Nat Geo's 'Killing Jesus' Cast Revealed (Exclusive)

Haaz Sleiman will play Jesus opposite Kelsey Grammer and Stephen Moyer in the adaptation of Bill O'Reilly's hit book
Kent Eanes
Haaz Sleiman in "Killing Jesus"

More than a year after signing on to adapt Bill O'Reilly's Killing Jesus, National Geographic Channel has set the all-star cast for the TV movie.

Haaz Sleiman (The Visitor) will star as Jesus in the all-star cast that also includes Kelsey Grammer, Stephen Moyer, Emmanuelle Chriqui and John Rhys Davies,The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Based on the best-selling book by O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, the film chronicles the life of Jesus of Nazareth through the retelling of the political, social and historical conflicts during the Roman Empire that ultimately led to his death.

Grammer (Boss) will star as King Herod, the unrelenting and ambitious Roman King of Judea, who attempted to kill Jesus at his birth. Moyer (True Blood) is set as Pontius Pilate, aka the Roman governor who ordered Jesus' crucifixion.

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The cast also includes Rufus Sewell (Hercules) as Caiaphas, high priest of Jerusalem and conspirator in Jesus' death; Chriqui (Entourage) as Herodia, Herod II's ex-wife who married his brother Antipas, who manipulated her husband and daughter into killing John the Baptist; Eoin Macken (The Night Shift) as Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea and co-conspirator in Jesus' death; Davies (Lord of the Rings) is as Annas, a high priest in Jerusalem who first questioned Jesus and his teachings; Abhin Galeya will be John the Baptist, considered a prophet who was arrested and killed by Antipas; and Stephanie Leonidas (Defiance) is Salome, daughter of Herod II and Herodias, who led to the demise of John the Baptist.

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Rounding out the cast will be Aneurin Barnard (The White Queen) as James, one of Jesus' 12 apostles; Vernon Dobtcheff (Before Sunset) as Isaiah, the prophet who King Herod claimed came to him in a dream and prophesied his death; Tamsin Egerton (The Look of Love) as Claudia, the wife of Pontius Pilate; John Lynch (Sliding Doors) as Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the high court in Israel, who was sympathetic to Jesus; Joe Doyle (Reign) as Judas, the apostle who eventually betrayed Jesus; and Alexis Rodney (Guardians of the Galaxy) as Simon (Peter), one of Jesus' 12 apostles and his closest confidant.

"The film Killing Jesus will break new ground in chronicling the life of the most famous human being who ever lived," said O'Reilly, who also serves as an executive producer. "The superb cast and script reflect much thought and research. Viewers are in for something very different and very special."

Killing Jesus will premiere globally on National Geographic Channel in 2015 in 171 countries and 45 languages, and in Spanish on Nat Geo Mundo. The movie hails from the Emmy-nominated team behind Killing Kennedy, including O'Reilly, Scott Free Productions' Ridley Scott, David Zucker, Mary Lisio and Teri Weinberg. Heather Moran and Charlie Parsons will exec produce for NGC.

The movie marks the third collaboration for NGC with Scott Free and O'Reilly, joining Killing Lincoln, which drew a then-record 3.4 million viewers to the cable network, and Killing Kennedy, which topped its predecessor.

Production on Killing Jesus will begin in the fall with Chris Menaul on board to direct. Oscar- and Emmy-winning screenwriter Walon Green (The Hellstrom Chronicle) will pen the teleplay.

"The combined talent of this incredible cast is unparalleled, and we can't wait to see what this team of actors can do," NGC's Moran said. "With this stellar cast and breathtaking script by Walon, based on Bill’s page-turner, we are going to explore the seismic political and historical events that surrounded the life and death of Jesus as never before."

Grammer is repped by UTA, Category 5 Entertainment and Surpin Mayersohn. Moyer is with WME, Luber Roklin and Bloom Hergott. Sleiman, whose credits also include Showtime's Nurse Jackie, is with Gersh and Management 360. Get a first look at Sleiman as Jesus, above.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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