Interview: Roma Downey Teaches God's Love to Preschoolers in Faith-Based DVD Series (VIDEO)

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By Katherine T. Phan , Christian Post Reporter
February 15, 2012|6:45 pm
Exclusive: Roma Downey Talks About Launch of 'Little Angels' Series

Exclusive: Roma Downey Talks About Launch of 'Little Angels' Series

For almost 10 years, Roma Downey shared the message of God's love as the star of "Touched by an Angel." Now, the mother of three and devoted Christian wants to introduce that same message to preschoolers through her faith-based animated DVD series "Little Angels," which hit stores shelves on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

Downey, who is the creator and executive producer of "Little Angels" series, visited the New York office of The Christian Post on Tuesday to speak about the launch of the series.

In the interview, Downey said her role as Monica on "Touched by an Angel" inspired the "Little Angels."

"I've played an angel on 'Touched by an Angel,' bringing the message of God's love. It was such a privilege for me as a person of faith to deliver the message," Downey told CP.

"And I thought, 'Wouldn't it be marvelous if we had a faith-based series for very young children?' They are such sponges at this age and there is such an opportunity here to sow seeds of faith in our little children."

"Little Angels" follows two four-year-old twins Alex and Zoe who have eight little angels watching over them from the ceiling of their nursery. When the parents aren't around, the little angels come to life to help the young tots overcome daily life challenges by drawing upon Christian principles and values found in the Bible. The series is also designed to teach children the practical life stills as well including their ABCs and 123s.

  • little angels

On Tuesday, the first three DVDs in the series were launched: Little Angels ABCs, Little Angels 123s and Little Angels Animals. The DVDs from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment are now available in Walmart, Target and on Amazon.

It's not difficult to find the message of God's love in the episodes. At the beginning of every adventure, little kids watching are reminded that God loves them in catchy melody that says, "Always remember whatever, whenever, God loves you forever, forever and ever."

Downey, who has been working on the series for the past 18 months, hopes the series be a catalyst for parents to start having the faith talk with their preschooler.

"I think that 'Little Angel's provides the gateway into that conversation about faith and about the Lord and about God's love for us. Remembering that the angels are just the messengers and the message is the message of love," said Downey.

"Quite deliberately, I placed the little angels on a mural on a ceiling in the nursery so it's the first thing they see in the morning when they get up and it's the last thing they see in the evening before they go to sleep."

There are eight angels in all, each with their own distinctive personality:

• Dina the Angel of Learning
 • Charmy the Angel of Harmony
 • Uriel the Angel of Creativity
 • Michael the Archangel (i.e. The Boss Angel)
 • Ariel the Guardian Angel
 • Hammy the Angel of Logic
 • Gabriel the Messenger Angel
 • Hayley the Angel of Animals

Downey said she was intentional in making "Little Angels" of the "highest quality," from the "nostalgic" animated feel to the compelling stories told to the tune of upbeat music . She enlisted the help of great animators and teamed with writer Phil Lollar, who wrote Focus on the Family's Bible-based children series Adventures in Odyssey.

Mothers of Preschoolers has even awarded the series a Seal of Approval.

The veteran actress and executive producer promises that she is not simply "slapping" her face to this product. To Downey, "Little Angels" is very personal. She even does the voiceover for the mother of the Alex and Zoe herself.

At the end of every episode, the twins' mother comes into the nursery to pray over them, saying:

God in heaven, my Savior dear,
Watch over my children and draw them near,
Send your little angels to be at their side,
To light and to guard,
To love and to guide.

"This was a little prayer that my parents shared with me when I was a child so it also has particular meaning that I added that little prayer in here. It also served as one of the inspiration for the series," Downey shared with CP.

In addition, her daughter Riley sings the songs on the accompany "Little Angels" CD and her oldest son plays the guitar.

And the series not only speaks to children. The series can also rekindle Christian roots in those who may no longer attend church, according to Downey.

"I've already had such response from parents but particular from grandparents who said it's such a great resource to share with their families. Maybe they have young families who have fallen away from the church and it's an opportunity to, you know, in an entertaining way to remind and re-introduce the stories of the Bible," said Downey.

