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Roma Downey on Meeting Jesus (the Actor) for the First Time
Almost 15 million viewers flocked to The Bible during its premiere last Sunday, making it the History channel's best day ever.
The 10-hour miniseries, which will air every Sunday over the next several weeks, culminating on Easter, was created and executive produced by renowned producer Mark Burnett (The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice, Shark Tank) and his wife Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel).
Bringing the elements of the Scriptures to the small screen was very important to the couple, who are parents to three teens from previous marriages.
"I watched The Ten Commandments every year growing up, and Mark and I unsuccessfully tried to have our children watch it. We caught them giving each other looks like they wanted to sneak out of the room," Downey tells PARADE.
"Everything that seemed so incredible when we were kids suddenly looked dated. We wanted to bring the story to life in fresh and exciting ways," says Burnett.
Downey also plays Mary in the story. Her character's son, Jesus Christ, is played by Portuguese TV star, Diogo Morgado. The 33-year-old actor, who was raised a Catholic, got his break in 1998 when he became a series regular on Portuguese soap opera.
"We looked long and we looked hard for our leading man," says Downey. "We wanted somebody who was charismatic, dynamic, and could portray strength and vulnerability at the same time. We had a few actors in mind, but we still didn’t feel like we had found the perfect character. Then we saw a tape of a Portuguese actor named Diogo Morgado, and we arranged very quickly to meet with him. He came for a meeting at our home [in Malibu, Calif.] and we were so eager to set eyes on this actor. Mark and I were peeping out the glass window as he walked up the garden path, and we just knew. I turned to my husband and said, 'There he is! There’s our Jesus. We found him. We found Jesus!'”
Playing the role of Mary was also deeply personal for the veteran actress.
"I have loved her my whole life, and to portray her was such an honor," she says. "We always had a Bible on set; there aren’t many [projects] where you can look something up in the source book if you’re wondering what your character did or did not do.It was painful to experience The Passion of Christ through a mother’s eyes. It was heartbreaking to feel that story through a mother’s heart.
Are you watching The Bible? What do you think of the series so far? Tell us in the comments below.
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See an Exclusive Video Clip of Diogo Morgado in The Bible