The life-altering impact of A.D. The Bible Continues was fresh on the heart of Juan Pablo di Pace as he discussed how his role in the epic 12-week NBC television series transformed his relationship with God.
Di Pace’s role as Jesus along with an all-star cast, headed by groundbreaking Producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, raised the bar for faith-based television by creating a cinema-worthy series second to none.
The Argentine actor was best known previously for his role in the TNT series Dallas, where he played the powerful billionaire businessman Nicolas Treviño. His role as Tony Manero in the Spanish production of Saturday Night Fever won him critical acclaim by the European press.
Sonoma Christian Home sat down with Juan Pablo di Pace for a fascinating and thought-provoking interview to discuss the highly anticipated release of A.D. The Bible Continues on DVD & Blu-Ray this November. SCH Contributor Jennifer Watson reports.
SCH: Everyone is so excited about the upcoming DVD release of the A.D. The Bible Continues! This series has garnered a huge fan base and support, was it surprising to you to see how people responded to this series at first?
JP: Yes and no. It’s always surprising when anyone follows what you do because we are in such a saturated time full of amazing series and films, it’s hard to get the attention of people. But, on the other hand, it is a subject matter that a lot of people are invested in and also it’s done in a way that is so world class. It’s very, very well done. They made such a powerful drama and even though it’s about the greatest story ever told, it’s also done in a way that is for an audience of today.
SCH: Did you know when you were making the series that the writers and producers had tapped into something really powerful?
JP: When I first heard they were looking for a Jesus character I thought, “How many times have we seen this?” But, when I read episode one and two, I cried like a baby. I know this story, I went to church growing up, and yet it was told in a way that was so moving and so new and so powerful that I had to be a part of this.
The character of Jesus is really scary to take on; to play Jesus is not a little thing. But, something inside was telling me, “You have to do this, you have to get this part.” So I didn’t stop until I did.
SCH: Earlier this year, you shared with Sonoma Christian Home that playing this role fine-tuned your perception of faith. How much has this series impacted your relationship with God?
JP: It made me listen more to the original message. When you have to say the words, it’s not the same as when you hear the words. When you are actually saying them, they have a completely different meaning and I got to experience what Jesus was going through, or at least get a tiny taste of what he must have gone through, which is something so hard- so heartbreaking for any human being to go through that.
So, yes, it brought me closer to him in a way; to the person of Jesus and what he stands for. I still think his initial message has been mutated and altered in many ways, but to go back to that initial message was really powerful. It made me more aware of how to live in a better way and strive for happiness in every moment. Sometimes I think we are so concerned with the minutia, and it is so interesting to go back. Shooting in Morocco was like stepping back in time. We were in a small town and it was like going back to Jerusalem and felt very real. It was all desert, rocks, and land. I got to be alone in the Sahara and just stare at the stars for 4 days before we started filming.
Before I played the part, I said to Roma that I would love to do something like that. I said, “I’m going to go to the desert by myself.” And I don’t know how, but that moment in the desert was probably the closest I felt to God ever in my life.
SCH: You “went to a place of loneliness” to prepare for this role, to be alone with God and hear him. Sometimes the bigger the task we face in life, the lonelier we feel. Have you ever experienced that?
JP: Absolutely, I think it’s very important to be lonely and to feel an ease with yourself, and to take those moments in. I think because we are exposed to so much media, and screens, radios, movies, and phones – sometimes I think we don’t even know what it means to be alone, to look inside ourselves and contemplate. And to be quiet even, you know how some people feel like if they are not talking or communicating, life isn’t happening? It’s so powerful to take those beats, and just reflect on what we are doing and where we are going. I was forced to do that with this role, I was forced to stop and look and listen.
SCH: Our world is so noisy, those quiet moments are a gift if we will just embrace it.
JP: Yes, I truly believe that. When I was preparing for the part I thought I had to attach all of these qualities to Jesus, and that I had to come up with all these traits, like how did he walk and talk. I read so much and heard so many opinions from others – my mother even had advice because she is religious and has such a connection to Him. Everyone said, “He would be like this.”
Then all of that became noise and it didn’t help me. I had to put all of that aside, and start from scratch and really dig deep into what I think of Him and how I think He was. Especially what happened to him at the crucifixion, which is where we start the series. It was a great exercise at going back to zero and being a blank page.
And funny enough, I found Him in the simplicity. I got myself out of the way and that’s how the character came through.
So, when I watch it, I see Jesus as a man who suffered, who was vulnerable, who was lonely, and that’s what I really wanted to achieve. I wanted to portray his humanity. I wanted to portray him as a real person.
SCH: You did such an amazing job; we are such fans of yours and the entire series. It was so high caliber.
JP: I have to thank Mark and Roma for that, for thinking outside of the box, and casting so many diverse actors. That gave the series an extra layer. And, for bringing together all of these cultures as well, I believe that diversity in cast enriched it.
Roma and Mark are starting a whole empire of content that is faith-based, so they are battling this ground and producing work that is profoundly inspiring.
SCH: We are so excited about the DVD release. If you’re looking to bring you family together to experience the Bible in a new way, be sure to pick up the DVD!
A.D. The Bible Continues Season 1 on Blu-Ray and DVD November 3, 2015!
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