A.D. The Bible Continues is the groundbreaking follow-up to blockbuster mini-series The Bible, which gathered over 100 million US viewers. The beautiful series allows families around the world to experience the Bible like never before. Executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey describe the twelve-week feature as “Game of Thrones meets The Bible.”
Sonoma Christian Home sat down recently to talk about A.D. The Bible Continues with Will Thorp, popular British actor of Casualty fame. Thorp portrays Cornelius, the hardened Roman soldier who eventually comes to faith after an intense experience with Jesus. SCH Contributor Sarah Lewis Philpott reports.
SCH: A.D. The Bible Continues recently released on DVD. The series was an absolute cinematic masterpiece to watch! How did you originally get involved in the project?
WT: From the start it was just like any other audition, really. The casting director, Jeremy Zimmermann, sent my agent a copy of the script and they wanted to meet me for a screen test. So I went in and did an audition. Maybe a week later they called me back for another reading. Like a lot of jobs when you audition, every time you go back you get a bit more excited about being a prospect of the production.
And this one – I think I knew from the outset – was going to be quite a big deal. It seemed epic in the script. Any one of the Bible stories is fascinating to tell and be apart of telling that story. So that is how I became to it in the beginning.
SCH: What was it like filming on such a beautiful location in Morocco?
WT: It was crazy filming over there. It is funny, when you film something in another country so far away, you all just stick together and become like family. They built this enormous set for the production. Which I think was actually the biggest set ever in Morocco. I mean, in the dessert they built a mini-Jerusalem!
When we arrived there for the first time, we saw nothing but sand and mountains and then all of a sudden in the distance you see Jerusalem! Yeah, It was a crazy experience. They sent a guy out at 5 am every morning to look for poisonous snakes. He was the snake man. He would check the entire set for deadly snakes to make sure none of the cast or crew were bitten and killed during filming.
And it was very hot as well for the majority of the filming. Certainly for me – I was in full amour with many layers of clothes and filming scenes on horseback in the middle of a desert. Especially for us Brits, it was hot. We aren’t used to the heat! At least I didn’t have to wear a stick-on beard! It was a lot of fun. It was great, I think, for this group to be forced to live out in Morocco and we got to know each other very well. And all we talked about the entire time was the work. And that was great.
SCH: You said one thing that piqued your interest in the series was the Bible stories. Did you know the story of Acts and the account of Cornelius beforehand?
WT: I did. I grew up as a Roman Catholic and I went to church every Sunday so I knew all these stories from my childhood. I think a lot of the actors in this production, even if they are not practicing Catholics or Christians now, grew up as Christians or in Christian families. A lot of them really wanted to be a part of this because they are telling stories they learned as kids. It was really quite special to be a part of – to tell stories you remember from your childhood. So I was familiar with most of the stories, and with Cornelius.
SCH: Throughout the series, Cornelius undergoes this profound spiritual transformation where, in the final episode, he is on his knees, in tears wrestling between faith and his former life. What was it like for you to play a character that travels such an emotional journey?
WT: It was a gift of a part. A brilliant part to play! It was strange at the beginning because in the script he was a very hard man and seemed quite uncaring. Certainly a ruthless centurion. He was a part of executions. It was quite interesting to play that character at the beginning of the series and the whole time know he is going to be converted at the end.
I hadn’t seen the scripts where he would be converted. I was constantly telling the executive producer “he seems quite a dark character. I feel like I’m digging this deep hole of darkness.” And I just wondered whether the scripts would be good enough where I could realistically convert. Sure enough, when I got those scripts for the final episode they were brilliant. They told the story fantastically. The story was told of his conversion coming from his own conscience of wondering whether the life he was living was right but also this profound vision of God telling him. I was very lucky to play this part.
SCH: What it was like working with the powerful duo of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey?
WT: Oh, brilliant! They are such stars. As an actor or anyone working on a film or tv production, you couldn’t wish for a more supportive, creative bunch than Mark and Roma. They were brilliant. They would come to set and give you advice and you could email them. Their knowledge of the Bible is great anyway. You could ask them anything and they would help you out.
It was great to be a part of their vision and their energy during the project. Everyone felt that. In any creative situation, the energy really does filter down from the top. People were inspired to work very hard on this production because of Mark and Roma.
SCH: We loved A.D. and hope there will be more shows like it in the future! We pray it continues to make an impact on families across the nation.
Don’t miss SCH’s other incredible A.D. interviews: