A.D. The Bible Continues is the highly anticipated follow-up to blockbuster mini-series The Bible, which gathered over 100 million US viewers. Executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey describe this twelve-week feature as “Game of Thrones meets The Bible.” It debuts on NBC Easter Sunday, and features a global cast.
The mesmerizing series takes viewers on a journey from crucifixion to beyond. The audience will enter the world of the Apostles, of Pilate, Caiaphas, Herod Antipas and others, all from their own points of view. Each episode aims to bring the Biblical world to life in all of its grit and glory.
Sonoma Christian Home Contributor, Sarah Lewis Philpot, discussed A.D. The Bible Continues with well-known British actor Vincent Regan, along with his personal portrayal of Pontius Pilate. No stranger to portraying historical and mythological characters in highly acclaimed epic films, Regan applauds this series as being one of the highest quality. Regan also gives us a more in-depth look at the mindset of Roman Governor, Pilate.
SCH: Vincent, with credits such as: 300, Troy, Snow White and the Huntsman, and award-winning television shows, tell me about accepting the role of Pilate.
VR: It was quite strange actually. I was in London, at a different casting altogether, and a casting director opened the door of another office and said, “Hey Vincent!” I went “Hello.” They said, “Come and meet these directors.”
I didn’t know anything about [The Bible] whatsoever. I went and met Ciaran Donnelly, who directed the first episodes, and he said, “We are very keen on you playing Pontius Pilate.” I said, “In what?” He said. “In A.D. – the sequel to The Bible.” It kind of came at me unexpectedly. Let me put it that way. I read the scripts and I thought they were fantastic. Not just the first few episodes. Often times, with drama, you get the first three or four episodes that are really good and tight and the rest kind of fall away. This was consistently good – all the way to episode twelve. It’s a wonderful role as well, and I’m very honored to play it.
SCH: As a viewer, I was mesmerized by your performance. Pilate is no longer a caricature of evil in my mind, but a person conflicted between securing his political future and doing what was morally right.
VR: Exactly. People have a strange attitude towards Pilate. But he would have been predestined to condemn Jesus Christ, wouldn’t he? He had no real choice in the matter, did he? Because the Big Guy upstairs ordained. The prophecies had to be fulfilled – Jesus would die and then on the third day rise from the dead. Pilate is really a fascinating character. He was governor over Judea for 10 years. It was unheard of for someone to last so long in that job. It was a real hot potato because obviously the Jewish community was belligerently very anti-Roman.
But Pilate managed to keep the peace pretty well for 10 years. He also built an aqueduct for them. Before Pilate came along people used to die of thirst in Jerusalem because they only had one well. So Pilate diverted the water system from the hills around Galilee all the way to Jerusalem. So he wasn’t all-bad. He is a conflicted character… He’s a man under a great deal of pressure
SCH: Growing up were you familiar with the Bible and the story of the Crucifixion?
VR: Oh, yeah. I was brought up a Roman Catholic. I always used to remember him, because he gets a name check in the Apostles Creed – “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” I was at a christening – I’m godfather to my sister-in-laws baby – and they read the creed in the christening and they name checked Pontius Pilate. My wife elbowed me in the ribs saying, “That’s you, you bad man.” So yes, I’m well aware of it. (laughter)
You know Pilate washes his hands of the whole affair, because basically he didn’t want to condemn Jesus Christ but he had no option. He was pushed into a corner by Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. We don’t actually go into it in too great of a detail in the series, but there were conversations between Pilate and Jesus Christ. Pilate had a private audience with Jesus Christ and he basically said to Jesus Christ, “Listen. Save yourself. Say something. I don’t want to have to crucify you, but if don’t say anything you will end up being crucified.”
He did try to get Jesus off the hook but there is no way Caiaphas or the Sanhedrin were going to have any of it. And so he symbolically washes his hands of the guilt of Jesus’ death. I’m not comfortable with the fact that then Caiaphas says, “Let that judgment be on us and on our children” because that has always been the indicator for anti-Semitism in the world. It’s always been an excuse used by the bad Christians to punish the Jews through history. So that is a bit of a hot potato.
SCH: While filming, did you consult with any of the biblical experts that were involved with the writing and directing of the series? I know there was quite a litany consulted.
VR: No, no. They didn’t discuss anything with me because Pilate is a political character. He is not one of the faith-based characters. They were dealing more with the apostles, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of God. I was kind of left alone actually. There is relatively little known about Pilate in history. I did some historical research, but at the end of the day we are making a drama here and not a documentary. So most of my work was just working on the scripts themselves.
SCH: I think the series does a wonderful job of honoring the birth of Christianity. Was that important to you as a Roman Catholic when you read the script? Or did you come at it as what you do when you read a script for a secular film such as 300 or Clash of Titans?
VR: I just basically looked at it as an actor. But at first I was slightly skeptical when I heard it was being made by Christians. I was worried that the quality wouldn’t be very good. But the quality is good. It is great. And it is not just for Christians, this show. It is for everyone. It is a really good drama. An important thing I’d like to get across to people is that it is a drama for people of all faiths, not just for the Christian community.
SCH: I would agree! I saw the first episode, and it seems more like a feature film instead of a television show.
VR: I know. I’ve been involved in some big pictures in my time, and this feels as big as anything I’ve done. It really does. When we were shooting it, it just felt so epic in every sense of the word. But the most important thing is that the scripts were so solid. I really thought they were.
SCH: Since the series centers on the birth of Christianity, was there a bit more talk about faith and spirituality on set?
VR: The thing with actors is that actors don’t usually talk about their beliefs with other actors. (chuckles) The conversations are usually pretty unprincipled actually. But I remember the scene where I confront Jesus and ask him what truth is. I must admit that doing that scene made me feel very emotional. There I was standing on a platform looking at a man, who for all intents and purposes is Jesus Christ. That did send a little shiver down me. Put it that way.
SCH: What about the scene where the crowd is demanding you sentence Jesus Christ to death. As an actor did that feel intense?
VR: It did. It felt really intense. I just remember looking out across the crowd and seeing Greta Scacchi’s face [actor portraying Jesus’ mother] and she was just so emotional. It was a very intense day’s filming.
SCH: I want to revisit a previous point you made; you said that A.D. “ seems as big as anything you’ve ever done.” With the building of the massive set in Morocco, the costuming, the cast of characters – it does appear very old Hollywood.
VR: It really did feel as if we were doing an old fashioned Hollywood movie. The great thing is as well, is when you wear a costume like Pilate wears, the costume does all the work for you really. I just had to not bump into the furniture. (laughter)
SCH: Vincent, tell me what is on the horizon. I’ve been reading quite a bit about you directing Enemy of Man, a fresh adaption of Macbeth.
VR: Yes, we are still in the funding stage. I’m looking to get all the money together. It is tricky because it is a big project and we are putting together the finances. But I hope to shoot it next year at some point… and I have my own theater in the north of England. I’m finishing off writing a play… and just keeping out of trouble really. (chuckles)
SCH: You certainly a man of many talents. I have one final question for you. Those piercing eyes of yours – please tell me that your children did inherit them.
VR: My eldest daughter has them. My two other children have their mother’s eyes, but my eldest has my eyes.
SCH: Vincent, I will let you go back to enjoying your time at NBC’s 30 Rock. Thank you so much for talking with me today.
VR: You too. All the best. Have a great day!