(Photo: The Christian Post / Stoyan Zaimov)
NEW YORK – Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the producers behind the hit miniseries "The Bible" on The History Channel, gave an exclusive interview to The Christian Post on Tuesday evening at the opening night gala of "The Bible Experience" in New York, a unique exhibit combining props from the series with the world's largest private collection of biblical texts and artifacts.
Burnett, who is the creator of popular TV shows such as "Celebrity Apprentice," "Shark Tank," "Survivor" and "The Voice," has seen "The Bible" shoot to the top of TV ratings in America, beating out stiff competition for the number one spot on Sunday nights. He reveals to CP that he has other Bible-related projects coming up.
Downey, who is best known for her 10-year role on "Touched By An Angel," is not only the co-producer of "The Bible," but she also stars as Mary, mother of Jesus, in the last two episodes of the miniseries.
"The Bible Experience" in New York runs from March 20-27, and can be viewed for free at 450 W. 14th St. in Manhattan. And "The Bible" continues for two more episodes on The History Channel before the grand finale on Easter Sunday.
Q&A with Mark Burnett:
CP: Are you surprised at how successful "The Bible" has been in terms of ratings?
Burnett: We're not surprised. The Bible is the foundation of Western civilization, it's the foundation of this nation. It's one nation under God. We're not surprised. We're thrilled. 68 million people in 15 days, number one new series in America. And speaking to our Hispanic advisers, they are so thrilled it's coming out with Spanish subtitles on DVD April 2nd, because many people cannot afford cable.
CP: Would you say "The Bible" is having a bigger effect on believers or is it also reaching a lot of unbelievers?
Burnett: It's for everybody. It's a feast for everybody. We're just showing love, and people are attracted to it. Sixty-nine percent of people watching have changed to a favorable opinion of the Bible. People who had not been introduced to the Bible – 69 percent of them have expressed a favorable opinion.
CP: Would you ever undertake another Bible-related project, or is this series as far as one can go?
Burnett: We're working on something right now. Something fantastic. We love the Bible, we love Jesus, and we are committed.
Q&A with Roma Downey
CP: How do you feel about the success of the show so far?
Downey: Here we are, 68 million people later, and that's not even the people who have Tivo'ed it. And it's just the beginning. We have two more amazing episodes left. This coming week – Jesus' ministry and miracles, Jesus walks on water, heals the lepers, feeds the 5,000, and it all ends with the most extraordinary Easter Sunday finale, with the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension.
It will touch so many people that may have never known this story, and it will change lives forever.
CP: What is the most powerful thing you can take out of the show's success?
Downey: We're just very encouraged this week. The response we have been having from parents and teenagers, saying that it's giving them such an intriguing point to a conversation. We knew that people were gathering around the water coolers, we knew that people in the workplace were discussing the Bible, but we've gotten feedback that families are gathering around the kitchen tables, the dining tables, and they are discussing God, they are discussing faith, and they are discussing scripture, and it is so encouraging.
CP: How did playing Mary, the mother of Jesus, differ from your other acting roles?
Downey: Like most everything I do, I approached it prayerfully. It was an enormous privilege to play the mother of Jesus. I brought to it a mother's heart; I have three children by myself. I wanted to feel those scenes as a mother would, to see those scenes from a mother's eyes, and all I can say is that the scenes particularly at the foot of the cross were among the most profoundly moving scenes I have filmed in my career.
Working on this project has really been meaningful and has deepened my faith in so many ways, and for that I am enormously grateful.