Tag Archives: Mark Burnett

Roma Downey, Mark Burnett Brace Selves for ‘Bible’ Reactions

Mark Burnett roma DowneyRoma Downey and Mark Burnett are bracing themselves for reaction to their ambitious, 10- hour History Channel adaptation of the Bible that launches this Sunday night (3/3) and runs through Easter.  “I’m sure people will hurl what they want to hurl,” the “Touched by an Angel” actress told us.  But, she added, the miniseries was made “with full hearts.”

Certainly the Burnetts and the History Channel are putting their all into pulling viewers into “The Bible,” with a full court press of promotion including: advance screenings in theaters and sports arenas; plugs from faith leaders including Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes and Maya Angelou; a huge array of support materials available to churches and individuals; a webinar; a You Tube video in which Roma asks believers to pray for the miniseries; even a kit for hosing Bible viewing parties (http://www.outreach.com/campaigns/the-bible-resources).

“We’ve had scholars and theologians help. We’re not pretending to be biblical experts,” she stressed. “We brought experts in once the scripts were created to take a look at the scripts to make sure we were accurate and true to the Bible, but obviously we’re making a movie, and so we breathed creative expansion into that.”

Roma is hoping the TV event will attract the faithful and those unfamiliar with the Bible alike. “Yes, it’s going to be a faith journey, but it’s also going to be really exciting and dynamic television,” as she put it.  The filmmakers were able to bring up-to-the-minute CGI special effects artistry to familiar stories from Noah’s ark and Moses’ parting of the Red Sea to Jesus walking on water — “Genesis to Revelation.”

The intensity of their belief in this project is such that Burnett told Variety, “I am certain that if you took ‘Survivor,’ ‘The Voice,’ ‘Shark Tank,’ ‘The Apprentice’ and all the other shows I’ve done, over the next 25 years more people will see ‘The Bible’ miniseries than all those other projects combined.”

Roma is seen in the miniseries as well as serving as an executive producer along with her husband.  She plays Mary, mother of Jesus, in scenes depicting the final chapters of his life story.

“We have a young actress of course playing Mary during the nativity and the early years of Jesus’ life, and 30 years go by.  An early version of the script referred to that as Young Mary and Old Mary and when I stepped into the role, I said, ‘You know, could we have Young Mary and Mother Mary?'” she recalled, laughing.

Perhaps there was a bit of destiny involved.  As Roma also mentioned, “My middle name is Mary.  All the girls in my family have the middle name of Mary.”    

She also told us that the making of “The Bible” proved to be a great husband-and-wife collaborative experience for her and Mark.  They toiled side-by-side in Morocco, in extreme heat and cold, dust storms and more. 

The Burnetts are, of course, quite rich and certainly did not need to make a Bible miniseries.  What drove them, Roma said, was that “The Bible fits in really with who we are and what we believe and how we live our lives.”          

The actress grew up in Derry, Ireland, was taught by nuns back in school, and today holds a masters degree in spiritual psychology from University of Santa Monica.  “It’s an extraordinary journey, to come from the Sisters of Mercy to where I am today,” she said, “and it was a great honor and a privilege for me to step into the role and to step into the project.  I think it’s going to bring the Bible alive in new and exciting ways to a lot of people.  I think it’s really going to touch another generation.”

 

Roma Downey, Mark Burnett — Touched By The Bible

Regardless of the response to Roma Downey’s and Mark Burnett’s 10-hour History Channel treatment of the Bible when it premieres next March, the project already stacks up as one of the most profound experiences of the couple’s life.  The actress immortalized by “Touched By An Angel” tells us they began filming in Morocco in February “and are just back.  We produced it together.  The opportunity for us to work together as husband and wife has been extraordinary.

“I know it’s epic, and I think it will be the must-watch event of the spring,” she adds.  “You’ll see the Red Sea parted with the latest special effects that are available.  We have Hans Zimmer creating the score…We have Noah, we have Abraham, we have Moses.  We have Jesus walking on water.  We have scenes coming to life in the extraordinary ways.  Yes, it’s going to be a faith journey, but it’s also going to be really exciting and dynamic television.”

In the course of the production, exec producers Roma and Mark and company were out in heat and sand and “all of that.  The climate was extreme.  When we started it was cold, then it was boiling — in excess of 110 degrees.  We were caught in dust storms.  And of course, during the filming, Mark was back here a lot because he as a few other things going on,” she says of the husband she clearly adores, whose many productions include “Survivor,” “Stars Earn Stripes,” “The Apprentice” and “The Voice.”

