Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 03/24/21

For Roma Downey, Resurrection is another step in a creative faith journey. In the first part of my interview with the actress-turned-producer who first gained fame as the angel Monica on CBS’ Touched by an Angel, she talked about the road leading up to Resurrection, the Bible-inspired movie dropping on Discovery+ this Saturday (3/27).

As our conversation continues (following another look at the Resurrection trailer), she talks about future plans for LightWorkers Media, the MGM-based production company she runs with her husband Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice, Shark Tank) and the possibility that you may soon see her starring in a new faith-themed family TV series.

JWK: I see that after Resurrection, you have a theatrical film on the docket called Redeeming Love (starring Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘s Abigail Cowen). What’s that about?

Roma Downey:
It’s from the Francine Rivers book of the same title, a huge bestselling very popular novel. It’s an incredible story of love and redemption set during the Gold Rush. I’m not entirely sure when it will come out because of the pandemic. You know, everything is on hold a little bit but, hopefully, now as we reach the end of that, a decision will be made when that movie will be released but I anticipate that it will be out this year.

RD: At the end of the summer, we have our new LightWorkers movie that we will start filming. It is called On a Wing and a Prayer. The story is set in 2009. It’s a true story about a man who gets on a private plane with his family and as they’re taking off from Miami – and they’re, you know, at 20,000 feet – the pilot dies from a massive heart attack and the man doesn’t know how to fly the plane…Dennis Quaid plays the guy and it’s a fabulous script. Sean McNamara, who directed Soul Surfer, is directing for us.  We will start shooting in September in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m very excited about that.

And then, meanwhile, LightWorkers has seen tremendous growth on our social platforms across Facebook and Instagram and so on. We’re committed to daily posting of inspirational, uplifting (and) encouraging content. We’re trying to be a good medicine for all the negative ways that social media has impacted our world. We’re trying to use social media for good…We are posting beautiful, uplifting content continually.

On YouTube (we have) A Moment of Light with Roma Downey. These are morning devotionals that I write and record. Then my team sets them to beautiful nature videos and lovely music. They’re just one or two minutes in length and they’re very soothing. It’s a lovely way to start your morning. We release those currently every Thursday (first on) Facebook. All the ones that we’ve already done – and there are hundreds in there – are on YouTube…I encourage you to check that out.

JWK: It’s been about eighteen years since Touched by an Angel stopped producing new episodes. I’m sure a lot of your fans would like to see you in a new show. I know that you were working on developing a show based on The Baxters, Karen Kingsbury’s bestselling book series. Is that still in the works?

RD: We have made the show and we are in talks (regarding) how we’re going to distribute the show. We have 34 beautiful episodes of the show ready. We’re just figuring out the best plan for it…We’re talking to streamers.

JWK: So, you have 34 episodes in the can. Are these hour-long episodes?

RD: They’re half-hour episodes. It’s a beautiful series. We’ve got a really, really great attractive, lovely young cast. They’re based on the Karen Kingsbury novels which are huge bestselling books. It’s a Christian family dealing with all the issues that any (big) family would have to deal with. It doesn’t shy away from adultery, divorce, alcoholism, the things that everyday people are dealing with. What sets them slightly apart from the usual TV (characters) is that they’re (clearly) Christian. So, sometimes they’ll grab hands and they’ll pray together (or) go to church.

JWK: So, are you looking for a streamer?

RD: We’re still in early talks. LightWorkers is a division of MGM and, with all the brainpower over there, we’re just trying to figure out where the best home for it will be. But, hopefully, when we find that and we get ready to launch that…you and I will be able to have a conversation just about that because it’s a very exciting piece of content for us.

JWK: Anything else going on that you’d like to share with the Beliefnet audience?

RD: I wrote a book that became a New York Times bestseller. My book is called Box of Butterflies. It was kind of a spiritual memoir, really. It’s my story and it was a great experience to write. It was lovely to see it do so well. I continue to hear from people who say it’s really helped them – especially with grief and loss. I have a lost a number of people throughout the course of my life (which is something) we all share, right?

JWK: It does seem that you view the media and storytelling as more of a calling than a career. Would you agree with that?

RD: I feel it’s a great privilege really to be able to combine what you do with what you believe. Not everybody gets to do that. Most people have their job and then they have their belief system. I have been able to marry them and it’s been such an honor. You know, for all those years on Touched by an Angel (I got) to be the messenger and the message was always very profound and very simple. There is a God, He loves you and wants to be part of your life…I’m still delivering that message. It’s the same message in Resurrection. God loves us and He wants to be part of our life.

*Nobody asked me but IMHO…Based on my conversation with Roma and my reporting on Fox Nation’s move into scripted programming (including original movies and, most recently, the Christian-themed TV series The Chosen), I kinda think the streamer would make for a pretty good home for The Baxters. Just a thought.

B.J. Thomas reports that his doctors have diagnosed him as having stage four lung cancer. The beloved pop, country, and gospel singer is receiving treatment in a local health care facility in Texas, and is hopeful for a complete recovery.

The Grammy, CMA and Dove award winner says he plans to continue to interact with industry colleagues and fans and remains optimistic about his availability to make public appearance, adding “I just wanted to take this unique opportunity to share my gratitude to Gloria, my wonderful wife and my rock for over 53 years, my family, friends, and fans. I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity to record and perform beautiful songs in pop, country, and gospel music, and to share those wonderful songs and memories around the world with millions of you. I ask all of you for your prayers during this time and that my music can live on with you.”

Throughout his 50 years in the music industry, Thomas has sold over 70 million albums worldwide, including eight #1 hits and 26 Top 10 singles. He is one of Billboard’s Top 50 Most Played Artists Over The Past 50 Years with a repertoire such classics as Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, Hooked On A Feeling, I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, I Just Can’t Help Believing, (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, Don’t Worry Baby, Whatever Happened To Old Fashioned Love and New Looks From An Old Lover.

Our prayers for strength and a full recovery do, of course, go out to Mr. Thomas. Here he is singing one of my favorite songs, an ode to the power of optimism that I’m sure has helped many people (including me) push through tough times.  So, thanks, B.J.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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