Actress and producer Roma Downey and reality producer Mark Burnett announced recently at the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, that the success of The Bible series has opened doors to a follow-up TV series called A.D. The Bible Continues. It is a twelve part continuation focused on the birth of the church through the first 10 chapters of Acts which will air on NBC beginning Easter, April 5th at 9:00 pm ET.
Downey shared with attendees at the NRB about the” loves” in her life: “We love the Lord; we love what we do; and we love each other. To tell this story of the early church is both a joy and a privilege.” Filmed in Morocco, this series will give a deeper dive into Acts and show the humanity and true character of the apostles, and their undying devotion to bring the gospel to the known world no matter the cost. The subplot involves the persecution of the church, yet its miraculous growth.
“We pulled from history and Acts using scholars from both areas and wove it together into “a cool, relatable, true, and compelling story so people can see what the early church was like and is supposed to be today.” Dr. Jerry Johnson, President of the NRB, commended Downey and Burnett for their good work researching the historical and political setting. Burnett was thankful for God’s provision through scholars and pastors and responded, “God doesn’t always call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”
Burnett acknowledged that Hollywood is run by money and results. The success of The Bible has opened this door. He pointed to the 100 million who watched this series and added, “In Canada, The Bible Series even beat out hockey!” Nothing would please this couple more than for people to be talking about A.D., God and Jesus each Monday morning at the water cooler. They are hoping, “The Bible will become a regular series and open the door for many others.”
Burnett clearly stated, “Christians need to be noisier in regards to letting Hollywood know what we want.” That same message was also echoed by Devon Franklin, a rising producer in Hollywood who just formed his own company to make God-honoring films. Franklin said, “The power of our unified voices (as believers) is important.” He continued, “The biggest way we vote is when you turn on your TV and pay for your movies at the box office. So choose those that honor God.”
Burnett’s and Franklin’s comments echoed throughout the NRB convention as Christians were coming to grips with the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey. The box office numbers of this film indicate that Sodom and Gomorrah are here on our doorstep. Our unified voice can make a difference.
Burnett also commented that the characters in A.D. look like on the screen how society looks today. The Roman Empire was a melting pot in its day. So after advice from his African American friends that The Bible series was “a little white,” this cast will be more diverse involving actors from ten different nations. Burnett also pointed out the providence of God in that Jesus was born at a time in the “Roman Empire when the Roman Roads were the internet of their day.”
A.D. begins with the crucifixion and resurrection, and then chronicles an intense time in history. Downey refers to it as, “A time filled with enormous faith, persecution, brutal Roman oppression and the desperate Jewish revolt—a time when history would be changed forever.” Pentecost is brought to the screen with special effects by Hans Zimmer. The series is action-packed and filled with dramatic twists and turns.
Downey admits that Rick Warren warned her, “The most dangerous prayer you can pray is, ‘Lord, use me’—because He might just answer you.” Although that has been her prayer for years, both Downey and Burnett confessed that this past year had been a time of spiritual warfare for them as they made strides to make the Bible come alive on TV.
Burnett’s son, Cameron, collapsed while they were filming in Morocco and was diagnosed with a massive brain tumor. Burnett said, “We covet the prayers of God’s people.” Downey and Burnett are pressing on and continuing to allow God to use their talents and connections to bring the stories of Jesus before people. God continues to heal Cameron.
After seeing clips from Part I and II, it is a powerful and compelling portrayal of the disciples as they move forward after the loss of their leader to sacrificing their lives for the sake of the Gospel. My favorite quote is from a scene following the resurrection. One of the disciples realizes that Jesus has risen just as He predicted. In responding to the question, “What did you find?” he replies, “We found nothing . . . and everything.”
NRB President Jerry Johnson said, “We need to all get behind A.D.,” and I agree. It’s time to take a deeper dive into the book of Acts. May it revive us and bring us to our knees.