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Miniseries 'The Bible' aims to 'tell the stories as written,' producer says

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By Bill Keveney
Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, 9:02 p.m.

Famed TV producer Mark Burnett tackles his projects with passion, but “The Bible” is a special labor of love.

The 10-hour, five-part docudrama, which will premiere 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.”

Because 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.

“What we've done is a grand narrative of emotionally connected stories,” Burnett says. “We know we're not qualified to teach the Bible. We're qualified to be good television producers and storytellers.”

He hopes the project brings comfort after the Sandy Hook school shootings, “absolutely the saddest tragedy imaginable. ... 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,” Burnett 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.”

Bill Keveney is a staff writer for USA Today.

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