Learning to adjust to new surroundings as you struggle to grow accustomed to the new, challenging work and situation you were unexpectedly thrust into can be a challenging experience for many people, not matter what generation they come from. Whether it’s a spoiled teen girl learning to contend with losing her wealthy lifestyle, and adjusting to working with her newly discovered family to earn her place, or an action star embracing independent family films, everyone comes to cherish what they do have. ‘Hercules: The Legendary Journeys’ actor Kevin Sorbo relatably and emotionally fit into his new role as family man in his new film, ‘Storm Rider,’ which is now available on DVD and VOD, as his character’s young niece learns to embrace her new lifestyle, outside the lap of luxury.
‘Storm Rider,’ which was written and directed by Craig Clyde, follows spoiled 18-year old Dani Fielding (Danielle Chuchran) as her world is turned upside down when her father gets arrested for securities fraud. She has to leave her cushy home and loses her prize horse to stay with her gruff uncle, Sam (Sorbo). As Dani and her uncle struggle to bond, she’s given an orphaned colt that is a different type of horse than she is used to training. Dani pours her affection into Stormy and uses him to replace what’s missing in her unsettled life. Through Stormy, Dani soon realizes that truly caring about others is the answer to most of life’s biggest problems. When her uncle and friends, including her uncle’s love interest, Jody Peterson (Kristy Swanson), need her the most, Dani and Stormy must work together to save the day and learn the true meaning of the word family.
Sorbo generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Storm Rider’ over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how he felt connected to the role of Sam because his life is turned upside down with the arrival of his estranged niece, and he doesn’t know how to contend with the difficulties of his newly reunited family; how he appreciated that Clyde was a an actor before becoming a writer-director, because he loves working with helmers who understand the process of being in front of the camera; and how he’s interested in returning to acting on television, as well as directing films, in the future.
Question (Q): You play Sam Fielding in the new family film, ‘Storm Rider.’ What was it about the character and the film overall that attracted you to the role?
Kevin Sorbo (KS): I like the fact that he’s got so many flaws. He’s stuck in his ways, and he’s been a bachelor his whole life. Then all of sudden, he gets thrust into this situation with his estranged brother, where he has to take care of not only one, but two kids that he doesn’t really know anything about. He knows he’s their uncle, but he’s only seen them once or twice in his life.
So his world is thrown upside side, just as much as the lie of Dani, who’s played by Dani Chuchran. She’s the teenager who has to leave her life of privilege to live in the simple environment that my character lives in.
Q: Speaking of Danielle Chuchran playing Sam’s niece, Dani Fielding, in the film, what was your working relationship with her like on the set?
KS: It was wonderful. She’s a wonderful actress, and truly lovely and grounded. We’re actually in the middle of shooting another movie together right now. (laughs) It’s a sci-fi movie called ‘Survival.’ We also have a couple other ones down the road we might be working on. So it could be a long-running relationship with this young lady.
She’s a pro; she comes on set and is very driven. She’s very well prepared and professional. I appreciate that, as that’s what I demand out of myself, as well.
Q: Dani adjusts to her new life by training an orphaned colt, Stormy, who is different from the horses she’s used to training. Since Dani sets out to raise the horse on her uncle’s farm, what was the experience of working with them on the set?
KS: Well, I’ve done four other westerns in the past, and I’ve got three other westerns that I’m trying to raise money for right now. I love that genre, and this is a modern-day western. I play a horse doctor to begin with. I think with the timing element, we don’t do a lot with horses. But they were certainly around.
Dani’s far more experienced than I am. She did all of her own riding in the movie, and she’s an amazing rider and jumper. I think the difference on this was that the horse that she’s training is actually a half-donkey, half-horse. So the donkey part took over quite a few times. (laughs) The stubbornness that donkeys are associated with certainly happened in this movie.
Q: Speaking of the fact that you have appeared in westerns before, did that influence your decision to appear in ‘Storm Rider?’ What was the casting process like?