Roma Downey's love and passion for the Bible is evident as her eyes light up talking about other projects she's involved in.

  • Mark Burnett
    (Photo: REUTERS/Fred Prouser)
    Mark Burnett, executive producer of the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards, speaks during a panel session at the FOX Summer TCA Press Tour in Beverly Hills, California August 5, 2011.

Downey and her husband Mark Burnett, producer of well-known shows including Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice and The Voice, will be working together on a docudrama on the history of the Bible, which will air on The History Channel in Easter 2012.

"I don't think there's been a complete docudrama that has told all of our stories from the beginning of the Bible to the end," she said. "It will be a marvelous way to bring to life - in new and exciting ways, with all the technology that is available to us - our beautiful, beloved Bible stories."

The Christian couple have also developed the Bible360 app, which allow people to interact with each as they read the Bible and will tie into clips of the Bible docudrama once the filming is done.

Downey also believes that the best way to make her faith come alive is through "loving actions."

She is the face of Operation Smile, which facial deformities including cleft lip and cleft palate. She has even brought Burnett and her children along to medical missions for the organization.

"It's been life-changing for me to be working with them. It's just a great reminder again and again that it is in giving that we receive," she said.

Drawing on the story of the girl and the starfish, Downey said each person can make a difference.

"Many people think, 'Well, I'm just one person, what difference can I make?'"

"And yet the truth is when we step up together and when you do something combined with something that I do and combined with something that everyone else does then the truth is: We can change the world and we can make a difference."

Watch Part 2 of The Christian Post's interview with Touched by an Angel star Roma Downey below:

Exclusive: Roma Downey Talks About Launch of 'Little Angels' Series - Part 2

Exclusive: Roma Downey Talks About Launch of 'Little Angels' Series - Part 2


Read below for the full transcript of The Christian Post interview with Roma Downey on February 14, 2012:

CP: Well, we're here with Roma Downey, who is launching a new faith-based series for children called" Little Angels." There are three DVDs being launched today, Little Angels ABCs, Little Angels 123s and Little Angels Animals. We have here Roma herself to tell us about this launch. Can you tell us what the message is for each of these DVDs?

Roma: I'm so thrilled to finally roll out Little Angels, the animated series for preschool children. It features eight little angels who live on the ceiling of the children's nursery. The children in this case are four-year old twins, Alex and Zoe, and when the mum and dad aren't around, the little angels fly down and they come to life and they engage with the kids to teach them practical life skills, on the one hand, ABCs, 123s but they teach them so much more than that. They share with them beloved Bible stories and support the teaching of good old-fashioned, family values. So we're teaching the children the importance of kindness and of sharing and of cooperation, of being honest.

One of our stories, for example, has the little boy Alex and he can't tie his shoelace. He wants to put on his velcro shoes - he thinks that would be so much easier. And the little angels come to life and say , "Alex, you can't just quit. If every time something got too difficult and you just quit then nothing would ever happen. Would you consider for a moment Noah in the Bible?" Little Alex scratches his head and says, "Who's Noah?"

One of our little angels is a painter and he paints a picture of the ark. It gives us this device in our animation where our children can time travel back into the Bible. They take Alex and his sister Zoe by the hand and they fly into the picture of the ark and lo and behold, they are back with Noah himself who is building the ark. Noah says to them, "If I had just quit if there was no sign of rain then nothing would have happened. And when the rain comes then I wouldn't have been able to save the animals. And anyway, I couldn't quit because God told me to do it. I had to do it. God told me."

And we see the rain come in and we see Noah save the animals and the flood waters rise and wash the children back into the nursery and the little boy says, "I get it. I get the importance of not quitting and now I'm going to tie my shoelace." And with the help of his sister, he ties his shoelace and all of that happens in seven minutes.

CP: Oh, I see. A lot of people may know you from "Touched by an Angel. "

Does the inspiration for Little Angels come from that series or how did the inspiration for this Bible-based series come about?

Roma: Well, you know, for almost 10 years I've played an angel on Touched by an Angel, bringing the message of God's love. It was such a privilege for me as a person of faith to deliver the message.

