Famed reality show producer Mark Burnett has brought Americans popular programs like "Survivor," "The Apprentice," "Shark Tank" and "The Voice." But his next project, "The Bible," a mini-series set to air on the History Channel in 2013, may come as a surprise to some. The program, which takes the holy book from Genesis to Revelation and re-enacts it, will air in two-hour intervals over a five-week period.
Recently, TheBlaze attended a screening that was hosted by Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel"). After airing 90 minutes of the 10-hour series, the duo shared their passion for "The Bible" project, while also highlighting the intense process they went through to see the series come to fruition (Downey plays Jesus' mother, Mary).
Among the clips shown during the event, undoubtedly, one of the most powerful was the Nativity scene, as the sights and sounds provide heartfelt context to the events and emotions surrounding Jesus' birth. The gripping scene opens with the brilliant Star of Bethlehem signaling Christ's birth to the Wise Men and shepherds, alike.
As rain pours down incessantly, Joseph can be seen frantically seeking help, as he is accompanying his fiance, Mary, who is in labor. Keeping with Biblical tradition, Mary and Joseph inevitably find a place for her to give birth, despite the fact that "there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:7).
Burnett and Downey's depiction of an event that is traditionally limited to textual interpretation brings the pain, fear and excitement that is inherent in the story to life, encapsulating the events in an unprecedented -- and entertaining -- manner.
Watch the Nativity scene from "The Bible," below:
As for the project in its entirety, the husband and wife duo are immensely passionate. During the screening event, the two openly shared their faith and devotion, noting that this project is rooted in a deeply-felt connection to a higher power.
"We really felt called to do this. [It] just kept tugging at our hearts," Downey explained, later adding, "We really felt God's hand there with us."
Burnett made it clear that the series is truly cross-denominational and that it was produced while considering the multitudes of differences that exist among and between various Christian cohorts. In addition to appealing to believers, Burnett also hopes that non-Christians will also be intrigued and walk away with a deep understanding of the Bible's many stories.
"If someone who never opened the Bible -- and isn't going to -- loves this, we've done it well," he said.
When TheBlaze asked which scene in "The Bible" was the most difficult to execute, Downey was candid. She described the crucifixion, which was not shown during the screening event, as the most intensely-challenging -- and for a variety of reasons. Safety concerns, of course, topped the list.
Producer Mark Burnett (L) and his wife actress Roma Downey arrive at Operation Smile's 30th Anniversary Smile Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on September 28, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. Credit: Getty Images
"We did endless tests with the cross, making sure it was bolted in the ground," she said.
One of the most interesting stories the couple told was about an individual they described as the "snake man," a professional who would go into locations prior to shooting (the series was filmed in Morocco) to remove the reptiles before the actors would go on set. On the day the crucifixion scene was shot, he cleared 48 snakes from the area -- a monumental number.
It was fascinating to hear both Burnett and Downey highlight the importance of on-set prayer circles and their connections to God in helping to move the project along. Considering the long, five-month overseas filming process and the many Biblical details that were needed to take viewers through the world's most impactful story, some would argue that connection to a higher power was a must-have.
See additional scenes from the series, below:
"The Bible" will begin airing on the History Channel in March, with its final episode showing on Easter Sunday. For more about the series, click here.