Each Christmas and Easter season, History and other cablenets air a number of 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 historicity or 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 at 7 p.m. Sundays until March 31, which is Easter Sunday.
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.
They recently discussed the series, starting with an anecdote from Roman Catholic Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga — one of those eligible to vote on the replacement for outgoing Pope Benedict XVI.
Burnett recalled, “He said, ‘Thank you. It's about this time that Discovery Channel, History channel will put things on that sow doubts in the minds of people who do believe in the Bible. I'm so grateful for History channel and to you and Roma for putting this on during Holy Week. It's the opposite of what's traditionally being done around this time.'
“So that was nice.”
Says Downey, “We started with the premise that the Bible is the truth. 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.”
Shot in Morocco — at the same location where Burnett once did an installment of his “Eco-Challenge” adventure race — 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.