Roma had other things going on as well — including a role in the Bible series.  “I am on camera as Mary, the mother of Jesus.  We have a young actress of course playing Mary during the nativity and the early years of Jesus’ life, and 30 years go by.  An early version of the script referred to that as Young Mary and Old Mary and when I stepped into the role, I said, ‘You know, could we have Young Mary and Mother Mary?'” She laughs.  “Oh, vanity.  It was  more than I could deal with.”

She and Mark are well aware they’re treading on controversial ground, no matter how their Bible depiction is done.  “But you have to step out there,” she says.  “We are stepping out together and I’m sure people will hurl what they want to hurl.  But it is being made with full hearts. We’ve had scholars and theologians help. We’re not pretending to be biblical experts. We brought experts in once the scripts were created to take a look at the scripts to make sure we were accurate and true to the Bible, but obviously we’re making a movie, and so we breathed creative expansion into that.”

She’s hoping the TV event will attract the faithful and the Bible illiterate alike.  “I think it’s going to bring the Bible alive in new and exciting ways to a lot of people.  I think it’s really going to touch another generation,” says the actress. Covering Genesis through Revelation, the series is scheduled to conclude on Easter Sunday next year.

AND:  Roma just smiles and closes her eyes when we ask about the chances for a “Touched By An Angel” reunion movie.  It’s not on her radar, to say the least.  But she does continue her close friendship with fellow “Angel” angel Della Reese.  In fact, “She was just here at our home yesterday for lunch,” reports Roma, who lives in a spectacular seaside mansion in Malibu with Mark and their family.  The posh digs are a long way, both literally and figuratively, from Mark’s and Roma’s similarly humble backgrounds — in London and Derry, Northern Ireland, respectively.

The executive producer of the “Little Angels” animated children’s video series notes, “Clearly, there’s a theme going on in my life.  I don’t have to work.  I’m very blessed , very fortunate.  So my passion, my purpose is to be involved with things that uplift and open people’s hearts and raise their consciousness.”

‘The Voice’ Stars Not Out to Rip Anyone, Even the Competition

Interesting, the jockeying for position among singing competition shows before the kickoff of the 2012-2013 season.  While Simon Cowell has been teasing his new “X Factor” judges by letting the world know Britney Spears has turned out to be Quite Mean, NBC’s “The Voice” team made a point of stressing that they have no desire to be mean — or negative at all.

“We’re not interested in being on a show where we rip people.  That was a common theme,” said Adam Levine, who turned out to talk to press about the show at producer Mark Burnett’s posh Malibu home the other day, along with his fellow “The Voice” music superstar coaches — Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green and Blake Shelton, as well as host Carson Daly.

“And it proved something.  The blind auditions replaced the need to find terrible singers and rip them,” added Burnett, referring to the early audition rounds full of non-talents and scathing critiques so familiar to “American Idol” audiences.

“I really have been averse to it,” Levine went on.  “I personally have never experienced a positive feeling — I don’t like to see that.  It looks like someone getting bullied and it makes me sad, it really does.  I don’t like to watch.” 

His fellow coaches – remember, on “The Voice,” they’re more into coaching than judging –agreed.

Aguilera even had kind words for Britney, who, of course, she’s been getting sized up against since their “Mickey Mouse Club” days together. 

 “I know she’s a pro and she’s going to give, I think, great advice,” said the pop star, resplendent with blond and lavender hair for the panel.  “I don’t know the format of the other shows.  I just know the format of the show I’m on. But I welcome these very talented women.  Especially in my genre of pop, the media gets in there to pit us against one another and women against women, this and that, and you know, I’m just not down for that at this point in my life.  I have no patience for it, so I’m like, come on, the more the merrier.  She’ll have fun with it.”

Considering the fact that this year, “X Factor” will be going toe to toe with “The Voice” – “The Voice” launches Sept. 10 and “X Factor” two days later — Aguilera is likely going to find comparisons impossible to avoid.  (“American Idol” returns mid-season.)

The wide-ranging talk, accompanied by the sounds of surf and sea birds near the beachside grounds of Burnett’s home, also covered the topic of celebrity mentors.

Green talked about reaching out to artists with whom he has personal relationships and friendships, like Prince and Rob Thomas, to work with his up-and-comers.  Levine has Mary J. Blige.  Aguilera has Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.

