Tonight (Feb. 23) on Catholic cable/satellite network EWTN, at 9 p.m. ET, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey appear with the channel’s news director, Raymond Arroyo, on “Reflections on Son of God,” to talk about the Friday, Feb. 28, release of “Son of God,” the theatrical version of the New Testament section of their History Channel blockbuster miniseries “The Bible.”
Featuring re-edited scenes from the miniseries — which don’t include the original scenes featuring Satan, since many thought the Moroccan actor looked too much like President Obama — along with new footage, “Son of God” covers the life of Jesus from the Nativity to the Resurrection.
Incidentally, star Diogo Morgado isn’t providing the voice for Jesus in the Spanish-language version of “Son of God.” Since he’s Portuguese, and that’s his first language, that task falls instead to a close Catholic friend of Burnett and Downey, Mexican actor Eduardo Verastegui (“Chasing Papi,” “Bella”).
The half-hour EWTN special is only one small part of a huge marketing push for the film that has seen spouses Burnett and Downey retracing a lot of their steps through the Christian leaders, clergy, churches and organizations that helped them promote “The Bible.”
Calling in to Zap2it shortly after landing in Nashville, Tenn., for an event, Burnett says he and his wife have probably become the experts in this world, saying, “Roma and I learned in the last few years how bringing groups together works and how it doesn’t work, to spread the Holy Spirit. Also, we’ve got the biggest overall vision of who’s who.
“‘Son of God’ is something everyone agrees upon. I’m sure the combined power of the Protestant and the Catholics together can be very powerful. That’s probably the next big step for several issues. We are good connectors, especially among Catholic groups, evangelical groups and Protestant groups, on certain issues.
“Just on a public level, ‘The Bible’ and ‘Son of God’ have been a great convening help.”
Much as the story of Jesus didn’t end with the resurrection, the Biblical storytelling doesn’t end with “Son of God.” Burnett is currently working on “A.D.,” the successor to “The Bible,” set to air in 2015 on NBC.
“Roma and I,” says Burnett, “we’re in this for the long haul — 2013, ‘The Bible’; 2014, ‘Son of God’; 2015, ‘A.D.'”
Asked about the status of “A.D.,” Burnett says, “We’re shooting this fall. The essential backbone of ‘A.D.’ is the Acts of the Apostles. Building around that historical document is the political drama of the time. You’ve got King Herod; Rome under Pilate; the Temple authority under Caiaphas and Annas; and you’ve obviously got the growing people of The Way.”
(“The Way” was one of the earliest names the nascent Christian movement gave itself.)
Burnett continues, “It really is a story of, how did twelve Apostles change Rome? It started when Jesus sent them on the Great Commission, right? Through faith and the Holy Spirit, in the most unlikely of times, with the most brutal regimes going on, it all came to be.
“The story is the drama around what happens.”
According to Burnett, one of the storylines at the beginning of “A.D.” concerns the search for the body of Jesus.
“If they had found the dead body of Jesus,” he says, “that would have disproved [the Resurrection]. That’s one dramatic line. It’s got a lot of elements of ‘House of Cards,’ which is brilliant, but that behavior and that maneuvering has been going on since the First Century and before.”
Meanwhile, Burnett and Downey are stumping hard for “Son of God,” and they’re getting a lot of help from church organizations, religious fraternal groups (like the Catholic Knights of Columbus) and Christian business leaders, who are buying out theaters and distributing the tickets to the faithful.
Burnett even got a boost from a couple of successful entrepreneurs on his hit ABC Friday reality show “Shark Tank.”