On Saturday, March 27, new streamer Discovery+ premieres Resurrection, from married Christian producing duo Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. It's an Easter story (the real one, not the Bunny), and the title is appropriate in more than one way.
Back in 2015, Burnett and Downey sold NBC on the idea of a follow-up to the duo's hit 2014 History miniseries The Bible, called A.D.: The Bible Continues. After premiering on Easter Sunday that year, A.D. only lasted 12 episodes, but come Saturday, it returns -- more or less.
A.D.: The Bible Continues told the story of Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection, the reaction of the Apostles and the earliest days of the Church.
So, as Burnett and Downey did with the film Son of God -- assembled in large part from recut footage shot for the New Testament section of The Bible miniseries -- the spouses have done something similar to create Resurrection.
During a Q&A after a recent screening for faith leaders, Burnett said:
[We went to] our team in London, who were the same team that worked on The Bible series, Son of God, A.D.
It being in a pandemic, we had to go into our library of all of our footage to create this movie, and we have a wonderful team that are based in London that did this.
Regarding why they chose to stream the film on Discovery+, Burnett said:
Yeah, well, originally we'd hoped to put it in movie theaters for Easter. ... We got closer and closer and realized, we're not going to be able to put it in the theaters. So what can we do? We thought the best thing was streaming it.
So we're so grateful to Discovery+ for this opportunity. And we chose Discovery+ because it's very family-friendly programming, nothing that would be offensive to the fans of our movie, and so we were very careful of how chose that.
There's some wisdom in that last bit. One of the things that may have contributed to A.D.: The Bible Continues not getting a big enough audience to earn renewal is that it was on NBC. I heard from many fellow Christians at the time that they didn't trust a broadcast network to do faith-based programming, and so they skipped the show altogether.
Of course, in this extraordinary time, it's also not just a business decision.
Said Downey at the same Q&A:
We really wanted the movie to come out this year. We obviously could have held onto it, maybe, to put it into theaters next year.
But we really felt, because of the year that we've all just come through, what a challenging and extraordinary time this has been ... many of us isolated, people cut off from their families, people not able to go to church, people not able to gather together in community, and people hungry for hope.
And so this is the greatest story of hope that was ever told, and we really wanted to have it on. And I think having it on TV where people can be safe in the comfort of their own home and gather together as a family to watch the film, maybe start an annual tradition of watching Resurrection at Easter time.
And we've asked Discovery+ to keep this movie up, so it will be up for Easter and stay up. And we found with Son of God and The Bible series, over the years, more and more people discover it.
This movie, that you've just seen, is a great way to explain to somebody who maybe has never been to church, and doesn't know the story.
As with The Bible, Burnett and Downey cast a wide acting net. For example, Argentine actor Juan Pablo di Pace plays Jesus; British Jewish actor Adam Levy plays Peter; and London-born Babou Ceesay, who is of Gambian descent, plays John.
At the time A.D.: The Bible Continues premiered, Burnett explained it this way:
This is a story that millions have died for and millions live for. And we feel the story should be reflective of the world, how the world looks and how America looks. I think we really achieved that in a huge way.
But in the end, it comes down to the best actors for the roles. But we are, obviously, thrilled, especially with the current comments in our industry today of the lack of diversity in roles and nominations, that we happen to have a very, very diverse cast that are reflective of the world. We even have an Irish guy.
Some sharp-eyed critics who've previewed Resurrection have commented that there are scenes they didn't recognize. So, even if you saw all of A.D.: The Bible Continues, you may still be surprised.
Also, Resurrection has a new ending, which made Downey very proud. She said:
At the end of the movie, we loved that we were able to bring it right up into the present day and remind people that while it began with just this handful of men and women, these early believers, but today we're two billion Christian people in the world.
It's just a lovely reminder that we're all connected, that we belong to each other, because I think that one of the crises of the last years, that we've all just felt so separated from each other. So anything we can do to bring us back into the family, the Body of Christ, I particularly love that. It gives me goosebumps every time I see that ending.
For many, Eastertime viewing has been The Ten Commandments, or more recently, The Passion of the Christ. One is a tale of Passover, and the other ends at Christ's rising from the dead, which is the heart of Easter -- and Christianity.
What A.D. did, and now Resurrection does, is remind us of what came next -- Christ reappearing to the Apostles and preparing them to spread the Gospel around the world.
But, wait, there's more, as Burnett revealed:
By the way, no one knows this, but there's another movie coming after this called The Disciple, that starts after the Ascension. What happened then? We're in this for the long term. You know that, we're in this for the long term.
Image: MGM/LightWorkers Media/Discovery+
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.