Armstrong wasn’t a friend, she said, when she went after him to be a mentor for her team.  But they did have mutual respect.  With his “punk, badass” persona, “He brings a whole different energy and different advice than I would give from a female pop star perspective.  He comes from a completely different world and kind of puts a whole new spin on everything,” she observed.

Blake Shelton’s bringing in Michael Buble.  Their paths have converged a surprising number of times, considering they, too, are from different musical worlds.  Shelton noted that he had a country hit with a Buble song, then they worked together on a David Foster special, and a Shelton Christmas album.  “We’ve become friends – as close friends as you can be when he lives in Vancouver, and I live in Oklahoma,” Shelton said.  When it came time to adding a new mentor for “The Voice,” “I thought, ‘This is a no-brainer.”

The joking, teasing, competitive camaraderie between the coaches that is one of “The Voice’s” greatest assets was also on display. Talking about their crammed schedules, Burnett noted that Shelton had been juggling tour dates, and in fact had just made a whirlwind trip back and forth to Washington. 

“Is that what Blake told you?  You guys are so gullible.  Tour!” cracked Levine – who was, himself, leaving for South America tour dates the next morning.  The show’s social media maven, Christina Milian, noted that the four singers can do dead-on imitations of one another.

Daly noted that we’ll see more of Green, Aguilera, Levine and Shelton performing this coming season, “because that’s what they do.” 

But what about “The Voice” come spring?  Burnett admits that the “matrix of tour dates of these artists is a producer’s nightmare” in terms of scheduling.  “We’re all talking, all the time.”

“I want to do it,” said Green.

“We all want this to work,” said Levine.

But there is a chance that the current foursome might help bring in substitutes for themselves to fill in.  “The good news is we’re all friends; we’re all openly talking about it all the time,” said Burnett, who stressed that he and his team knew what they were signing up for when they became involved with touring musical stars at the top of their game.  “This is really like family.” 

Roma Downey Happy Out of Spotlight

Roma Downey Hallmark Channel photo

Roma Downey’s husband, Mark Burnett, is one of the industry’s biggest and most successful reality show producers (‘Survivor,’ ‘The Apprentice,’ ‘Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader’ etc.), but when asked whether she’d ever consider being on a reality show, the former ‘Touched by an Angel’ star laughs softly.

‘No, I don’t think so. They seem to attract Type A personalities, and I think, like many actors, I have a much more introverted side of me. It’s easier to be up there filtered through pretending to be someone else.’\

However, nowadays, she tells us, ‘in some ways I’ve been so enjoying who I am, l have felt less desire to be someone else.’

After several years away from the cameras, Roma returned to film the June 6 Hallmark Channel Original Movie, ‘Come Dance At My Wedding.’ Most of the time, however, she’s absorbed in family activity with Mark, her daughter Reilly, who is now nearly 13, and Mark’s sons James, 15, and Cameron, 11.

Continues Roma, ‘There was a time in my life I was really hungry, ambitious, but not now. I don’t know if this is something that just comes naturally in one’s life, that you just change direction a little bit. I’m much less driven by the spotlight,’ she acknowledges.

”Touched by An Angel’ had a very long run. It was such a big chunk of my life. The minute when something like that ends, if you haven’t figured out who you are, in the absence of that you would feel a void. For me it was a great relief that the spotlight had moved down the road. There was a moment of ‘I’m over here!’ Then it was, ‘Oh, who cares?”

Sadly, all too many famous folk don’t make the adjustment to living lower-profile lives as easily as that, she agrees. ‘We’ve seen it — you’ve written about it — the spotlight moves on, and in the absence of the light, they don’t exist. If you haven’t figured out your source is within yourself, it’s a recipe for unhappiness.’

Roma also attends the University of Santa Monica, a private graduate school founded by New Age spiritual and self-help guru John-Roger, and will graduate with a master’s degree in spiritual psychology in June.

‘As someone who has been on a spiritual journey for many years, it seems a natural extension of that work,’ says the lady still seen in Hallmark Channel reruns as angel Monica. She notes, ‘The skills I’m learning will ultimately qualify me to be a therapist’ — not that she has plans to start a practice anytime soon. ‘It’s really so interesting to learn about human behavior.’

And other matters.

Says Roma, who lives in Malibu, ‘My kids go to school about a 40-minute drive away. I’m open to the group’s opinion about what we listen to on the way there. On the way back, I get my own selections — books on tape by Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins…My husband says I’m so self-realized I’m practically levitating.’