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The Bible: An Interview with Roma Downey

Roma Downey and Mark Burnett are the creators and executive producers of "The Bible" miniseries on The History Channel.

"The Bible," a television miniseries, premiered on The History Channel Sunday, March 3. Mark Burnett ("The Voice," "Survivor," "Celebrity Apprentice") and Roma Downey ("Touched By An Angel") are the creators and executive producers of the five-part miniseries. "The Bible" will air in five two-hour episodes on The History Channel on five successive Sundays, concluding on Easter, March 31. sat down with Roma Downey and discussed "The Bible." Along with being a creator and executive producer of "The Bible," you portrayed the grown-up Mary, mother of Jesus. What was that like?


Roma Downey: Stepping into the role of Mother Mary was just such a privilege. I have loved Jesus my whole life. I have loved Mary my whole life. And I was so humbled at the opportunity of being able to bring her to life on the screen. As a mother myself, I can't even begin to imagine the complexity and profundity of emotion that she must have been feeling.

The role, of course, is divided. There are two actresses who play Mary. There's younger Mary for the Nativity scene and through the early years of Jesus' life. Then there's a gap of almost 30 years until the mission begins. Then there's older Mary which I portray — Mother Mary as we called her.

And the role really was a cameo role. A lot of it was played without dialogue. So a lot of it was played through meaningful looks and seeing the arrest of Jesus, seeing the whipping of Jesus, seeing the crucifixion of Jesus, of course. And for a moment, seeing that through a mother's eyes and feeling that through a mother's heart is very moving. What led you and your husband, Mark Burnett, to make this miniseries?


Roma: We have moved forward prayerfully and both Mark and I felt called to make this project. We bring different strengths. We bring our talents. We've combined our faith, our love. We knew that making The Bible brought with it a huge responsibility. And to that end we found scholars and theologians and experts. We can't pretend to be Bible experts.

We love the Bible. We try to live by the Bible. But something as important as this, we needed to make sure that we had people guiding us. And we would send the early versions of the scripts in development, the scripts, the rough cuts, each step of the way it went out to a group of learned people who would feed back to us and we made adjustments along the way.

And I think what we've created is a beautiful heart-felt experience that spans from Genesis through Revelation. It's madly ambitious in the scope of it — it's epic. It's a beautiful quality production. We prayed that the very best people would be drawn to us and from our art departments, our costume areas, our special effects. The CGI that's available today is extraordinary. So one of the things that we were able to bring here was this team out of London called Lola. They won the Oscar for Gladiator for CGI animation. And we have Jesus walking on water, Moses parting the Red Sea, the burning bush, the fourth man in the fire, Daniel and the lions, and as well as just making crowds seem like there's more and more people. It's fantastic. How did the Scriptures become important for you?


Roma: I was raised in a Christian home. And as a little girl my mother died when I was only 10. I look back on that landscape, particularly through the adolescent years which I think can be hard years anyway for young people, and I'm just so grateful to my faith. I'm so grateful to the community of church and to Scripture and the support that I felt that it gave me. And you know, I have loved the Lord since I was a little girl and I have tried in my career to have made choices that are pleasing to God. What kind of impact do you hope the miniseries "The Bible" will have?


Roma: Our expectation is that the audience will identify with the people in the Bible. The struggles they had a couple of thousand years ago are the struggles we have. These are our hopes and our dreams. And these people are us. This is our story. And ultimately it's the story of hope and redemption and it's a dream for us to make this and it has turned out even better than we hoped it would be. And we're just so excited as we're on the home stretch here to bring it to not just American television, but through a box set DVD that will go out and maybe reach corners of the world that have never heard the Word of God. We have an opportunity to shine the light where it has never shone before.