As a kingpin of nonscripted programming, Mark Burnett has won five prime time Emmys and been nominated for many more.
But there’s a special place in his heart for the recognition the TV academy gave him for “The Bible,” his History miniseries that picked up three nominations Thursday, including for outstanding miniseries or movie.
“It’s not like some people from Hollywood decided to make a Bible thing,” he said. “We completely believe in the Bible.”
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Burnett, who executive-produced the 10-part series with his wife, actress Roma Downey, said he had wondered whether the program’s commercial success would work against it with Emmy voters. The premiere episode this spring, after all, attracted 13 million viewers, a record for History.
“Roma was saying, ‘I really feel it’s going to get nominated.’ This did incredible numbers,” Burnett said by phone from a Colorado airport after a private screening for the theatrical version of “The Bible” that centers on Jesus. “And sometimes those enormous numbers can backfire in terms of Emmy nominations.”
The show marks Burnett’s first foray into scripted programming. The transition was made easier, he said, because Downey, a veteran of the stage and “Touched By An Angel,” had a lot of experience working with actors.
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On the other hand, the logistics of shooting something like this was old hat to him, said the man who counts “Shark Tank” and “Survivor" among his credits. “Taking a crew of 400 to the Sahara is something I do for a living,” he said.
Burnett and Downey are working on a sequel to "The Bible" for NBC titled “A.D.: Beyond the Bible" that picks up after the Crucifixion as Christianity begins to take root. Burnett said he continues to see this area as ripe for TV viewership.
“There’s a big thirst for hope. Western civilization has 2 billion Christians,” he said. “This is the source of hope and belief and you get to start again.”
As for working with his wife, Burnett had a quippy thought: “Roma jokes that the great miracle of the bible is we’re still speaking to each other.”