Mark Burnett, Roma Downey's 'A.D. The Bible Continues': Jesus' Death "Changed World History"

"It's a story of faith and of courage and I don't think that you have to be of Christian faith to enjoy this story," Downey told THR.
Joe Alblas

As millions worldwide gather around dining room tables to celebrate Easter Sunday with family and friends, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are providing timely entertainment for audiences to extend the conversation in living rooms with A.D. The Bible Continues.

On Easter Sunday, the husband-and-wife team's A.D. picks up near where their previous production, The Bible (it drew in an audience of 100 million in 2013), left off, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus as the start of the new series. Instead of elaborating on the death and resurrection of Jesus, the focal point of the show is to portray the impact that his sacrifice made on world history.

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"With A.D. The Bible Continues, we have been able to use the death of Jesus as the starting point because really it's the journey of what happens next," Downey told The Hollywood Reporter. "It was a moment that changed the world — it changed world history. … It had resounding impact."

The first episode, "The Tomb Is Open," begins with Jesus (Juan Pablo Di Pace) dying on the cross and being buried in the tomb before a warrior angel comes from heaven to roll away the stone.

A.D. drew from the Bible, specifically Acts, to create historic and political context coupled with historic writings so that "the story will have a fullness and that the audience can come to it and understand," Downey said. 

While the story is biblically-centered, both Burnett and Downey believe all audiences can enjoy the show.

"It's a story of faith and of courage and I don't think that you have to be of Christian faith to enjoy this story. It's a broad story and we're excited that it's on broadcast," Downey told THR. "We're so grateful to NBC and our partnership with them that on Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection, people will be able to gather around their television sets and experience the story together." 

Originally, Burnett and Downey thought they would deliver the show for a September 2015 launch, but NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt called the couple and asked for an Easter premiere. "We started principal photography in September and we just finished principal photography on St. Patrick's Day, so the pressure has been hard on our postproduction team to edit it quickly so that we are able to make the delivery date," Downey said. "But it's all come together so well."

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The show was filmed in Morocco, where a mini city and labyrinth of streets were constructed for the set. Richard Coyle, Vincent Regan, Adam Levy, Joanne Whalley, Jodhi May, Greta Scacchi, Emmett J. Scanlan, Chipo Chung, Babou Ceesay, Alastair Mackenzie, James Callis, Kevin Doyle and Di Pace star.

"For us, it's just about telling these stories in a very human way. These characters didn’t know they were in the Bible. They didn't know the outcome from the Bible. They're humans; they're flawed humans," Downey said, adding, "And we wanted to show it with grittiness and authenticity in a compelling, surprising way to draw the viewer."

A.D. The Bible Continues premieres on April 5 at 9 p.m. on NBC.

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