Unsurprisingly, NBC came along and snatched up the rights to the sequel: And now the 12-episode “A.D. The Bible Continues” premieres on the network Sunday night — Easter Sunday, as it happens.
So we can expect pretty good ratings for this premiere, too — or even bigger numbers, since it has the much bigger platform of broadcast TV. Burnett says that the network already wants him to get started writing another season.
“This is probably the broadest story you can think of in America,” said Burnett, the British reality TV super-producer behind such hits as “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “The Apprentice.” “Clearly, not everybody knows this story. Not everybody believes the story. But 150 million Americans go to church on a monthly basis.”
It’s a familiar subject matter to Burnett, who in addition to his many reality show hits also produced last year’s theatrical release, “Son of God,” an adaptation of the Jesus-focused parts of the miniseries. (It made about $67 million at the box office.) He co-produced with his wife, Roma Downey, the “Touched by an Angel” actress who is also a co-creator on “The Bible” and “A.D.” Burnett was recently in Washington for the National Prayer Breakfast, as he and Downey are frequent attendees at the annual event.
“A.D. The Bible Continues” has an almost entirely new cast from the History channel miniseries and picks up at the crucifixion, a scene that required a visual effects and stunt team. It’s a much shorter crucifixion scene than the intensely detailed sequence in the first miniseries; Burnett said that earlier one took a whole week to shoot. But this time, the focus is on the aftermath. In the second episode airing Sunday night, the disciples discover that Jesus’s tomb is empty, and there’s a race to find the body.
Still, even though this is his third Bible story, Burnett says it’s a challenge to strike the right tone between biblical language and modern dialogue. (Sample line you may not recall from the Bible: “Why couldn’t this Jesus just stay dead?”)
“It takes very skilled writers, you know, to make dialogue sound real and conversational, but they’ve done an amazing job,” Burnett said, who added that there was a team of theological advisers on staff. “They weaved in accurately the acts of the apostles, and between the moments in the acts of the apostles, filling in what was probably going on with the authorities and the surrounding characters.
And no, unlike “The Bible” controversy, in “A.D.,” you won’t see the character of Satan. Back in 2013, there was a minor Internet furor when some viewers thought the character looked a little too much like President Obama. Burnett and Downey also cut the character out of “Son of God” so it wouldn’t be a distraction.
“I think someone made a joke and turned it into a story,” said Burnett, who called the controversy “utter nonsense” at the time. “It ended up [as] the big discussion — making more people tune in and watch it anyway.”