Was Jesus sexy?
Who knows? Unless you’re a devotee of the Shroud of Turin image purported to be of Jesus Christ (which shows him as fairly tall, strapping, bearded and long-haired), there’s no reliable physical description of the Son of God available.
While it’s reasonable to assume He looked like His mother (who supplied the human DNA), since we don’t know what she looked like either, that’s not much help.
When Hollywood casts the part, the only constant is that it’s usually a guy with long hair parted in the middle, with a beard. Actors playing Christ have ranged from blond-haired and blue-eyed to olive-skinned and brown-eyed. But, Hollywood being what it is, the actor is also usually pretty good-looking.
When Roma Downey and Mark Burnett cast the part in their History Channel megahit miniseries “The Bible,” they went with Portuguese actor/model Diogo Morgado, who played Jesus with a short beard and long, wavy hair. He was widely labeled the “hot Jesus” (which even became a hashtag).
Speaking to USA Today, Morgado said, “I take the nickname as a compliment, obviously, but I’m waiting for the good stuff. And the good stuff for me is if someone just nabbed me on the shoulder and said, ‘Look, you did a pretty good job.
“Something like this, more than anything, something like playing Jesus, for me, if I can only have one person go straight to me and say, ‘You touched me, you brought me something I thought I’d lost,’ that would be the best compliment.”
Did it hurt the monster ratings of “The Bible” that Morgado was easy on the eyes? Of course not. And while we don’t know what Jesus looked like, we do know he was a compelling, charismatic figure. Sometimes that correlates with conventional good looks, and sometimes it doesn’t, but in visual mediums like TV or film, giving people an image that’s pleasant to look at always helps.
Now it’s started all over again, as Downey and Burnett have cast Argentine actor Juan Pablo Di Pace as Jesus for “A.D.,” their follow-up to “The Bible,” set to air in 2015 on NBC. Click here for my story from yesterday, which gives more details and the full cast list, but in brief, it covers the first 10 chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, and the founding of the early Church in the face of Roman persecution.
Here’s a look at Di Pace in the role:
Understandably, mainstream media is all a-flutter again, with headlines like “Meet NBC’s New Hot Jesus Christ: Juan Pablo Di Pace” (EOnline), “A.D. Casting of Sexy Jesus Juan Pablo Di Pace Sets Web on fire, Trending Topic ‘Hot Jesus’ (Fashion Times) and “Holy Hot! Check Out the Newest Hot Jesus Starring in the Miniseries ‘A.D.'”(Extra).
Born in 1979 in Buenos Aires (he’s also lived in Spain and London), Di Pace is a singer and director, along with an actor, and was seen most recently in the TNT revival of “Dallas.” He’s the son of painter Marta Maineri and Victorio Di Pace.
So far, Di Pace hasn’t had a whole lot to say about the casting, but on his Twitter page, he posted an article titled “The Pope Is Argentine, and So Is Jesus” from Remezcla.com, and said, “Blessed to come from the same country.”
Casting a handsome actor as Jesus certainly gets the attention of people outside the faith community. Since both Downey and Burnett consider these projects as much about evangelization as entertainment, putting an attractive face on faith has so far been a winning strategy.
After all, if viewers tune in for the looks and wind up getting the Word of God, that’s a bargain.