A few years ago, many people were surprised to find out that TV producer Mark Burnett was teaming up with his wife Roma Downey to create a series about the Bible. The episodes were aired on History and featured top-notch set design, recognizable actors/actresses, and generally enthusiastic responses from the viewing audience. After the series concluded, Burnett and Downey decided to take the Bible story a bit further and created a follow-up release called A.D.: The Bible Continues. Beginning on Easter Sunday, it aired weekly on NBC and focused on the book of Acts—specifically the origins of the early church.
The series concluded its run on television but is now being released on DVD/Blu-Ray starting today (November 3). A.D.: The Bible Continues is a 4-DVD set that includes the entire series plus a number of extra features, including a look at the cast and characters, the sets used on location in Morocco, and a discussion with Martin Davison (visual effects supervisor) about the on-screen effects used to bring the episodes to life.
I always thought A.D.: The Bible Continues was a unique idea, positioned at a unique time in the world’s history. There are a number of powerful scenes where the viewer gets a look at what first century life was like and why it’s amazing that we’re able to hear and respond to Jesus’ message today. No phones, no social media, no mail service—just word of mouth unfazed by pervasive persecution that resulted in changed lives.
I was able to take a look at some of the costumes used in A.D.: The Bible Continues at an exhibition held at Passages, a traveling museum currently in Santa Clarita, CA. If you enjoy looking at ancient texts, Passages features an incredible display of authentic texts including portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, an authentic Bible printed by Guttenberg, and a few original copies of the 1611 King James Bible, among other things. The costumes were incredible to see up close and I can understand how they add an element of realism for the actors and actresses playing their roles. Jesus’ outfit was also on display and surprised me with its simple elegance.
Juan Pablo di Pace, who plays Jesus, doesn’t have nearly as much as screen time in the series as his predecessor, Diogo Morgado, did in The Bible. But his role is just as important. The crucifixion scene took two days to film and featured the producers flying di Pace’s mother to Morocco to be a part of the action, even helping to paint the wounds on him. After the filming was over, she said, “I didn’t see my son die; I saw Jesus die.”
di Pace told me that it was an intense experience playing Christ. It was also strange to see his character on screen because he wanted to immediately judge himself. He didn’t feel worthy enough to take the role, but it came at a time in his life when he really needed to hear what was being shared. He fell in love with the script, even crying as he read it. To di Pace, the series didn’t shy away from the violence prevalent in those days (the Romans weren’t all rainbows and sunshine) and created a gritty look that gave it a different perspective. The end result was a “stunning” work that forced him to bear the burden of portraying the Savior for Christians around the world and was incredibly moving to him.
A.D.: The Bible Returns is available on DVD and Blu-Ray starting November 3.