TORONTO - Famed reality show producer Mark Burnett made a bold declaration Monday for his upcoming epic History miniseries "The Bible," which he created with actress-wife Roma Downey.
"We're very blessed with our careers, between 'Touched by an Angel' and 'Survivor' and 'Apprentice' and 'The Voice' and all the things we do. More people will see this 'Bible' series over the next 25 years than all those other series combined," he said during a stop with Downey in Toronto.
"That is written. That's not a prediction, that's a fact. More people are going to see this 'Bible' series, because the globe is ready for this."
Burnett and Downey executive produced "The Bible," a 10-hour/five-part docudrama that premieres March 3 on History and covers Genesis through Revelation.
Downey of "Touched by an Angel" fame plays Mother Mary alongside Portuguese TV star Diogo Morgado as Jesus.
Canadian-born Tony Mitchell was among the directors on the Morocco-shot miniseries that took about 3 1/2 years to make. Emmy Award-winning actor/vocalist Keith David narrates to a musical score from Grammy and Oscar-winning composer Hans Zimmer.
"The last piece of great advice we got before we started making this was from our three teenagers who said, 'Guys, don't make it lame, make it good for young people,'" the London-born Burnett said at a small news conference.
With that, the two hired the Oscar-winning special effects team behind "Gladiator" to add state-of-the-art CGI to scenes including Moses parting the Red Sea, the burning bush and Jesus walking on water.
Their aim was to breathe fresh visual life into the stories and make them emotionally engaging.
"We had tried to get our three teenagers to sit through 'The Ten Commandments' and, with no disrespect to 'The Ten Commandments,' it is 50 years old after all and some of the CGI that was so impressive in and of its day doesn't hold up that well," said Downey.
"So we felt that we were also ready for a retelling of some of these stories, and this hasn't been done before. Individual stories from our Bible have been brought to the big screen but no one has attempted to bring a series with the arc from Genesis the whole way through Revelation. So it was very ambitious."
Burnett also noted that while other biblical films and series have been made before by "people with great intentions," they didn't have the budget and or experience he and Downey had.
The program will also net a big audience because the stories are compelling and the Bible "affects everybody" and is "the underpinning of our society," he added.
"You've got to remember, without the Bible, there's no 'Lord of the Rings,' there's no 'Narnia,' there's none of these big, epic, sweeping movies which are either very loosely based or majorly based on the Bible," said Burnett.
"This is the Bible and they're the most epic stories ever, the most flawed heroes you can imagine in any movie ever. There's only one perfect character, it's Jesus."
Burnett and Downey shot "The Bible" with hundreds of extras and had some challenges onset, most notably the crucifixion sequence, which happened over three days.
While Burnett said it wasn't as difficult as shooting a season of "Survivor" ("Nothing can be more difficult than shooting 'Survivor' on an island," he quipped), it was the most "impactful, the most humbling and the most responsibility" they've ever had onset.
Speaking of "Survivor," Burnett said he's always wanted to do a Canadian version of the castaway series, but it's a matter of "how all the legalities work."
"But if we can't do a Canadian 'Survivor,' certainly to have Canadian cast members. I always loved the idea of a Mountie," added Burnett in an interview.
"I love the idea of Canadian characters, especially someone from northern Canada. There are some really, really tough Canadians who would do so well on 'Survivor.'"