Mar 23, 201311:25 AMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
Kevin Sorbo Plays A Straight-Shooter
Most TV viewers know Kevin Sorbo best as either the mythic Greek hero of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys or the resourceful starship commander of Andromeda. This weekend, however, he’ll be riding tall – figuratively speaking, at least – in Shadow on the Mesa, a made-for-cable western premiering on the Hallmark Movie Channel.
The Minnesota-born Sorbo plays Ray Eastman, a Wild West rancher and family man who’s embroiled in an increasingly bloody feud with a land-grabbing neighbor (Greg Evigan). Just when the odds appear hopelessly stacked against him, Ray gets much-needed help from a totally unexpected ally: Bounty hunter Wes Rawlins (Wes Brown), who turns out to be the son Ray never knew he had.
Sorbo called a few days ago to talk about Shadow on the Mesa – and to explain why he doesn’t spend too much time in the saddle in this two-hour drama.
Cowboys & Indians: Wouldn’t you agree that, deep down, every actor wants to make at least one western?
Kevin Sorbo: No question about that. And it’s funny – Robert Duvall said the exact same thing to me when I met him ten years ago. I walked up to him and introduced myself, and we wound up sitting down and chatting for about 45 minutes. I’ve gotten to know him a lot better since then – and we’ve actually talked about doing a western sometime together. In fact, we’ve got some projects that we’re looking at right now.
C&I: You could say the American cowboy is every bit as mythic a figure as Hercules, right?
Sorbo: Again, no question about that. The western is like baseball and hot dogs – it’s something truly American. People tend to romanticize the settling of the west. Even though I’m sure it was a very brutal life – and you got really stinky out there. A lot of very tough men and women went out west in the 1800s. But there’s still something very romantic about the story of the taming of the west.
C&I: Do you remember the first westerns you saw while growing up?
Sorbo: I grew up watching Gunsmoke with my dad, and Bonanza, and all the other westerns he used to watch. And while watching them with him, I think they became part of my psyche as well.
C&I: Did you spend much time riding horses during your youth?
Sorbo: Not a whole lot. In fact, when I got my first western, Avenging Angel, a few years ago, I had to train six weeks, every day, on a horse. It was on-the-job learning. I didn’t have a fear of horses – but I certainly had a lot of respect for them. And I had amazing wranglers, people who’d been in the business for a long time. People who’d worked with folks like Robert Mitchum and John Wayne. So it was a pleasure to meet these guys and work with them. And they wound up giving me the thumb’s up for handling the horse OK. But I’m still not an expert at it.
C&I: At least you’re honest about it. I’ve heard horror stories from actors and directors about working with people who claim to be experienced riders. But when they get to the set – well, let’s just say their inexperience shows.
Sorbo: That’s funny. I can remember, when we were shooting Avenging Angel, there was this other actor – I’m not going to say who he was, but he came to the set claiming he knew all about riding. So he got on the horse – and with 30 seconds of shooting that first scene, the wrangler shouted: “Get that jackass off my horse before the horse hurts him.”
But, you know, actors lie about their resume all the time. It’s like, I’m six-four. And when I first came out to L.A., I did a lot of commercials. And I’d go to these auditions where you’d have actors standing around you, and there’d be some guy who’d say, “I’m six-one.” And I’d look at him – and the guy’s maybe five-nine. I thought, “Geez, if you’re six-one, I must be six-eight. Don’t make me look taller than I am. I lose enough jobs because of my height.”
C&I What can you tell us about Ray Eastman, the character you play in Shadow on the Mesa?
Sorbo: Well, he’s a guy who was born in the saddle, and grew up in the saddle. But the funny thing is, this is one western that I don’t get to ride in. Because the backstory of it is, I was trying to break in a new horse, and it bucked me off him, and I broke my leg. So for the whole movie, I’m on crutches.
He’s a good man. But he’s also a hard man, in terms of knowing what he wants. He’s loyal to his family – and he finds out that his wife hasn’t been loyal. And then he finds out he’s got this son, played by Wes Brown. There are some scenes in there with Wes and I that are just wonderful. It was great to work with him. He’s an up-and-coming kid, and he’s got a big career ahead of him.
C&I: It seems sometimes like Hallmark Movie Channel is single-handedly keeping westerns alive on TV.
Sobro: Well, I’ve brought them a script for another western. And I’ve got Dwight Yoakam and Ann-Margret interested in it. So keep your fingers crossed.
Shadow on the Mesa will air at 8 pm and 10 pm ET Saturday, and again at 12 noon, 2 pm, 8 pm and 10 pm ET Sunday, on Hallmark Movie Channel.