This article is from Issue 62: March/April 2013

Bringing the Bible to Life

Mark Burnett and Roma Downey on their ambitious 10-hour miniseries

Mark Burnett doesn’t mince words. A showbiz fixture responsible for addictive TV like Survivor, The Voice, The Apprentice and Shark Tank, the producer delivers ideas as though quoting taglines—in short,
concise bursts.

So, when asked if he thinks Jesus is the Son of God, it’s no surprise he is quick to cut right to the heart of the question.

“Well, He is, right?” he says, not unkindly. “More than that, He is God. We don’t think—we know.”

It’s that same forthright spirit that Burnett brings to his newest—and most ambitious—project to date. Alongside wife Roma Downey (who played the angel Monica on the long-running television show Touched by an Angel), the reality show producer’s first scripted show is a five-part, 10-hour-long miniseries called The Bible.

Airing on the History Channel during the month of March, The Bible tackles five sections of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, devoting two hours to each portion. One of the many biblically themed projects projected to air in 2013—“Hollywood tends to move in a pack,” Burnett says wryly. “I’m just glad that we’re leading the way, and we’re first”—The Bible promises to be among the most ambitious and sweeping of the lot.

Doing It Justice

Recounting the initial inspiration the couple had for the project, Downey says, “We had seen something else—a very negative documentary that somebody had shared with us—that was really taking a point of view that God was bad. ‘What kind of a God would do bad things, or allow bad things to happen?’ It was so upsetting to us that after we looked at it, I said to Mark, ‘Why would anybody want to make something like that? If you’re going to make a Bible project, why wouldn’t you just make the Bible?’ As only Mark can do, he looked at me and said, ‘Maybe that’s what we should do, then!’”

Further confirmation came in the form of their three teenagers, who, as Downey recalls, weren’t exactly taken with the production value of The Ten Commandments—a film both she and Burnett enjoyed as kids.

“Revisiting it through teenage eyes, we could see that they thought it was dated,” Downey says. “There’s a different expectation now for CGI. We thought we could really bring these stories alive for this new generation. That’s what we’ve done.”

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