Watch: Zealots help the apostles escape from Jerusalem, and more, in new clips from A.D. The Bible Continues

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The Nielsen ratings are in, and the news for A.D. The Bible Continues is… good, but could be better.

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Newsbites: The Dovekeepers meet the press! Ben-Hur gets another actor! And A.D. gets a new TV spot!

dovekeepers2Today was a big day for news about movies and TV shows set in first-century Judea and produced (or co-produced) by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

1. First, Downey and several actors from The Dovekeepers met with reporters to promote their miniseries, which concerns four Jewish women who live through the Roman siege of Masada.

The presentation, which took place at the Television Critics Association’s Winter TV Press Tour in Pasadena, was covered by Deadline, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Wrap, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Associated Press and others.

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Sam Neill to play Josephus in The Dovekeepers

samneillVarious news sites are reporting today that Sam Neill has joined the cast of The Dovekeepers, the upcoming miniseries about four Jewish women who live in Masada during the Roman siege of that fortress in the first century AD.

Neill will play Josephus, the Jewish historian whose first-hand account of the Jewish-Roman War is our primary source for it. (Josephus did not fight at Masada himself, but he did lead Jewish armies against the Romans in Galilee until he surrendered and defected to the other side, serving the Romans as a translator when they destroyed Jerusalem.)

Josephus does not appear to be a character in Alice Hoffman’s original novel — his name doesn’t come up at all (except in a note on the author’s historical research) when I search inside the book at Amazon or Google Books — but apparently the miniseries will show him interviewing the few adults who survive the siege.

Many Bible films, from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments to Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s Son of God, have padded out their stories with material from Josephus’s writings, but Josephus himself hasn’t been depicted all that often. So this would probably be the highest-profile dramatization of the character yet.

Neill has played his share of historical roles over the years, but to my knowledge, he has never appeared in anything quasi-biblical before. (The siege of Masada isn’t actually in the Bible, but it began in Judea only a decade or so after the events of the Book of Acts, so.) He did, however, play the Antichrist in The Final Conflict.

Newsbites: A.D. and The Dovekeepers start production, the political uses of Noah, and more Clavius pictures

ad-twitter-011. It’s been a busy last couple of weeks for Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Two Mondays ago, they joined forces with MGM to revive the United Artists brand, but they were unavailable for comment at the time because — as we now know from the picture to the right, which was posted to the brand-new A.D. Twitter account yesterday — that was the very same day on which they started shooting the first season of A.D., their follow-up to The Bible, in Morocco.

Burnett did eventually grant a phone interview to Variety to discuss the MGM deal. But he didn’t say anything much about A.D. and, bizarrely, the series does not seem to have an IMDb page yet, so I have no idea who has actually been cast in it or which characters it will focus on. But I’ll keep an eye open for such information and pass it along when I find it.

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Newsbites: Clavius! The Dovekeepers! Black Nativity! Book of Amos!

clavius-tomfeltonFour quick Bible-movie-ish items.

1. I somehow missed the fact that Clavius, which concerns a Roman soldier investigating reports of the Resurrection of Jesus, started shooting a couple weeks ago. Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, posted some photos to Instagram — and apparently he’s playing a character named Lucius, which also happened to be the name of Draco Malfoy’s father.

In addition to Felton and Joseph Fiennes, who is playing the presumably titular Roman investigator, the film’s IMDb page lists several actors who are playing well-known Bible characters — and at least two of those actors have extensive experience in the Bible-movie genre already.

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Casting news for The Dovekeepers, but what about A.D.?

diegobonetaVarious sites, including Variety, reported this week that Mexican actor Diego Boneta has been cast as one of the main male characters in The Dovekeepers, an upcoming miniseries about four Jewish women who live in the fortress of Masada when it is besieged by the Romans following the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

Boneta joins the Chilean-born Cote De Pablo, who was cast as one of the four Jewish women last month.

The Dovekeepers is being produced for CBS by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, who had a huge success last year with The Bible and again this year with its big-screen spin-off, Son of God. All this casting news for The Dovekeepers gets me wondering… when will we hear any casting news for A.D., the follow-up to The Bible that Burnett and Downey are producing for NBC?

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