'The Bible' Tells Story of Faith 'As Written'

Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 3, 2013 | Go to article overview

'The Bible' Tells Story of Faith 'As Written'


What's on,Each Christmas and Easter season, History and other cable networks air documentaries on various aspects of the Bible, usually featuring talking-head experts and iffy-looking dramatic re- creations.

Often, these productions take a skeptical look at the accuracy or veracity of biblical accounts, as if the last thing in the world a documentary would want to be seen doing is taking anything in the Bible at face value.

But skepticism was the last thing on the minds of reality TV mogul Mark Burnett ("The Apprentice," "Survivor") and his wife, actress Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel"), when they set out as executive producers of "The Bible," airing Sundays from March 3 to March 31, which is Easter Sunday this year.

Joined by their faith and a love for the sacred writings of Judaism and Christianity, they have spearheaded a 10-hour, five- part dramatic series that spans the Old and New Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation, capturing the full sweep of the biblical narrative.

"We started with the premise that the Bible is the truth," Downey says. "These are true stories, and it was our job to bring them to life on the screen. We're not saying, 'Maybe this happened,' or 'According to the Bible,' we're just telling the story as written."

"So," Burnett adds, "someone who believes will recognize it and love it for that. Someone who doesn't, and isn't going to, will still feel the emotional pull of the story and will be informed in a different way, without being talked at."

Shot in Morocco, the production features a large international cast, and a score by Hans Zimmer, who reunites with singer Lisa Gerrard for the first time since they collaborated on the theme to "Gladiator."

Playing some of the more-famous Bible figures are David Rintoul as Noah; Peter Guinness as Nebuchadnezzar; Jake Canuso as Daniel; Nonso Anozie as Samson; William Houston as Moses; Downey as Jesus' mother, Mary; Daniel Percival as John the Baptist; Simon Kunz as Nicodemus; and Portuguese newcomer Diogo Morgado as Jesus. Keith David provides voice-over narration.

"I think the faithful will find this," Downey says. "It speaks to the center of a belief system. It's done beautifully. It delivers through the emotional climax, and you're left with a feeling of upliftment and hope. You feel loved. It's deeply satisfying on that level.

"From a point of view of people being able to learn from it, it's exciting, it's compelling, and it's dynamic -- because nobody wants to be taught."

But even with a big budget, a huge crew, and dozens of theologians and advisers, sometimes, the unexpected still happens.

Downey recalls filming a scene between Jesus and Jewish religious leader Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), in which Jesus speaks of being reborn in the spirit, saying, "The wind blows where it wishes, and you don't know where it comes from or where it goes. And so it is when the spirit enters you."

Describes Downey, "Out of nowhere, on the stillest evening, a huge, sustained wind whistled through the village, took Jesus' hair, Nicodemus' robes ... thankfully, the actors held in their roles. There was no wind machine.

"We've had a lot of Holy Spirit experiences."

Kate O'Hare writes for Zap2it.com.,TV highlights

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9 p.m. on ABC

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