Mark Burnett and Roma Downey Address TV Critics, Talk About Their Faith

By Ben Kayser, Managing Editor

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the creative visionaries behind the popular 2013 miniseries, THE BIBLE, are seeking to continue that success with A.D. BEYOND THE BIBLE.

Airing on NBC, BEYOND THE BIBLE is a 12 episode series that debuts April 5, 2015. It follows the events that take place after the crucifixion of Jesus and the conflict revolving around the Christians and the beginning of the church. At the Television Critics Association (TCA) 2015 Winter Press Tour, Mark Burnett, Roma Downey and several cast members held a Q&A session for the press and presented some footage of A.D.

The session started on a light note as Mark Burnett was asked about his new bushy beard and Roma, Mark’s wife, added that it made him look more “contemplative.”

Although the TCA crowd is critical by nature (because they’re critics and journalists), both Roma and Mark were very upfront about their faith as the backbone for bringing this series to the small screen.

“Every decision in my life big or small always includes a prayer,” Roma said, adding, “There was a lot prayer in casting the series.”

When asked about racial considerations in casting historical First Century people, the answer always came back to casting the best actor for the role.

Mark added, “This is a story that millions have died for and billions live for. In the end, it comes down to the best actors for the roles.

“We even have an Irish guy,” he joked.

Juan Pablo Di Pace, who was cast as Jesus, talked about the responsibility of the role, stating “It’s a huge responsibility. Very few people have had the chance to play him. I come from a Christian background. My mother is a religious painter. My name actually comes from John Paul II. I’m absolutely humbled to be playing Jesus. It’s definitely changed me as a person.”

When discussing what the series means to the actors, Chipo Chung (Mary Magdeline) mentioned the social aspect.

“It was about social change,” she said, “about how a small group of people changed the world. The times they lived in were completely brutal.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about hope and love,” Adam Levy, who plays St. Peter, said with conviction.

Mark Burnett stressed he hasn’t received anything but support for A.D. BEYOND THE BIBLE. He added that Roma and he are very excited to see it premiere on Easter weekend.

“We are people of deep faith,” Mark said, “and we believe God’s hand is all over it and intended it to be [aired] on Easter Sunday.”

Roma reiterated the viewers’ desire for this type of spiritually uplifting, inspiring, faith friendly programming.

“We just know there’s a hunger for this type of material,” she said. “People are hungry for hope.”

Mark also talked enthusiastically about the signs and miracles that happened on set, including the clouds that appeared in the shape of a cross, which even stopped the production for a moment.

Also in attendance at the A.D. session were actors Emmett J. Scanlan (who plays St. Paul) and Babou Ceesay (who plays St. John).

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