 And I thought, "Wouldn't it be marvelous if we had a faith-based series for very young children." They are such sponges at this age and there is such an opportunity here to sow seeds of faith in our little children. So the idea was born and I've been working on it and developing it now for almost 18 months. I got a fabulous team of animators. The animation has a lovely, nostalgic feel to it but yet it's fresh and funny. The characters are really well designed. We've found a great writer in Phil Lollar….Phil wrote Adventures in Odyssey and has really brought the stories to life.

CP: From Focus on the Family?

Roma: Yes, and the music component is a very important one. It's lively, upbeat and engaging because I could have all the best intentions in the world of bringing a faith-based product into the market space but if it's not compelling and they are not drawn in and it's not exciting then they are not going to watch it.

So, I'm super excited on how it's turned out.

And the message here is really, you know, straight forward I guess. We're teaching them practical life skills, we're teaching them Christian values, and we're introducing them to age-appropriate stories from our Bible, both Old and New Testament.

CP: Well, I'm looking at the series and it looks very well done. A lot of times when people are trying to make Christian-based series, the quality or the budgeting is not on par with what you see in secular children entertainment.

When I'm looking at this, it looks like something you would see on ABC Family on TV. Was that intentional?

Roma: That was the absolute goal: to make sure it was the highest quality.

I think the proof is in the product. The books are lovely. They are hardcover books. The DVDs each have 40 minutes of content. And there are musical videos along with it and I also have musical CDs which we had a great time doing it. We have very musical children. I, myself, am the only Irish person I know who can't sing a note. But my daughter Riley is a great singer and she sings many of the tracks on the albums for me. My oldest boy James is fine musician and he plays guitar so it was very meaningful for us to all be involved in the project.

  • little angels app

CP: There is also an app (for Little Angels) you have that has a daily prayer that parents can use with their kids. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Roma: Yeah, it's available on iTunes under "Roma's Little Angels." It's a really fabulous and interactive app. It has many features, games, puzzles and coloring. I recorded 365 prayers and I think it's really good opportunity to go in there with your little preschooler and maybe find a moment each day to spend a moment in prayer.

I know that particularly in the car or emergency moments in your life, I don't how my children were raised with all the particular features we have today.

One of my hope is that it's an opportunity to start that discussion with your preschooler. I think that Little Angels provides the gateway into that conversation about faith and about the Lord and about God's love for us. Remembering that the angels are just the messengers and the message is the message of love. Quite deliberately, I placed the little angels on a mural on a ceiling in the nursery so it's the first thing they see in the morning when they get up and it's the last thing they see in the evening before they go to sleep.

The mother doesn't have a very big part in the DVD because of course, the angels come to life when the parents aren't around. But when the mother does have a voice, I've voiced it myself. There is one scene that will appear on every episode and that's the final moment that the mother comes into the moonlit room and the little four-year-old twins Zoe and Alex are fast asleep in their bunk beds and the moon is streaming into the room. And their mom just pops her head into the room to check on them and she says a little prayer:

God in heaven, my Savior dear,
Watch over my children and draw them near,
Send your little angels to be at their side,
To light and to guard,
To love and to guide.

And this was a little prayer that my parents shared with me when I was a child so it also has particular meaning that I added that little prayer in here. It also served as one of the inspiration for the series.

I don't think there's been a complete docudrama that has told all of our stories from the beginning of the Bible to the end. It will be a marvelous way to bring to life - in new and exciting ways, with all the technology that is available to us - our beautiful, beloved Bible stories.

many people think, "Well, I'm just one person, what difference can I make?" And yet the truth is when we step up together and when you do something combined with something that I do and combined with something that everyone else does then the truth is: We can change the world and we can make a difference.

At the end of the summer, I have a Little Angels Storybook Bible coming out. I have other DVDs on colors and shapes in the pipeline that should be out by the end of the year. I'm just thrilled that I've got a line of dolls that will be out by the beginning of the new year.

CP: Now, your husband in Mark Burnett. Both you and your husband are Christians.

Roma: Yes.

CP: How has faith played a role in your career choices and also in raising your family?

It's central to everything we do. Our children go to a wonderful Christian school in Westlake, California, where we live.

