“A.D.” the follow-up to “The Bible,” History Channel’s mega-rated miniseries based on the Old and New Testaments, today announced its cast — complete with a new Jesus and actors as diverse as the Church itself.
Again produced by spouses Roma Downey and Mark Burnett — who also oversaw “Son of God,” the feature film edited from the New Testament section of “The Bible” — “A.D.” picks up where “The Bible” left off, tracing the early years of the Church. The 12-week event series premieres on NBC, starting on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015.
Beginning with the first ten chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, “A.D.” deals with the aftermath of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, the impact on Mary and on the key political and religious leaders of the time. (Might be time to brush up on that reading from the Early Church Fathers.)
Not returning is Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado, who played Christ in “The Bible” and “Son of God.” Argentine actor Juan Pablo Di Pace (that should make the Holy Father happy) takes over the role.
He’s the second casting for Jesus announced within a month. Muslim Arab actor Haaz Sleiman is starring in National Geographic Channel’s version of Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly’s book “Killing Jesus” (click here and here for more from me on that), also due out in 2015.
The international cast for “A.D.” features a broad geographical swath of actors, including Gambian Babou Ceesay (John); Chipo Chung (Mary Magdalene) and Denver Isaac (James), both from Zimbabwe; Jamaican Nicholas Pinnock (Arik); Scotland’s Fraser Ayers (Simon the Zealot); Brit Peter De Jersey (Ananias); Italians Greta Scacchi (Mother Mary, a role originally played by Downey) and Cesare Taurasi (Judas); Iceland’s Johannes Haukur Johannesson (Thomas); and Greek George Georgiou (Boaz).
(Scroll to the bottom for the rest of the large cast.)
In a press release, Downey said, “Christianity is among the most diverse movements in history, so when Mark and I looked to bring this epic story of ‘A.D.’ to life on NBC, it was important to us to find a cast as diverse and beautiful as the Church is around the world.
“We look forward to sharing these amazing performances with our audience, and in them we hope that people see themselves.”
The same release included comments from Catholic leaders:
Donald Cardinal Weurl, Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.: “‘A.D. is a triumph! It tells the riveting story of the very beginning of the Church with reverence, excitement and brilliance. This film not only captures our attention but also our hearts, as we trace the steps of those who first walked in the way of Jesus.
“While ‘A.D.’ dazzles the eye, it also engages the imagination. The narrative recounts how, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, a small band of men and women witnesses to the Risen Lord and changes the world. The mission endures today, and people everywhere can find both drama and inspiration in this telling of the story of the Church, her origins, mission and timeless challenges. ‘A.D.’ helps us recover the wonder of the ongoing Christian adventure.”
Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia: “Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s new project is ambitious and promising, with the potential to enrich the culture like few others before it. I’m grateful for their efforts to put the Acts of the Apostles on primetime network television in a powerful way.”
Bishop Michael John Sheridan, Diocese of Colorado Springs: “The story of Jesus does not end with His Ascension, but continues in the power of His Holy Spirit. This part of the story needs to be told. Thanks to Mark and Roma for doing just that.”
Rev. Jonathan Morris, Fox News contributor and author of “The Way of Serenity”: “In this totally original series, Mark and Roma have brought to live the Acts of the Apostles in ways we simply haven’t seen before. People will be talking about ‘A.D.’ for a very long time, and I’ll be one of them.”
The release explains further: “A.D. will take its audiences from the intense sorrow of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice to the awe-inspiring wonder of the Resurrection and deep into His disciples’ struggle to survive against opposition from every side as they continued to share His message of love with everyone, everywhere.
“The series includes compelling context around the Biblical text, focusing on the Acts of the Apostles while integrating dramatic history to help tell the full story of the people and their era. 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.”
Incidentally, speaking of the Biblical world, Downey and Burnett — who’ve become two of Hollywood’s most successful and prominent Christians (and who are regular Mass attendees in Los Angeles) — have set up a Website called “The Cradle of Christianity Fund” to raise $25 million to be distributed to beleaguered Middle East Christians through the Ancient Churches in the region. The couple kicked things off by donating the first $1 million.
In an email exchange, Burnett emphasized that the help is needed now, because “Winter is coming.”
Click here to learn more about their effort.
As for the rest of the “A.D.” cast, fans of NBC’s pirate drama “Crossbones” will recognize the star of that, Richard Coyle (Caiaphas).
Also starring are Vincent Regan (Pilate); Adam Levy (Peter); Emmet Scalan (Saul/Paul); Jodhi May (Leah); Ken Bones (Annas); Joanne Whalley (Claudia); Helen Daniels (Maya); Pedro Lloyd Gardiner (Mathew); Chris Brazier (Reuben); Brendan Patricks (Marius); Will Thorp (Cornelius); Morgan Watkins (Drusus); Kevin Doyle (Joseph of Arimathea); James Callis (Antipas); Claire Cooper (Herodias); John Loannou (Melek); Lex Shrapnel (Jonathan); Indra Ove (Sapphira); Charlene McKenna (Eva); Reece Ritchie (Stephen); Francis Magee (Levi); Kenneth Collard (Barnabas); Struan Rodgers (Gamaliel); Soumaya Akabounne (Stephen’s mother); and Lonyo Engele (Angel).
Photo courtesy of LightWorkersMedia LLC/NBC; Joe Alblas, photographer