Nashville, TN -- If Roma Downey and Mark Burnett were strangers to any members of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) in 2012, their 10-part production of The Bible, which aired on the History Channel in 2013, appears to have earned them a strong following among the broadcasters today.
The series, which was viewed by more than 100 million viewers, was the year’s most-watched cable miniseries.
The couple spoke Monday during the opening session of NRB’s 2015 International Christian Media Convention, providing attendees a sneak peek of their latest production: A.D. The Bible Continues. The 12-part series, which is a follow-up to their widely acclaimed production The Bible, will launch in primetime on Easter Sunday on NBC.
The first episode of The Bible aired on March 3, 2013, finishing five weeks later on Easter with the story of the Crucifixion.
“The new series gives us an opportunity to take a deeper dive into the Book of Acts,” explained Downey, well known for her role as the compassionate angel Monica in the television series Touched by an Angel.
Burnett said he and his wife, Downey, who are executive producers of the program, were disappointed when filming wrapped up in Morocco for The Bible miniseries. It wasn’t long after that that they decided to pursue a follow-up series, where they could again “weave history and Scripture together” to make a compelling program.
He described A.D. The Bible Continues as “epic,” saying it’s like Game of Thrones and House of Cards as it tells the story of the early apostles and the religious and political leaders of their day, referring to two very popular and gritty contemporary television series.
“Normally, it is tough to get the mainstream media to tell our story,” Burnett said. “This is not narrow-casting cable; this is NBC,” he continued, noting the network launched the ad campaign for the miniseries on Super Bowl Sunday.
Burnett, a six-time Emmy award winner, is the executive producer of a wide assortment of top-rated reality network television shows, including Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor and The Apprentice.
Downey, who promised A.D. The Bible Continues looks to Scripture to “tell the story truthfully and accurately,” said the opportunity to produce the miniseries as husband and wife is “such a blessing."
"We felt a calling on our lives to bring the Bible to television,” she added.
Burnett admitted how after The Bible was released they had a serious meeting with some leaders of the African American church who expressed concerns the miniseries was a “little too white.”
He said the producers of A.D. The Bible Continues heard their concern and have produced a series that is much more reflective of those who comprised the early followers of Christ, including many African actors who play key roles in the production. With an Argentinean actor, Juan Pablo Di Pace, playing the role of Jesus, the cast of A.D. The Bible Continues comes from ten countries.
Burnett said when they began work on “The Bible” their friends in Hollywood thought they had lost it: “'Stick to The Voice,' 'Stick to Shark Tank,' 'Stick to Survivor,' 'You’ve lost your minds,' 'No one is going to watch The Bible,’ they said.” Yet the series’ success showed their decision to produce a series on the Bible was on target, he noted.
The Season 1 series will cover the first ten chapters of the Book of Acts, closing with the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion who was also seen in The Bible at the foot of the cross.
Burnett and Downey also produced the feature film Son of God, which earned $67 million at the box office. They are also producing the MGM-Paramount co-production of a Ben Hur re-make scheduled for release in 2016.
By Dwayne Hastings
Published: February 26, 2015