A new television event, A.D. The Bible Continues will premiere Easter Sunday on NBC. The story picks up where the smash hit, The Bible, left off…ushering viewers into the events following the crucifixion of Christ. I am pleased to bring you a behind the scenes peek into the experiences of Juan Pablo Di Pace, the actor who portrays Jesus Christ in Executive Producers, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s twelve week series.
SCH: What’s the first thing that came to your mind when you learned you would be playing Jesus?
JP: I thought it was an amazing thing and at the same time I thought, “Wow, that’s a responsibility!”
SCH: I’m sure. Can you describe the first day of shooting when you looked at yourself in the mirror…in wardrobe, full hair and make-up?
JP: It was a very imposing thing to be in that costume. I remember peoples’ reactions to me were very strange and then I looked at myself in the mirror and I was like, “Oh yeah. I get it.” I was surprised myself. I think they got it right…the costume people on the show and the hair and make-up department…it helped me. I was able to take myself out of the equation. It was impressive.
SCH: Do you know of the performance artist in LA who dresses and walks the streets as Jesus?
JP: Ah yes. I’ve heard of him and I’ve seen photos.
SCH: It’s amazing to watch people as they encounter and interact with him. It’s as if they are drawn to him.
JP: Yes. In that costume people almost feel as if you’re some kind of king.
SCH: I can imagine. It reminds me that people are searching for that touch…for a touch of Jesus in their lives.
JP: For sure. It was a very interesting experience to be in his sandals for a little bit.
SCH: On a personal level, who do you, Juan Pablo, say that Jesus is?
JP: I was raised Catholic. I grew up in that faith…so I always had this image of Jesus on the cross…and the message, of course, was very important to my family. But, portraying him…I would definitely say it has changed my perception. Not “changed” it…kind of like “fine-tuned” it. It’s very different when you actually have to say his words and mean them. You realize how powerful they are. That in itself was a very incredible experience and I feel like I learned a lot from it. I would say that my views have evolved.
SCH: Do you feel as if you know Jesus in a deeper way since playing him?
JP: You could say that. It’s a very intimate experience…acting and portraying someone else. This was a very interesting mixture of having to surrender myself in the process and allowing something else to take over me or work through me. At the same time, I really wanted to find that quality…in my version of Jesus…I attempted to find the purest version of myself. It’s like a mixture of letting yourself be a channel while giving all of yourself to it.
SCH: There’s a line in the film I’d like to ask you about. Pontius asks, “What is it about this nobody that so disturbs you?” In your understanding of the opposition that Jesus has faced throughout History and still faces today, what is it about him that is so disturbing?
JP: Well, I think he was definitely a subversive figure. Back then, things were all about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and violence was an everyday thing. People lived in the world of you did this to me…I’ll do that to you. For someone to come along and say, “Actually, no. Life is about love and turning the other cheek and loving your enemies.” It was unsettling, you know?
SCH: He moved people into uncomfortable places.
JP: Yeah. For sure.
SCH: They were shown a mirror. And reflections can be difficult to face.
JP: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. And then the responsibility is not so much on who did me wrong but the responsibility is on me. What can I do to improve?
SCH: Okay…this might sound a bit strange….but two of my favorite characters of all time are Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever…
At this point there is laughter from Juan Pablo.
SCH: Hang on…I was born in Brooklyn and I know you played Tony in a production once…
SCH: …and my other all time favorite character is Jesus because I am a believer and He is my Lord. You’ve had the high honor of playing both characters…I don’t know where an actor goes after playing Tony and Jesus????
JP: I know! Right?
SCH: Is there a dream role out there for you? A character you would just love to bring to life?
JP: Back to Tony Manero for a moment. I agree with you…it was probably one of the most fun characters I’ve gotten to play because I was able to be absolutely cheeky and arrogant with pride! And the dance moves were amazing. I mean, come on! Where to go from here? There’s so much to do. You’re right…I am lucky to have played Jesus and Tony.
The last character I played on Dallas was a drug lord which was also amazing. That’s what you want as an actor…to have a diversity of roles and do things that you would never do in real life. Here I am playing the Son of God yet a few months ago I was killing people for a living. What’s left? Ummmmmm….I grew up with Art. My mother is a painter and she taught me early about the greats…Renaissance painters. I have a huge interest in telling the story of Michelangelo.
JP: That’s a character I would definitely definitely want to play. I see the world in an aesthetic way because of my upbringing. I really connect with painters.
SCH: What a wonderful gift your mother gave you.
JP: Yes. She is amazing. She came to Morocco and she was actually on set for the crucifixion scene. She was inspired and she has been doing a lot of paintings on the subject. The call her, “The Painter of Hands.”
SCH: I will need find her and look at her work. One more question…before I let you go. You were born in Argentina and I’d like to know from you…What’s the best Argentine restaurant in LA?
JP: Well, I would say…Carlitos Gardel and LaLa’s.
SCH: Great! Thank you so much for the recommends. I will try them both out.
JP: Great. (more chuckles) And, I am so happy you are a fan of Saturday Night Fever.
SCH: Fanatical. I am fanatical about it. Thank you for your time.
JP: Thank you!
Chuckles chuckles and more chuckles carried us out.
What a pleasure this time with Juan Pablo Di Pace was. As I reflect on our conversation…it’s the laughter we shared that stays with me. Laughter shared with a man who feels very blessed indeed. I think Psalm 126:2 sums it up perfectly:
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”