|Kevin Sorbo as Ray Eastman in Hallmark Movie Channel's|
Shadow on the Mesa
I spoke with Kevin recently about his new movie, which premieres Saturday, March 23 at 8/7c, and also stars Wes Brown (“Deception”), Gail O’Grady (“NYPD: Blue”) and Meredith Baxter (“Family Ties”).
Celebrity Extra: First off, tell me what it was about “Shadow on the Mesa” that made you want to be a part of the movie.
Kevin Sorbo: There were a number of reasons. It starts with Hallmark as a whole. They’ve been great to me. I love doing Hallmark movies. I’m a believer in family-friendly entertainment. There’s not enough of it in Hollywood. And I’m a big fan of David Cass, who directed it. We’ve done a couple of other Westerns together as well. One called “Avenging Angel,” and the other one is called “Prairie Fever.” They are wonderful, wonderful Westerns. I’m just a fan of Westerns as a whole. I’ve got about three more we’re trying to get money for right now. I’ve got Ann-Margret and Dwight Yoakam attached to one of them, so I don’t see why we won’t be able to do that one with that star power behind it.
But back to your question: I like the character of Ray Eastman — he’s interesting to me. This is the first Western I’ve shot that I didn’t ever have to be on a horse, which is weird, but my character is on crutches throughout. The back story is he got flipped off a horse and broke his leg. But he’s a fair man, and he’s a tough man. It’s pretty much a how-the-West-was-won kind of deal with this guy. He finds out his wife has not only been cheating on him, but she’s been cheating with the guy who’s pretty much a mortal enemy to Ray. He also discovers he’s got a son that he never knew about. There are some very emotional, touching scenes in there. Dramatically, it’s a very well-written script.
CE: Wes Brown plays your son, Wes Rawlins. Tell me about him, and the interaction between your characters.
KS: All his life, Wes has lived with this hatred for a man he’s never met. He never knew the whole story behind everything with who Ray was. So, he comes in basically wanting to assassinate me. He soon learns that everything he thought he knew about me was completely wrong. He’s a tough character to crack in terms of his youth and his anger. He’s very much a loner type of character; he’s soft spoken and sort of has a Clint Eastwood thing going on with him. My character has been around the block. He doesn’t have time for crap. He cuts right to the chase.
So we’ve got two different personalities that meet up, but I think I can relate to Wes, because at one time in my life, I was that young, fine buck as well.
KS: I like his straightforwardness. He’s a man who is true to his word, and if you screw him over, he’s not real happy about it. I like his character a lot. He’s just a tough guy who doesn’t suffer fools. But he’s also a very loving man who has a hard time showing it in one way, but he says it in a very direct way.
CE: So, is this the kind of movie where you can pop some popcorn, grab the kids and sit in front of the TV for a few hours for some good, wholesome entertainment?
KS: No question about it — that’s what Hallmark is known for. There certainly is a target audience with the ladies, but they definitely want to appeal to men as well. I think that’s why they’re one of the few television outlets that still puts out Westerns every year, which is great. Trust me, all actors, male or female, want to do a Western. They’re lying if they say they don’t want to. We all want to.
CE: I have to admit, it does look like a lot of fun, with the sets, costumes, gorgeous scenery, etc. Just from talking with you, I can tell how much you enjoy it.
KS: It’s great. They’ve got these sets they’ve built, and you’ve got the outfits, and you’re walking around on the sets in your costumes, and it’s so cool. You sort of get into that period. At one time, back in the ’50s and ’60s, all the Westerns dominated television. From “Bonanza” to “The Big Valley” to “Gunsmoke” — which ran for about 27 years or something. Isn’t that ridiculous?
But in reality, that was a hard time to live in. These are hard men and women who crossed these mountain ranges to get to the West. And there was so much violence, and just imagine how stinky they must have been. But there’s an aura of romanticism there when we think about that time period because of how hard and tough these people were. And we complain about if our remote control stops working we have to physically walk up to the television to turn the channel. These people left Boston in July, and half of them died nine months later trying to cross all these terrains of America. Today we complain about five-hour flights from L.A. to New York.
CE: And don’t even get me started on smartphones attached to everyone’s hands.
KS: We don’t even talk to each other anymore. We sit at a table with six of our friends, and we text each other at the table. We don’t even talk to them.
CE: I loved your guest appearance in “Don’t Trust the B____ in Apt. 23” a few months back.
KS: Oh, that was fun. That was a lot of fun.
CE: It was hilarious. And you did such a great job. Would you like to do more sitcom work?
KS: I would love to. I’ve done a lot of guest spots, like “Dharma and Greg,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Just Shoot Me.” I did my own sitcom back in 2005. “Hercules” ran seven years, and “Andromeda” ran five years, and then after that I sold a series to ABC. It was a half-hour comedy called “Bobby Cannon,” where I played an end-of-the-year quarterback for the Chicago Bears. It was like “Coach” meets “Cheers” in a way. It tested No. 1 for ABC, but the then-president of ABC decided not to pick it up. To this day we are shocked. And they bought it from us because they didn’t want us taking it somewhere else and it becoming successful elsewhere. We’d be in our eighth season right now, there’s no doubt in my mind. It was a very funny show, but, you know, when shows fail, it’s the actor who gets the blame for it. Go figure that out. Welcome to the business of Hollywood.
CE: But if the right opportunity came around again, would you give it another try? I love seeing you in comedies.
KS: Well, “Hercules” had a lot of comedy in it, a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor. I’ve got a movie out right now called “Pool Boy,” and it’s a very funny comedy. It’s very reverential, sophomoric humor that’s “Naked Gun” meets “Airplane,” and it’s just all over the place making fun of current topics in America. I love doing that kind of stuff. It’s a blast.