Thesp Sorbo flexes his muscles with Studios USA, Renaissance

Thesp Kevin Sorbo is ready to lay down his sword and exit the hit syndie drama “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” when his contract is up later this year unless producers give him a hefty pay raise.

Reps for “Hercules” distrib Studios USA and producer Renaissance Pictures declined to comment on the matter, but Sorbo’s agent, ICM’s Nick Styne, confirmed that the two sides are far apart on contract renewal talks.

Production on the 1999-2000 season of “Hercules,” which bowed in 1995, has already begun in New Zealand. Sorbo is contractually bound to star in another eight segs of “Hercules,” leaving producers with the unwelcome prospect of replacing the lead in the middle of the season.

“The studio would like him to continue, but we can’t agree on terms,” Styne told Daily Variety.

“So Kevin is looking forward to moving back to the United States where he’ll finally have the opportunity to make movies, and in the future possibly another TV series,” Styne said. “There are many directors, producers and studios interested in working with him, and he’ll finally have a chance to pursue those offers.”

At present, Sorbo is said to earn a low six-figure salary per seg on “Hercules,” but Styne would not comment on financial details.

Studios USA has commitments from stations to carry the syndie “Hercules” and its higher-rated companion “Xena: Warrior Princess” through the 1999-2000 season. Both shows have dipped over the past year in the Nielsen rankings, but they’re still the top two firstrun syndie hours, although “Hercules” is frequently tied for the No. 2 spot with Paramount’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

While “Hercules” bowed as a series in early 1995, Sorbo first began playing the mythical muscleman in 1994, starring in five “Hercules” telefilms that paved the way for the launch of the weekly skein.

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