EDMOND — Leaders of LifeChurch.tv recently played host to the Hollywood producers of a cable TV miniseries bringing the Bible to life on Sundays in March.
Mark Burnett, producer of hit reality TV shows including “The Voice,” “Survivor” and “Shark Tank,” and his wife, actress Roma Downey, best known for her portrayal of angel Monica in the 1994-2003 TV series “Touched by An Angel,” visited the Edmond-based ministry Tuesday to discuss the church's connection with “The Bible” series.
Burnett and Downey are executive producers of the popular series that began March 3 and continues through Easter Sunday on History channel.
LifeChurch.tv's YouVersion Bible app is the official app connected with the series, which has thus far garnered “stellar ratings,” according to Forbes.com. Burnett lauded the YouVersion app as “incredible — with 85 million downloads” — and both he and his wife said pairing the series with the app is another way to extend the show's reach throughout the world.
The couple also shared insights into the production of their miniseries while at LifeChurch's Edmond campus, 4600 E Second St., to discuss the Bible app connection and other business with church leaders.
The series features Bible stories from Genesis to Revelation. The couple said the stories that made it to the small screen were chosen and put together in such a way that the Old Testament stories would seamlessly segue into the New Testament story with the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ figuring prominently.
Burnett said his favorite scenes were those which showed Jesus and his disciples. He said he thinks these scenes will resonate with viewers.
“They're a young bunch of guys. They were just living their lives and for much of their lives didn't realize that Jesus was the son of God,” Burnett said.
The producer said the scenes featuring Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection are shown with vivid detail.
“Nobody has ever told the Jesus story so dramatically — you're on the edge of your seats,” he said.
Downey, too, said her favorite part of the series is the Jesus story arc.
“We wanted to make this movie as one story, a story of God's love for all of us, a story of love, redemption and hope,” she said.
“The redemption and the hope is there in full beauty for everyone to see on Easter Sunday. Jesus rises from the dead on Easter Sunday. What better day to see that than on Easter?”
The couple said there were challenges along the way to finishing the project. Downey said filming on location in Morocco presented some challenges because the production lasted through cold desert nights and extremely hot summer days. She said another challenge was giving the film an “epic” feel while ensuring everyone's safety during scenes such as those featuring chariots.
“We wanted to achieve that epic feel, but on the other hand we wanted to make sure we had the human relationships,” she said. “Even though the stories are thousands of years old, the things that the people struggled with, their hopes and their fears, are not dissimilar to the things that we feel today. We wanted to make sure that the stories were relatable and accessible,” Downey said.
She also said the crucifixion scene was “spiritually challenging and physically challenging.”
She said they had to ensure the safety of the actor portraying Jesus, Diogo Morgado, throughout filming of the emotional scene.
Downey also said 48 snakes were cleared around the area where the cross scene was filmed on the day that scene was shot.
Before then, only one or two snakes each day were caught, she said.
“The symbolism of that ... we just prayed that all the snakes ahead of us might be cleared away as we bring this to world,” Downey said.
The couple said working together was rewarding, with Downey saying their friendship, marriage and faith were deepened.
Meanwhile, the couple said the series' success lies beyond the ratings in many ways.
“For us, the success of ‘The Bible' is that it's out there touching people's lives. The fact that there are so many people in this first viewing is fantastic, and we're very humbled, and we're very grateful,” Downey said.
“We know that over the course of the run of the series, it's going to go out all over the world. It's going to go to places that we have never heard of and touch people's lives that we have never met, and that is success.”