Hollywood power couple Roma Downey and Mark Burnett have turned out a spiritual classic in A.D.: The Bible Continues, through Downey’s aptly named production company “LightWorkers Media,” part of United Artists Media Group, an MGM Company, which Burnett helms.
Premiering on NBC this Easter Sunday, April 5 at 9/8 central time, the production values of A.D. are, well, out of this world.
“They’re a loving couple who are taking the Christian call to evangelization seriously,” said Tom Allen of Allied Faith and Family. In this series, they are, yet again, “leveraging their position as successful Hollywood players (The Voice, Shark Tank, Touched by an Angel) to achieve what nobody else has achieved and few others have had the vision and guts to even attempt: launching a major Biblical series on network television. A.D. The Bible Continues is groundbreaking television.”
Burnett’s brilliance shines through in his savvy choice of producing the Acts of the Apostles in this series, given that it’s the story of how the church got started after Christ’s death and resurrection. With Acts’s author St. Luke the Apostle’s flair for writing, AD: The Bible Continues is sure to grip the imaginations of both Christian and mainstream general market viewers alike, curious about what came after Christ’s resurrection.
Jesus, played by the very handsome Juan Pablo Di Pace, known for Mamma Mia! (2008) and Survivor Island (2005), is perfectly cast. We know from the Shroud of Turin how pleasing on the eyes Jesus was and Di Pace exudes such joy in his routine, day-to-day interactions, smiling warmly, just as you would imagine Jesus doing. He was after all a perfect man.
And, the song, “By Our Love” produced by For King and Country Fervent Word Entertainment has the same gorgeous, haunting quality as music in Baz Luhrmann’s epic The Great Gatsby, e.g., Lana Del Ray’s “Young and Beautiful.”
Both, magnificent in their ability to touch one’s soul. Both love stories, but ah, the love in AD: The Bible Continues is elevated by divine love.
It’s “the bible meets house of cards meets game of thrones,” Burnett told Entertainment Tonight. Continuing where their hit Bible series, which aired on the History Channel in 2014, left off, Burnett said, their first Bible series demonstrated “this deserved to be on network TV. It looks epic.”
Burnett is currently producing Ben-Hur, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston, set for release in February 2016. Ironic, considering MGM became the biggest, most powerful studio in Hollywood on the strength of the original Ben-Hur in 1925, starring Ramon Novarro.
Of course, the husband and wife team are tapping into a huge vein that has, for years, gone fully unexplored—as the Variety Purpose Summit last June in Hollywood highlighted.
In the past year alone, three such films, God’s Not Dead; Heaven Is for Real; and Son of God, showed the box office power of spiritually-themed films, grossing worldwide respectively $62,630,732 ($2 million budget); $101,332,962 ($12 million budget); and $59,700,064 ($22 million budget).
And, then there are all the intangible rewards—helping audiences come closer to a realization of the very essence of life, the meaning of it all.
Mary Claire Kendall is a Washington-based writer. Her book, Oasis: Conversion Stories of Hollywood Legends, is coming out on April 18.