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Sneak peek: Bible stories come to life on History

10:31 AM, Dec 17, 2012   |    comments
Roma Downey will play Mother Mary in History Channel's 'The Bible.'/USA TODAY
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Famed television producer Mark Burnett tackles his projects with passion, but The Bible is a special labor of love.

The 10-hour, five-part docudrama, which premieres March 3 on the History Channel, will span the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, presenting some of its best-known stories, including Noah's Ark, the Exodus, Daniel in the lions' den and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Former Touched By an Angel star Roma Downey, Burnett's wife and fellow executive producer, heads a large international cast in the role of Mother Mary. Keith David, an Emmy winner for voice-over performances, will narrate with a musical score by Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer Hans Zimmer.

"In terms of importance, nothing we've ever done, not Touched By an Angel, not Survivor, not The Voice, not The Apprentice, none of this could possibly compare to The Bible," Burnett says. "To us, as a family, we love the Bible. This is not a TV show to us. It's images and sound and sacred text that people will still watch, way after our grandchildren are old people."

Since the entire Bible can't be covered in 10 hours, the miniseries, which was filmed in Morocco, focuses on a select group of stories and features such compelling figures as Abraham, Moses and David. Some stories had to be compressed for artistic purposes.

"In the end, what we've done is a meta-narrative, a grand narrative of emotionally connected stories. We know we're not qualified to teach the Bible. We're qualified to be good television producers and storytellers. By telling these emotionally connected, big stories, hopefully millions of people will reopen their Bibles," Burnett says.

He hopes the project brings comfort after the Sandy Hook school shootings. "What happened Friday is absolutely the saddest tragedy imaginable," Burnett says. "Our prayers are with the families and friends. We hope The Bible, by shedding some light into the world, can help in some small way to try and stop the darkness."

Downey came up with the idea for the miniseries a few years ago. "It is our obligation to tell the stories as written," he says. "The stories are so brilliant and compelling."

The project will have broad appeal, he says. "If you know the Bible, you'll enjoy seeing the stories come to life. If you've never read the Bible, I think you'll love the stories," he says. "There's a reason the Bible is the most widely read book in the world."

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