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Mark Burnett and Roma Downey on the set of The Bible

"That unconditional love of Jesus is always available to us."

- Roma Downey

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The Bible on HISTORY

Exec. Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Present The Bible

By Hannah Goodwyn
CBN.com Senior Producer


CBN.com - Hollywood's biggest Reality TV producer, Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Voice), has teamed up with his wife, actress Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) to bring you the Bible like 'it's never been seen before'. This Sunday night (March 3), their 10-hour miniseries aptly titled The Bible, kicks off on HISTORY with its first two episodes, "In the Beginning" and "Exodus".

The Bible, which follows from Genesis to Revelation, is Burnett and Downey's passion project, one they hope will encourage and enlighten believing and non-believing audiences alike.

Recently, Burnett and Downey got personal with CBN.com, sharing what the Bible means to them as believers in Jesus Christ.

As a boy, Mark, you looked at the Bible like many do, as a rule book. How has that changed over the years?

Mark: I don't remember, in my house growing up, where there wasn't a Bible. On the other hand, I grew up in a pretty strict, Scottish house. My mom was Presbyterian Scottish; my dad was a Scottish Catholic. I actually didn't know there was a difference between Protestant and Catholic. That was never mentioned; and there was never a bad word between them. But the one thing I was aware of was that there were certain rules in the Bible and very strict consequences.

It distorted that love. It distorted God's love for all of us, because there's only one perfect character, which is Jesus. Everybody else is flawed to a lesser or a greater degree, especially in the time of kings in the Old Testament. Still, God didn't give up, even when people were making the worst mistakes. And I think that relief has made me feel it's a story of love and less about harsh rules.

Roma Downey on the set of The Bible

Roma, you shared on Facebook that you've loved the Bible ever since you were a little girl. Tell me a little bit about your childhood faith.

Roma: I grew up in Ireland; and my earliest memory is sitting on my father's knee, and having him read scripture to me. He used to say the family that prays together stays together. Even though we came into this as people who love the Bible and people who love the Word and who love the Gospel, we have experienced a deepening of our own faith in the three and a half years that we have been working on [The Bible] together. I don't think you can work on the scripture day after day, after day as deeply and for as many hours as we have been, and not be impacted by it.

Do either of you have a favorite childhood Bible story?

Roma: Oh gosh, well, so many. I know that I have always loved the story of Peter getting out of the boat and trying to walk on water, and being reminded that you have to keep your eyes on the Lord, and there have been moments in the making of this when I think that both of us have identified with Peter, that there were courage and faith required to step out of the boat. There was courage and faith required to step up and get this series made and the challenge of actually making this series. It's one thing to have the idea to do it; and it's another thing to actually practically carry that out. We are reminded in that story that we can't take our eyes off the Lord.

 

In a previous interview, you both have said this miniseries is 'not your grandma's Bible'. What do you mean by that?

Roma: Yes, we certainly didn't want to make it grandma's Bible. We didn't want to make a donkeys and sandals experience. We were hoping that this would reach across the generations, that it would create an authenticity and a realism. We didn't want any characters that looked like they stepped out of the dry cleaners. We wanted to really tell the human story.

As we were putting the script together, what was key for us, as well as creating the epic moments on grand scales, was to have the moments of intimacy and real relationships because it's in that humanity, in those places that we can relate to the story. In those places, people are broken.

One of the things that we have is when Ananias has been sent by the Lord to go to a street called Straight and to speak to Paul. And Paul is a there, broken, blinded. It's in that broken place that grace is available to him. That's so important for all of us to remember, that unconditional love of Jesus is always available to us; and it's in that place that it will meet us.

Were there any divine moments on set while you were filming in Morocco?

Roma: Yes, we had an extraordinary evening. It was a very still evening, which is worth noting because of what happened later. There was not a breath of wind at all that evening. Nicodemus, curious about Jesus, kneels down in the quiet of the night to speak with him. We filmed the scene around a campfire, with just the two actors Diogo Morgado as Jesus, Simon Kunz in the role of Nicodemus. As the scene progressed and Jesus is telling Nicodemus that he can find the Kingdom of God within Himself if he is born again of spirit, Nicodemus is not sure what he means. Jesus goes on to speak of spirit being like the wind. He says that it will blow where it pleases. We we don’t know where it comes from or where it’s going to.

And as if on cue, the wind whistled through the camp, a wind that was sustained, a wind that came out of nowhere across the desert, a wind that truly felt supernatural. Everybody, all the cast and the crew were aware of it. We were so grateful that our two actors continued in the scene even though they were startled by the wind, that they kept playing the scene. You would think watching the scene that we had turned on a wind machine or that we had lots of fans blowing, but it was not. It was as if the Holy Spirit had shown up and said, “Here I am.” It was really a most marvelous evening out there in the desert. And we had many moments like that where the most extraordinary things happened.

Mark Burnett on the boat with Peter and Jesus

The Bible miniseries has such an epic look and sound to it. How graphic or dramatic will this get? Is it something that families can experience together?

Mark: Yeah, I think it's very exciting. For certain, there are big battle scenes. But you know, kids see that all the time on television these days. The important thing is there's no gratuitous violence or even sex. With the crucifixion, [the violence] is completely motivated. The word “passion” actually comes from the word “suffer.” When you say the word “passion,” which is obviously the crucifixion, it just typically means suffering. If they didn't show Christ suffering, you would be completely doing a disservice to the faith in God.

What do you hope this miniseries will do in terms of how it will influence the Entertainment industry?

Roma: Certainly, we hope that all people will enjoy the stories. But on the one hand, perhaps people who don't share our faith, who have not read the Bible, who have not had an opportunity to go to church will become acquainted with how amazing these stories from the Bible are. I think the faithful will be just reminded and uplifted.

We have told this story faithfully, from Genesis to Revelation. It's an introductory to the Bible. In only 10 hours, we couldn't tell the whole Bible, of course. But we hope that we'll touch people's lives. It's God's love for us; it's the story of redemption and hope. And it will be our hope that people are touched by it everywhere.

We see the opportunity, obviously, in the States for that, but we also see an opportunity for it to go into the world, to go around into countries that we never get to visit, with people that we may never get to meet, and it will touch their lives. We know the Book can change lives; we know that our Bible is a book that changes lives. So, we felt called to bring this to the screens. And our hope also is that it just reminds people, it helps people to re-engage, to take their Bible back down off the shelf, and to be uplifted, to give them hope.

Experience The Bible - CBN.com's special page on HISTORY's new miniseries

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Hannah GoodwynHannah Goodwyn serves as the Entertainment and Family producer for CBN.com. For more articles and information, visit Hannah's bio page.

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