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Husband-wife team helm History channel’s ‘The Bible’

RomDowney stars as Jesus' mother Mary History's 'The Bible' miniseries.

Roma Downey stars as Jesus' mother Mary in History's 'The Bible" miniseries.

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Updated: April 9, 2013 11:19AM

He’s the reality producer behind “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “The Apprentice.” She’s best known as Monica, the benevolent (and beloved) do-gooder on CBS’ “Touched by an Angel” for nine seasons.

Now, husband-and-wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are collaborating as producers on a passion project. “The Bible,” a 10-hour, $22 million miniseries, airs from 7 to 9 p.m. Sundays on History and runs through Easter.

They began planning it in 2009 and lined up their own financing, so sure that “The Bible” will be an enduring hit in the way Charlton Heston’s “The Ten Commandments” is a holiday fixture. With 300,000-plus churches in America, “this is the most-read book in the history of the country,” Burnett says.

Shot on location in Morocco over five months last year, the series begins with Noah and his ark, quickly flashes back to the story of Genesis and Adam and Eve, and includes iconic scenes using special effects, such as Moses parting the Red Sea, the burning bush and Jesus walking on water.

“We wanted to create something that was visually fresh and exciting and compelling, that your grandmother would enjoy but that your kids would enjoy,” says Downey, who plays Mary, Jesus’ mother, in several episodes. “We wanted it to be the Bible for this generation, that it didn’t have that donkeys-and-sandals feel of Bible movies from our own childhood.”

But it was impossible to tell the entire story in so short a time, so the miniseries is more of a greatest-hits collection.

“The biggest challenge is what you’re not telling, distilling what those iconic stories are,” says Nancy Dubuc, president of entertainment and media at History parent A&E Networks.

They screened it for megachurch pastors such as Joel Osteen and Rick Warren and enlisted their help in spreading the word. “The faithful will find it, but there’s an opportunity for this to be exposed to people who maybe necessarily wouldn’t read the Bible, [who] will turn the TV on and realize how amazing this story is,” Downey says. “We know that this will long outlive us.”

Gannett News Service

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