More than 100 million viewers have watched "The Bible," the DVD has become the best-selling miniseries DVD of all time, and it earned three Emmy nominations. Producers Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, are already working on both a theatrical-release version and a follow-up miniseries.
During their travels around the globe, premiering "The Bible" in various countries, Burnett and Downey took time out to talk to Yahoo! TV about the surprise of being embraced by viewers and the Television Academy ("The Bible" is nominated for best miniseries, sound editing, and sound mixing); their sequel plans; and how, Burnett estimates, more than half the people in the world will eventually have seen the duo's passion project.
Congratulations, not only on the Emmy nominations, but also on the DVD sales of "The Bible."
Mark Burnett: It's absolutely incredible. We're thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to have gotten almost 100 million TV viewers on History Channel — and then to go on and become the No. 1 selling TV miniseries is just incredible.
Roma Downey: We just had our finale of "The Bible" in Australia [this week]; they have been showing it over the last five or six weeks there. It was huge, and there was fantastic activity on Twitter. We're delighted that this rolled out so fully and has just been a big smash in one country after another.
This was really what you had planned for and hoped for, from the beginning — that you would be able to reach a worldwide audience?
Burnett: Absolutely, and it has continued. We're going to be going, in October, to Korea and China to show people the series. I think over the next few years, this will be the most watched — not just the No. 1 DVD — miniseries of all time, because in all those countries, it has been catching on so fast. So many people are watching it and rewatching it. It's big globally. We get emails from China, from Korea, from the Philippines … people are globally aware of it. The work that came out of Roma and myself working on this series will likely, over the next 20 years, be seen by more people on Earth than have not seen it. More than half the people alive will have probably seen it. There are very few things you can say that about.
[Related: 2013 Emmy Nominations By the Numbers]
In addition to the Emmy nominations for "The Bible," Mark, you're also nominated for "The Voice" and "Shark Tank." Were any of the nominations a surprise?
Burnett: We were very, very pleased to get the "Bible" nominations. Sometimes, having such a large viewership can work against you in nominations, but this time we managed to have both the viewership and the nominations. We're very grateful to the academy.
Downey: It was very gratifying. We worked so hard on this. We poured our hearts and our souls into it. It's been a project that we have loved — a passion project for Mark and myself. To see the nominations from the Academy really was … thrilling. We're just very excited.
With all the travel you're doing to promote "The Bible," will you be in Los Angeles to attend the Emmys?
Downey: Yes, we'll absolutely be attending. We're really looking forward to that evening. We're in a strong category, lots of wonderful shows, and we're delighted to be amongst them.
Burnett: As someone who's previously produced the Emmys, it's a great night. It's a celebration of television. The better the shows, the more people are watching, the better for all television.
Does it make it a little more special that it's, again, not only a passion project but a passion project for the two of you?
Downey: It's like our baby. We're the proud parents. (Laughs) We're so joy filled to have seen this series that we created together go well and be enjoyed by so many.
You're working now on a theatrical release of "The Bible," how will it differ from the miniseries that aired on History Channel, and do you have a release date in mind?
Burnett: We're actually expecting the movie to be in theaters next March. We're working on exact dates, but pre-Easter.
Downey: The film is called "Son of God," and it deals primarily with the narrative of Jesus. It's an incredible story, as you know. It's poignant and powerful and profoundly moving, and incredibly inspirational and uplifting. Ultimately, it's a story of redemption.
Burnett: The film is just finished, and we had two very large screenings in Colorado recently, with standing ovations and much, much talk following the movie. I think the movie is going to absolutely be seen by millions and millions of people. It comes in at two hours and 15 minutes.
Downey: Where 10 hours is a commitment for an audience, two hours is a really achievable goal, I think, for people to know they can sit down and watch that. We're very, very encouraged by these early screenings, seeing how people are reacting, how people are responding.
Will the movie include new footage, or is it edited from the original miniseries to turn the focus specifically on Jesus?
Downey: Yes, it's been re-edited and reshaped, and yes, there is additional footage that was not included in the miniseries.
Burnett: It starts and ends at Revelation.
You also have the follow up miniseries coming up with NBC. Have you even gotten a chance to start that project yet?
Burnett: Oh, yes, we're way, way into that. We've been working on it for ages. In fact, we got another version of the first script last night.
Downey: Yeah, we're deep into it, and we just love it. We're deep in the research of it. We're deep in the story of it. It has really taken over our lives. If you were a fly on the wall of our dinner conversation, it's what we speak of all the time. We love this subject matter more than anything.
When do you expect the miniseries to air on NBC?
Burnett: We're sort of thinking in 2016. It could be the end of that, but it depends. It's 12 hours, so it's a lot of scripting and shooting, but we're way into it. NBC is loving it, we're loving it. It's the story of, how did that small group of Jesus's followers, in the most terrifying of times, under Roman rule, start to take down the Roman empire? It's an absolutely amazing story. It's the most unlikely story, and it's a story of faith, and it really happened.
Do you feel like the success of "The Bible" has changed attitudes in Hollywood at all, about religion themed programming?
Downey: I certainly think that the amount of people tuning in got the attention of Hollywood. It's an underserved audience, I think, and we hope that it encourages the studios and filmmakers to create products that are friendly to families and friendly to audiences of faith.
The success of "The Bible" is really mainstream-level success.
Burnett: Yes, it's very mainstream. I think it just shows … listen, there are two things that built this nation: the Bible and free enterprise. Both of those are very, very important to Americans and, clearly, around the world. The Bible is the foundation of Western civilization, of our laws, our society, our moral code. Even people who don't go to church and haven't read the Bible much … they're more likely to be able to name five Bible stories than they could five Shakespeare stories. It's a thing that we all know — some of us more than others. But even for people who don't actually read the Bible, the Bible is affecting their lives every day.