’m a big fan of Cary Grant.  And Jimmy Stewart – I love his stuff.  BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID – I’m a huge fan of Robert Redford and Paul Newman; that’s really what kind of put it over the top for me to want to be an actor. 


HENRY:  Tell me a bit about SHADOW IN THE MESA, and your role in it.


KEVIN:  Well, my character is a solid man; typical of a lot of westerns, these strong, silent types.  He doesn’t mince words.  He finds out he’s got this son that he never knew he had, and the son is pretty much coming to assassinate him.  He’s played by Wes Brown, and we had a really good camaraderie – I really liked working with him.  He’s an up-and-coming kid; he’s a good actor.  And my character, he’s going through a lot of stuff – all the things country songs are written of, except the dog doesn’t die. 

Shannon Lucio and Wes Brown


HENRY:  I’ve read the synopsis, but not seen it yet.  But the plot is a lot more complex than westerns typically are.  There were turns in the story that I didn’t see coming.  It’s a nice piece of work – at least on paper.


KEVIN:  It is.  I think it turned out well. 


HENRY:  Now your in-laws are Meredith Baxter and Barry Corbin – a very talented pair.  Barry’s someone who always seems to fit perfectly in westerns. What’s he like?

Meredith Baxter and Barry Corbin

KEVIN:  Here’s the funny thing: I never got to work with either of them.  We never even saw each other on the set.  I worked with Gail O’Grady and Greg Evigan.


HENRY:  Well, tell me about Gail and Greg.

Gail O'Grady

KEVIN:  Well, Gail I’ve known for a long time, and it was great to work with her – we actually did a TWO AND A HALF MEN together years ago; she played my ex-wife in that one.  She’s a hoot, she’s funny.  She’s a beautiful girl with a trucker’s mouth on her.  And Greg was just a class act.  A nice guy, we’d never met before.  He played the guy who was my arch enemy.  And we didn’t get to work too much together either.  We were two days on the set together, but our scenes were pretty much at a distance, shooting at each other! (Laughs)

Greg Evigan

HENRY:  So you’d make more westerns if you had a chance to?


KEVIN:  In a heartbeat.  I’ve got a wonderful script called TRANQUILITY; we’ve got Dwight Yoakam and Ann Margaret attached.  So hopefully we can make this thing. 


HENRY:  Am I allowed to mention that?


KEVIN:  Sure; tell ‘em we’re looking for investors!  It may be a little too dark for Hallmark, which is may be why they passed on it.  They like a little more ‘blue sky’ type of stuff, which is fine, but this has a very interesting story to it. 


HENRY:  To switch to a much more serious topic, tell me about FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! 

Channeling Daniel Day-Lewis in

KEVIN:  Well, I did a movie with these guys (director Garrett Brawith and writer Ross Patterson) the year before that.  It was called POOL BOY: DROWNING OUT THE FURY, which I starred in.  They called me up and said, look, we have this cameo role with you as Abe Lincoln, do you want to do this?  I read this script and laughed and said yes.  Barry Bostwick plays FDR, and I get him stoned. 


HENRY:  All this stuff that Daniel Day-Lewis left out!


KEVIN:  I love doing it – I’m a big David Zucker fan as well, and I got to do a cameo in one of his films, AMERICAN CAROL.  I love AIRPLANE, NAKED GUN, all of that.  That sophomoric, stupid humor, it’s just fun to do.  We’ve got another one coming with the same group, where I’m going to have second lead, to a woman.  We don’t know who the actress is going to be, but it’s going to be Helen Keller’s life story, and she was really a spy, and a kick-ass spy at that, and I’m her sidekick. 


HENRY:  What else are you up to?


KEVIN:  I’d love to throw a nod to a movie of mine that’s out right now, called ABEL’S FIELD.  It’s from New Sony Studios, they’re the same division that I did SOUL SURFER with.  It’s a modern-day Cain and Abel-meets-FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.  We shot it in Austin, Texas.  It’s a wonderful family movie.   You go to for a trailer on that.  And my book just came out in paperback.  It’s called TRUE STRENGTH, you can go to .  It’s a little bit of my life story. When going through the HERCULES years, between season five and six, I had an aneurism that caused three strokes.  Universal kept it very quiet because HERCULES was doing quite well for them.  But I went through four months of re-hab; learned to walk again.  Two strokes went to my balance; one stroke went to my vision.  The last two years on HERCULES were pretty tough for me.  I went from fourteen-hour work-days to one hour, then worked it up to two hours a month later, then three hours, and slowly worked my way back.  They did a lot of stunt casting and a lot of clip shows to keep the show alive.  It wasn’t fun; and I’ve been doing a lot of speaking at neurological institutions, hospitals and bookstores.  It’s been pretty amazing to see people’s response, because it’s about triumph over tragedy, and how you get through things that throw that curve-ball at you in life.  And GOD’S NOT DEAD comes out in theatres this fall.  Same people I did a movie called WHAT IF… with.  So you should mark that down – WHAT IF…  is a good movie.  Very proud of that movie; shot that with Kristy Swanson, John Ratzenberger.  And Debby Ryan plays my daughter – she’s on the Disney Channel.       


Ennio Morricone, composer of more than 500 film scores, startled students in a music, film and television class at Rome’s LUISS University by announcing that he would never work with DJANGO UNCHAINED director again.  According to the Hollywood Reporter, the composer elaborated.  “I wouldn’t like to work with him again, on anything.  He said last year he wanted to work with me again ever since Inglourious Basterds, but I told him I couldn't, because he didn’t give me enough time. So he just used a song I had written previously.” 

