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Coincidence, or not-so-subtle political commentary?
A major hit already, History’s 10-part miniseries The Bible is stirring up extra attention for its casting. The role of Satan — the bad guy — is played by the actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, who, thanks to makeup and other production tricks, bears a startling resemblance to President Barack Obama.
The resemblance was pointed out on Twitter while the show was airing Sunday. Glenn Beck, the Christian conservative broadcaster who has called the miniseries “one of the most important shows in decades,” sent out a tweet with a screenshot. Beck, who refuses to use Obama’s name, referred to the president as “That Guy.”
Ouazanni has featured in several religious-themed programs before, including the TV movies David (1997), Jeremiah (1998, with Patrick Dempsey in the starring role), In the Beginning and the Emmy-nominated The Ten Commandments (2006).
The Bible executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey fired back Monday. “This is utter nonsense,” the married couple said Monday in a joint statement with History. “The actor who played Satan, Mehdi Ouzaani (sic), is a highly acclaimed Moroccan actor. He has previously played parts in several biblical epics — including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our president.”
Burnett has given to Democratic candidates, including Obama in 2008 and the DNC in 2009, though he also produces Donald Trump‘s The Celebrity Apprentice and was behind Sarah Palin‘s first reality effort. Downey, while not publicly identifying with a party, is a devout Catholic who has spoken in public about her faith quite often. She starred in the 1994-2003 CBS series Touched by an Angel, and through LightWorkers Media, a religious production company behind The Bible, she produced the children’s animated program Little Angels.
In the lead-up to The Bible‘s debut, Burnett and Downey went on a tour of several megachurches, including those of Joel Osteen and Rick Warren (who once gave the invocation at Obama’s first inauguration but has since decried his policies). Burnett and Downey have also appeared on Beck’s show. In addition, the pair penned an editorial for the Wall Street Journal calling for bible education in public schools.
In the same release, the History said: “History channel has the highest respect for President Obama. The series was produced with an international and diverse cast of respected actors. It’s unfortunate that anyone made this false connection. History’s The Bible is meant to enlighten people on its rich stories and deep history.”
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