LOS ANGELES The Bible
8 p.m. Sunday, History Channel
Before actress Roma Downey met her husband, her “Touched by an Angel” co-star Della Reese had a bit of advice. “Baby, you need to pray that God will choose a partner for you,” Downey recalled Reese telling her.
“Maybe in the past you didn’t choose so well and you have to let God choose for you. And let your prayer be that you will know him when he gets here.”
So when Downey spotted Emmy-winning producer Mark Burnett in a salon – he was getting a hair cut, she was getting a pedicure – it was a bit more than love at first sight.
“When I met Mark, I had an inner knowing,” Downey said. “There have been times since then that I can’t help but wonder, if it were for such a time, as this, that we met.”
As they approach their sixth wedding anniversary, they are sharing their faith with the world in a 10-hour docudrama, “The Bible,” which will air Sunday nights on the History Channel through Easter.
Starting with Noah telling the story of creation aboard his ark, the film weaves through biblical epics and the life of Christ and the early apostles.
While they describe “The Bible” as a “love story” between God and mankind, the project is also rooted in their own love story.
Downey has made a number of made-for-TV movies since “Touched by an Angel” wrapped in 2003, and Burnett is an executive producer whose credits include “Survivor,” “Celebrity Apprentice” and “The Voice.” That success has allowed the two to take on “The Bible” project as a personal passion.
“It certainly felt like more of a mission for them than a business opportunity,” said Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family and an adviser on the series. “They’re doing this as a labor of love.”
Downey, who plays Jesus’ mother Mary in “The Bible,” is better known for her faith than her husband. She grew up Catholic in a divided Northern Ireland, raised by a devout father after her mother died.
“I have tried throughout my career to make choices that are pleasing to God,” said Downey. “It probably began in my childhood, wanting to make choices in my life that were pleasing to my own father and by extension to my heavenly Father.”
In the Bible, Burnett most relates to the Apostle Paul. “I feel like Paul was warrior-like and the least likely person, in many ways, to be called, and it took a person like Paul to go 5,000 miles” to spread the Gospel, he said.
During a webinar with church leaders, Burnett urged his fellow Christians to be more like Paul and more aggressive with their message. “This is our story and we have to make some noise,” he said. “If we don’t make some noise, I have news for you: Television networks aren’t going to come seeking this kind of programming.”
They were both previously married – Downey has a daughter and Burnett has two sons from their previous relationships. In 2007, they were married by Reese, who is also a minister. “
“Working on this project together,” she said, “has deepened our marriage, our love and our faith.”