Morricone complained that Tarantino “…places music in his films without coherence.  You can't do anything with someone like that."  While four pieces of Morricone music are used in DJANGO UNCHAINED, all were composed for previous films. 

As I told you in last week's Round-up, Authors Bill Crider, James Reasoner and Mel Odom are collaborating under the name Colby Jackson to create a new series of Western novels, and to spread the word, they're giving the Kindle book away on Sunday and Monday March 17 & 18 -- just follow the link:

The smell of black powder will fill the air at 3 pm Saturday, March 23rd, when the deadly CAMPO GUNFIGHT of 1875 is reenacted at the Golden Acorn Casino in Campo, the bordertown near San Diego where it actually happened.  The event is free, and it should be a lot of fun.  The man behind the event is Bryon Harrington, author of CAMPO: THE FORGOTTEN GUNFIGHT, and he is a stickler for historical accuracy.  To learn more about the event, go HERETo learn more about Bryon's book, go HERE.  

HEY ROUNDERS, that's gonna have to be all for tonight's Round-up!  I know I told you that I'd also have an on-set report on  QUICK DRAW, but I didn't expect for my computer to be down for three days this week, so that'll have to wait until next week.  Hope you're having a great St. Patrick's Day!
Happy Trails,
All Contents Copyright March 2013 by Henry C. Parke -- All Rights Reserved


  1. I Just saw "Shadow On The Mesa" and enjoyed the film. I was wondering if you knew if the film is based on a book or maybe a series of books? And if so who is the author of the books or books. Also where can I purchase the book or books. Thank you for your time.

  2. Hi, to Kevin and to all your readers. I'm the original screenwriter of SHADOW ON THE MESA.. I based my screenplay on one of my unpublished novels. The novel is now being read and hopefully it will sell. It will have a lot more detail along with more than one romance. I had 17 Western novels published, and I believe they are still in libraries and/or at Amazon. The movie has just won the 2013 Wrangler Award given by the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum (Ok.City) for the best Western television movie. The movie was also the 2nd most watched and 2nd highest rated original movie in Hallmark Movie Channel's network history. I could not be more proud of what David Cass, Lincoln Lageson, Kevin and all the fine actors, along with a great crew, accomplished with this movie. The jail escape is a classic. Best, Lee Martin

  3. I'm the screenwriter for SHADOW ON THE MESA. I met Kevin Sorbo on the set. Recent contact with him confirms he is a real gentleman, has a good heart and knows the business. A good family man. He's one of the best so enjoy him on the screen.
    Lee Martin

  4. Hi, to all. The DVD for Shadow on the Mesa will be released December 17, 2013, but it's already available for pre orders on Amazon and other sites. Best, Lee Martin

  5. Hi, everyone, I just read this Kevin Sorbo interview. Enjoyed it very much. I can tell you that Shadow on the Mesa is one of my husband's and my FAVORITE westerns. The screenwriter, Lee Martin, is so talented and we are so hoping that a sequel will be written to "Shadow". The story, in our opinion, SCREAMS OUT for a sequel!! Watch this movie !! You'll love it!!

  6. Hi, everyone, first, MOVIE GUIDE, a very important outfit for Christian content, has just given a wonderful review of SHADOW ON THE MESA. Second, please know that the disk being released December 17 will not have the music overpowering voices because that was a broadcast issue. the disk will be perfect. Best, Lee Martin, screenwriter.

  7. Hi, everyone, the novel on which I based my screenplay for Shadow on the Mesa has been accepted for publication. Details later. Best, Lee Martin

  8. Actually I believe Kevin Sorbo is more like Cary Grant more so than Gary Cooper.

  9. A favorite with Kevin Sorbo was LAST CHANCE CAFE, an older T movie, but he was perfect in the role as a smitten rancher who fights to save the lady from the bad guy. Lee Martin

  10. The highly rated Western SHADOW ON THE MESA with Kevin Sorbo is being released on DVD December 17, 2013.

    I based my script on my novel which will be out in 2014.

  11. Hi, everyone, the DVD for SHADOW ON THE MESA looks and sounds great. No music over powering the voices.
    My NOVEL, on which I based my screenplay, will be published by FIVE STAR PUBLISHING, slated for December, 2014 in hard cover. Advance ordering information will be forthcoming.
    The novel is the complete, original story and has more than one romance. It's a long way from novel to script to screen.
    Best, Lee Martin

  12. Hi, everyone, from Lee Martin, screenwriter/novelist:

    SHADOW ON THE MESA, novel, will be published this fall by FIVE STAR PUBLISHING, a part of GALE.

    Ordering information: MN_131SBN:

    Shadow on the Mesa Martin, Lee hard cover 9781432829629
    Shadow on the Mesa Martin, Lee e Book 9781432829759

    More information at:


  13. Hi, from Lee Martin. SHADOW ON THE MESA DVD selling fast on AMAZON. I also received the catalog from Critics Choice Video which has it for sale as well. They are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800 367-7765. Or at

  14. My novel, on which I based the script for SHADOW ON THE MESA, is now in bookstores, libraries and on AMAZON. It has more story as movies are limited, and it has 3 romances as well. Best, Lee Martin

  15. Hi, Henry, never received the link for my interview. Thanks, Lee Martin

    1. Hi Lee. Here's the link for the interview, which is within my review of SHADOW ON THE MESA: And let me apologize for making the wrong assumption that 'Lee', being a Western writer, would be a male. I will correct the erroneous pronouns tonight!