For me, I felt so fortunate that I was able to combine what I believe with what I do for so many years on Touched by an Angel. You know, the year that I was cast to play that part, I was an actress looking for a job. I wasn't on any kind of a mission especially. But I was so grateful that I was selected to play that part. The central theme of every episode was that there is a God and God has a plan for your life and that God wanted to be part of your life and that God loves you. And over the years, I can't tell you the kinds of feedback that I've had where people said it was the exact message they needed at the exact moment they received it. At the height of that show's success, we had over 20 million people tuned in every week.

One of the lasting things for me from that show is my relationship with my co-star Della Reese. She has really become a mom and mentor in my life. When we were filming together, her only daughter tragically passed away. And when I was a little girl, my mother had tragically passed away. She took me in her arms not long after and she said, "Baby, God is just so amazing because I always knew that He brought you into my life because He knew you needed a mother. I just hadn't realized that He brought you into my life because I was going to need a daughter. Will you be my baby girl?" And I said, "Yes." And she said, "Then I am your mama." And she has been from that day forward. She also godmother to my daughter Riley. She's been such a wonderful part of our lives.

Together with our husband Mark, we are getting ready to head off to Morocco where we start filming March 5 on a docudrama on the history of THE BIBLE. We're telling the story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. We're very excited to do be doing so. We're very humbled to be doing so.

CP: How would that be different from other docudramas or things on the Bible that we see on PBS or KQED?

Roma: Well, you know, I don't think there's been a complete docudrama that has told all of our stories from the beginning of the Bible to the end. Clearly, we have to condense it for 10 hours. We're hoping that the series can be shown in two-hour blocks over five weeks. I'm guessing The History Channel who we're thrilled to be partnering with will it air it around Easter 2013.

It will be a marvelous way to bring to life - in new and exciting ways, with all the technology that is available to us - our beautiful, beloved Bible stories.

CP: What is your favorite one?

Roma: Gosh. Well, I'm thrilled that I put out recently in our prayer circles that we were having a challenge casting the role of Jesus. I don't know if the ink is dry on the contract to mention it but I feel happy enough to say that I think we've found a wonderful actor. We will be able to bring able to bring to life the story of Jesus in beautiful and meaningful ways.

In terms of Bible stories….

CP: Which one do you tell your kids or they like hearing from you?

Roma: Well, I guess, we love the story of David and Goliath for our children when they feel they have insurmountable problems in their life and there is something so empowering in how David was able to bring down Goliath and he was a young lad doing so.

The challenge for us, of course, in the selection of stories. We have a fantastic team that we have gathered. We're bringing together a great cast.

bible360 appBible360 app

We've also introduced a wonderful new app called Bible360. Maybe up to now your experience with reading the Bible has been a personal one and this app brings new and wonderful ways to interact with people, to be able to share Scripture and be able to share prayer requests and so on. Our intention is that once we have our footage from our series that we'll be able to implement that into Bible360. You could be reading any given passage and at the click of a button you will be able to draw upon the scenes that we're about to film. So, I'm very, very excited about that.

CP: A lot of what you do seems to be linked with faith education, from the apps that you mentioned to the docudrama The Bible and also the series, Little Angels. Why do you think it's important to educate kids early on about faith and what are some of the challenges that you think parents face today?

There are studies that show children that grow up in Christian households leave the faith as they grow older. How is the work that you're doing with Little Angels to the work that you do with your husband in the entertainment industry help build faith in Christian homes and help children keep faith as they grow older?

Roma: I think that certainly with "Little Angels" and aiming for this preschool market that we've just launched, I've already had such response from parents but particular from grandparents who said it's such a great resource to share with their families. Maybe they have young families who have fallen away from the church and it's an opportunity to, you know, in an entertaining way to remind and re-introduce the stories of the Bible.

We have an opportunity to make the stories seem very relevant as well. You know, our little girl in the story Zoe, is very particular. She experiences certain fears from the storm that goes off in one of the scenes to being afraid to climb the top bunk to get her little dolly that is up there. The little angels take her back to meet with Jonah and Jonah shares with her that he, too, experienced fear so much so that when God called him he ended up in the belly of a big fish. One of the things that he has done to calm his own fears is to pray and he encourages little Zoe to do that. So when the children are now back in the nursery and she's looking up on the top bunk and she puts her hand on her heart and says, "I know that God loves me. I know that he does." And through the power of prayer in that moment, she climbs to the top bunk.

