Reruns of The Ten Commandments won’t cut it this Easter.
In a rather unprecedented burst of religious programming, it appears that there will be a face-off between two different narratives about Jesus on television this coming weekend.
One account is the National Geographic Channel’s three-hour movie “Killing Jesus,” as adapted from Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard's book. The other account is the premier of NBC’s 12-episode narrative “A.D. The Bible Continues,” which is a continuation of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s original series “The Bible.” Interestingly enough, the two actors who portrayed Jesus in separate productions have strikingly different upbringings in religion.
Haaz Sleiman, who plays Jesus in “Killing Jesus,” discussed his background as a Muslim and what he took away from this role in an interview on The O’Reilly Factor (FOX). “I knew not so much in detail about his teachings and what he stood for until later in my life, but I always understood … how he influenced the world in such a positive way.”
He added, “It’s a story about love. And it’s also a story about celebrating us humans … Many of those tenets are in all other religions. I’m not really religious; I’m about being inclusive of all people.”
Juan Pablo di Pace, who plays Jesus in “A.D. The Bible Continues” discussed his own religious background in an interview with Tanya Rivero which was published on The Wall Street Journal’s YouTube channel. In the interview, Juan Pablo talked about how he grew up in a religious household and how he was taught by his mother, and priests, about Jesus since he was a young child.
Reflecting on the difficulty of playing such a significant character, he stated, “Everyone feels so connected to him, so the only thing I could do was take it almost like a blank canvas, and start from scratch, and see what he meant to me and what that felt like.”
Killing Jesus, which originally aired last week, has already received several negative reviews for being too secular and “a clunker.” Viewers disagreed. The show earned 3.7 million viewers. According to Deadline.com, that was the channel’s “biggest audience in history.”
A.D. The Bible Continues, however, has obtained a few initial rave reviews, although the true test comes after the premier night. Killing Jesus will air April 3rd and 5th at 8 pm and 11 pm ET, and A.D. The Bible Continues will on April 5th, Sunday, at 9/8 pm Central.
The only question is, which Jesus will you be watching this Easter?