“We couldn’t make it any faster,” he said at Winter TV Press Tour 2015, explaining that, 18 months ago, NBC Entertainment chief Bob Greenblatt asked him if there was a way to continue The Bible franchise. That led to NBC picking up A.D. – which the network announced last month would get an Easter Sunday launch. “We are people of deep faith and I believe God’s hands are all over it,” he said of the scheduling. “I believe it was always intended to be Easter Sunday.”
It’s also the case that their The Bible ended its 10-part run on Easter Sunday, drawing 11.7 million viewers — beating The Walking Dead in the 9 PM hour.
“It’s the perfect launch day, isn’t it?” enthused Downey today. “We just know there’s a hunger for this kind of material. People are hungry for stories of faith and A.D., we believe, will satiate that hunger.”
Asked if he’d had conversations first with History, which telecast The Bible, about continuing the franchise, Burnett responded, “We are extremely ethical, and I spoke to them,” but, “I believe this belongs on American [broadcast] network,” he said. “It has the biggest privilege in the world — to have an hour of primetime on American [broadcast] network TV; there is nothing like it on earth,” Burnett said of the platform, adding, “this needs to be” on NBC.
Asked if he’d ever met with any pushback to doing religious programming for primetime, Burnett said people initially wondered “if anyone wants to watch Biblical stuff” on primetime TV. “Clearly we were right,” he noted, in re The Bible‘s ratings. Burnett also reminded critics his feature film re-packing of the History miniseries did well in box office, adding “here we have A.D. on a major network.”
“These two have lost their minds,” Burnett recalled of pre-debut reaction to The Bible. “Now, A.D. is mainstream.”
Asked if they similarly have theatrical release plans for A.D., Burnett and Downey went with the “We’re still in production” school of question-dodging.
One TV critic noted Juan Pablo di Pace, who plays Jesus in the miniseries, has “big sandals to fill” in having to not only “play the son of god” but also to “please producers.”
Pace noted he comes from a “Christian background” and his mother is a “religious painter” who, Downey later noted, was flown in to watch her son during the crucifixion scene so as to help him with that emotional and spiritual trial.
“It’s a huge responsibility and I’m absolutely humbled to be playing what certainly is a role of a lifetime,” di Pace added, noting, “it’s changed me as a person.”
“Every decision in my life, big or small, has always included a prayer,” Downey said when asked about casting.
Burnett closed the Q&A by suggesting TV critics take the complimentary A.D. photo book that had been handed out in the room, and pray for someone they love while looking at the pictures.