So I think that even though it's designed in an age-appropriate way to reach someone, I think there is a way to bring the stories very much alive and to find the relevance that will teach them and make the stories very current in their lives today.

CP: You are involved in a lot of things. What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind in your work. Do you want to be known as the actress, the executive producer, the mother of 3, the wife of Mark Burnett? How would you like to be remembered and what kind of legacy would you like to leave?

Roma: I think, perhaps, the virtue that I hold dear is one of kindness.

I try to live my life with my faith in loving actions. Perhaps, it would be that. Yes, I am a weaver of stories, an actress, an entertainer, and yes, I am a wife and loving mother - loving wife too (chuckle). But at the end of the day, if someone were to remember me and to say that I was a kind person, I would like that very much.

I would also like to mention, if you don't mind, that I do a lot of work with Operation Smile.

roma downey operation smile (Photo: Operation Smile)

Roma Downey and husband Mark Burnett and family participate in an Operation Smile surgery.

CP: Yes, the cleft lip.

Roma: Yes, which is a wonderful volunteer organization. We travel to third-world and developing countries to help children with facial deformities, with cleft-lip and cleft-palette. The work that they do is just transformational. It's been life-changing for me to be working with them. It's just a great reminder again and again that it is in giving that we receive.

My husband's gotten involved with the group. My children have come on medical missions with me. We actively encourage our children to step into service. To whom much is given, much is expected. We have traveled the world with them and for them to make fundraising and draw awareness to them.

It's been my experience that there is so much need in the world and often people get paralyzed and many people think, "Well, I'm just one person, what difference can I make?" And yet the truth is when we step up together and when you do something combined with something that I do and combined with something that everyone else does then the truth is: We can change the world and we can make a difference. You know?

One of my favorite stories is the story of the Starfish that we hear at church all the time about the girl and the starfish. She is busily peeling one off at a time and it's baking in the midday sun and the seagulls are flocking down. And there is one man who says, "What are you doing here? There are so many starfish and there's only one of you. You can't possibly make a difference." And she says, "Yeah." She peels a starfish off and she flings it far back into the ocean. And she says, "Well, I've a difference to that one."

And Operation Smile's slogan is: We are changing the world one smile at a time. It's only at a cost of $200 and 45 minutes and a child who may never know your name but will never forget your kindness.

CP: For the "Little Angels" enterprise, what can we expect for the future? Will you continue with preschoolers or other ages?

Roma: No, for preschoolers. But thank you for asking because this is just the beginning, these three DVDs and these two books.

At the end of the summer, I have a Little Angels Storybook Bible coming out. I have other DVDs on colors and shapes in the pipeline that should be out by the end of the year. I'm just thrilled that I've got a line of dolls that will be out by the beginning of the new year.

CP: Based on each of the little angels?

Roma: Based on the little angels because there are eight little angels and each little angel is very sweet and has a loving, unique personality and varied perhaps as the children who are watching.

We have Dina whose a little angel who carries an iPad, Gabriel who is this little... and he announces, and Ariel, and Uriel and Haley, she's got an Australian accent, she teaches the kids about angels. So, it really lends itself to all kinds of storylines that are fun and engaging.

Anyway, I'm really just full of it. Sometimes you hear of celebrities or actresses who have just slapped the name on a product and who have just endorsed it. This is not that. You know, from the moment this was an idea, I've been nurturing it and bringing a great team to bring it to life. I'm really excited today as we roll out Little Angels.

CP: This is one of the DVDs, Little Angels Animals.

Roma: This is it. Yeah.

CP: Which stores will they be in?

Roma: It will be in Walmarts and Targets and some Amazon. We also have a great website,www.littleangels.com. It can direct you there and you can see what it's all about.

But it's available in stores today.

CP: Well, thank you so much for your time. For more information, you can go to www.littleangels.com and the DVDs can also be found in stores like Target and Amazon.

We thank you so much for being here and we wish you the best of luck.

Roma: Thank you very much. I really appreciate your help to spread the word.

 

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