Roma Downey and her husband, Mark Burnett, were tasked with finding actors for three different portrayals of Jesus Christ as producers, and now the former is asking the men cast as the Savior of the world about the impact the role has had on their lives.
Downey and Burnett served as producers for both "The Bible" and "AD the Bible Continues" series, along with the films "Son of God," and "Ben-Hur." Downey interviewed the three men who played Jesus for those films and television shows for her LightWorkers website, asking them about their experiences.
Diogo Morgado played Jesus in 2013 for "The Bible" series and the following year for "Son of God." The actor admitted that before taking the role, he wasn't strong in his own faith which was transformed by playing the son of God.
"I think before playing Jesus, I was myself a bit disconnected from my own spirituality," he said. "Having to go back to the Bible and fully immerse myself in the Gospels, and knowing what Jesus did for us — the way He loved us and how God gave us His only son to wash away our sins — brought me back to a different sense of awareness of the world."
Juan Pablo Di Pace, the man who took on the role for "AD the Bible Continues" in 2015, said he had a spiritual experience when he played the Messiah.
"Being able to step into Jesus' sandals, I knew I had this responsibility and real purpose. In preparation for the role, I experienced grace while in the Sahara Desert, when I took a few days prior to filming to go into solitude and ask, 'How will I do I this role justice,'" he recalled. "The peace I felt under the stars, surrounded by sand and wind, was mind-blowing. Something was giving me massive strength for the task at hand, some divine energy that felt calming and exciting."
Di Pace said he doesn't even fully remember playing the role since he let God work through him.
"I decided to let Him work through me, to be a channel for Him," he said. "And to this day, I remember very little about how I played Him; I only remember being open to whatever He wanted to say through me."
In "Ben-Hur," Rodrigo Santoro was cast to play Jesus and called the role the most challenging of his career.
" ... When I think about it, I cannot compare to any other role I have played before. Playing Jesus is at the same time the biggest challenge and the biggest gift I ever received," Santoro said. "I will always be grateful for this unique experience."
Downey said she prayed about finding the right man to play Jesus, and valued specific things in the person she cast.
"One of the main focuses of my prayers was the challenging task of finding the right actor to play Jesus," she wrote in a post on her website. "It was vital that we find a man with the right balance of strength of character and gentleness of spirit, an actor both brave enough and humble enough to take on the role."
In a previous interview with The Christian Post, Downey said she was inspired to start LightWorkers to "features uplifting and inspirational stories, all with the same purpose — to light someone's day and encourage them to share and pass the light on."