"The Bible" a Labor of Love for Famed Producer, Wife
The five-week, 10-hour TV special was nurtured by "Touched by an Angel" star Roma Downey and husband Mark Burnett. He's the force behind such major TV successes as Survivor and The Voice. They say it has already changed lives.
But a personal faith isn’t something new to him, he says. “I grew up in a wonderful home with a Scottish Presbyterian mother and a Scottish Catholic father. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s probably in America that I realized there is a difference between Catholics and Protestants.
“That was a great way to grow up – with tolerance for each other.”
Given his success with reality TV, wasn’t this a major challenge professionally?
“Oh, yes,” he chuckles. “I mean it was my first time working with actors so closely.”
It was also his first time directing his wife.
“I didn’t go over to Morocco with the intention of playing any part,” recalls Downey. “We ended up you know, trying to cast the role
of Mary while we were over there and Mark urged me to step into the role after we didn’t find who we believed was the right actor for Jesus’ mother. That was a great privilege for me, an unexpected privilege to step into that role, to experience those things through a mother’s heart and to see them through a mother’s eyes.”
Burnett, on the other hand, does not appear on screen.
“At one point,” Roma remembers, “I tried to throw him in to play a farmer, but he resisted. So, don’t scan the crowds and try to find him amid the multitudes. He stayed behind the camera.”
“I remember, here I was in Morocco sitting on a little craggy piece of rock in the middle of the Sahara Desert, longing for some shade and finding it,” recalls Downey. “We would gather around with these actors who would express such touching sentiments about how much this project meant to them.
“So many times as an actor, you wish you could have access to the screenwriter, to ask, ‘What did you mean here? What are we trying to do with this scene?’ So, I would reach into my little dusty backpack and just happen to have my Bible.
“It was extraordinary to open it up and see exactly what the scene was all about.
“And it was the most extraordinary, wonderful thing when the actors allowed me to pray with them.
“Many of the crew were deeply affected,” recalls Burnett. “It was a wonderful challenge, studying the Scriptures and thinking ‘How do we tell this? How do we present that?’ and trying to be creative and be true to something that means so much to us.