The first installment of History Channel’s five-part miniseries, The Bible, aired on Sunday to a heavenly number of viewers for the network. Over 13 million people tuned in, making the telecast the most-watched of this year. Producer Mark Burnett worked on the miniseries with wife Roma Downey, and the couple says that they are not at all surprised by the success of the first episode. “It will be, over the next 40 or 50 years, the most watched thing that Roma and I have ever made,” he said back in January. The numbers look good so far, but Burnett also feels that he has a little more than just good luck on his side while on set.
“I really believe what I’m going to tell you right now,” he said. “The hand of God was on this…. the edit came together perfectly, the actors came together perfectly, it just comes to life.” Not only that, but Burnett says that some strange things were happening on set. “Weird things happened during filming,” he said. “Everybody would look at each other like, “Whoa.”
What exactly does he mean by weird things? Well, Burnett gave a few examples.
“There’s a scene with Jesus and Nicodemus, when Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the night. It’s a very still night, not a breath of wind, and we’re on the edge of the Sahara desert in a palm grove in an oasis… Jesus says, ‘The Holy Spirit is like the wind.’ At that moment, a wind, like as if a 747 was taking off, blew his hair, almost blew the set over and sustained for 20 seconds across the desert, and the actors didn’t break — they kept going. And everything stopped. Everyone just looked at everyone like, ‘What just happened?’”
On top of astounding feats of nature, Burnett says that on some occasions actors were even saved from potentially dangerous situations. “We had a snake wrangler every day on the set. I mean, we’ve got a couple hundred people shooting, and we can’t afford to have people getting bitten by snakes. Every day, this guy would find a snake or maybe two snakes, and remove them. On the day of the crucifixion, a lot of people prayed. The cross was a huge thing. They prayed [for safety], ‘Imagine if this cross fell. The actor playing Jesus could be killed or badly injured.’ The snake man came to work that day — he’d gotten there early on the mountain playing Golgotha, and the bag of snakes [he was carrying] was the biggest bag I’d ever seen. He came to my wife and said, ‘Miss Roma, there were 48 snakes.’ He found 48 cobras and vipers hidden within the rocks around the cross.”
Whether you think it is just a case of coincidence, or divine intervention, no one can argue that the ratings for The Bible have thus far been otherworldly.