KS: I just liked the story. I get sent scripts a lot, and I’ve been quite a few films over the past six-seven years, and a lot of independent films of this nature. I probably read five or six scripts a week. If the first 20 pages don’t hold my attention, I toss it aside. But this one I liked from beginning to end. I love the humor and drama and action in there. So it’s a combination of a lot of things.
Q: Earlier you mentioned having a short amount of time to shoot the film, which was shot independently on a smaller budget. How did shooting the movie independently influence the way you played Sam, and did the budget pose any difficulties on the set?
KS: Well, when you’ve got a lower budget, you’ve got to give up a lot of cushy things that you want as an actor. (laughs) (You have to give up) the big camper, and having five choices at lunch, and things like that. Everyone chipped in and helped carry equipment. In between sets, you’re not going back to a big camper; you’re sitting on a stump of a tree or something like that.
But I’m fine with that; I’m a Midwestern kid, and I grew up being taught to work hard and appreciate what you have. It wasn’t any hardship on me, in terms of what to expect. I know what low-budget means.
Q: Your other main co-star on ‘Storm Rider’ was Kristy Swanson, who played Jody Peterson in the film. What was your working relationship with Kristy like on the film?
KS: Kristy and I have known each other for a long time. We did a wonderful movie together called ‘What If…,’ and I would love it if everyone took a look at it on Netflix, as well as on DVD. She played my wife in that movie. In ‘Storm Rider,’ she played yet another love interest, but a far more reluctant one, on my part, really. (laughs)
Kristy’s a blast, and is really easy to work with on set-she’s a pro. I love her sarcastic sense of humor; she’s very funny, besides being beautiful, as well. We’ve worked together before, and I’m sure we’ll work together again down the road.
Q: Were you able to have any rehearsals with both Kristy and Danielle before you began shooting?
KS: You know, you just don’t get that privilege on these smaller budget movies. We would certainly rehearse the scenes while we were setting up shots and lighting. We would run our dialogue and ideas with each other, but you certainly don’t get the benefit of really getting a lot of rehearsal time-you just get together for a read-threw.
Q: Craig Clyde both co-wrote and directed ‘Storm Rider.’ What was the process of working with Craig on the film, as both a scribe and a helmer? Do you prefer working with directors who also penned the screenplay?
KS: Craig’s directed for a long time, and he was an actor for a long time. I love working with directors who are, or were, actors, because they understand that side of the camera as well as I do. So I love working with people like that.
He also wrote a great script, and told a wonderful story. I will always come up with things on the set that I want to try or do differently. He never had any problem with trying something new, unless it didn’t make sense for the scene or story, and he would tell me.
Q: Like you mentioned earlier, filming this movie independently was like shooting a television show. Besides films, you have also starred on several television shows, including ‘Hercules: The Legendary Journeys’ and ‘The O.C.’ Do you have an interest in returning to television in the future, and do you have a preference of one medium over the other?
KS: I love acting, but right now I’m actively trying to get another TV series. So I’ve been doing some pitch meetings for the series I do have now, but I can’t really talk about it too much yet. I’m ready to get back on TV on a regular basis.
I miss doing television. I did seven years on ‘Hercules,’ and five years on ‘Andromeda.’ I haven’t had a regular series since 2005, which is a lifetime in Hollywood. So I’m ready to get back in there and that one-hour grind. Even sitcoms would be fun, but I enjoy the one-hour format.
Q: Speaking of ‘Hercules,’ you both wrote and directed episodes of the show. Do you have any interest in writing and directing television again in the future?
KS: I am going to be directing again shortly. I’ve got a few films lined up down the road for next year, including one for the SyFy channel, and a couple of independent films. One’s going to be shot in Nashville, Tennessee, so I’m definitely going to start directing some more.
As for the writing, I’d rather leave that to someone else; I’ve done that and been there. That’s the hardest part of the business, so I don’t care to do that anymore. (laughs) I’ll let somebody else do that. But I’m a good re-writer; I’m very good at looking at scripts and finding problems that need to be resolved. But overall, I’ll leave the writing to the writers.