Playing the role of Jesus is said to be one of the most difficult and overwhelming roles for any actor. But Juan Pablo Di Pace -- who's the latest Jesus to grace our screens in the blockbuster 'AD: Kingdom & Empire' -- said he had the opposite experience.
“I wasn’t overwhelmed. If anything, I felt the role was feeding me,” Di Pace said.
"Something is overwhelming when you feel you can’t take it. Everybody told me it would be overwhelming and tough and I went into it kind of scared. But when I was researching and playing Jesus, it taught me how to play him.
Juan Pablo Di Pace as Jesus. Picture supplied
“It was a very strange experience. I went to the Sahara Desert and slept under the stars and it was a great way to get information in this quiet space.
"I tried to get myself out of the way of the character, which actors don’t usually do. We usually want to control things. But the moment I got out of the way, it just flowed and I was able to see him more as a man.”
Di Pace is a multi-talented actor, director and producer who was born in Argentina and lived in London, Trieste, Madrid and Los Angeles. His long international career includes a role in 'Mamma Mia!', the reboot of 'Dallas' and he’s currently appearing in 'Fuller House', a new version of the hugely popular 1990s TV Series 'Full House'.
Juan Pablo Di Pace in Mamma Mia! Picture supplied
AD is a 10-part retelling of the 'Book of Acts'; the sequel to the 2013 miniseries 'The Bible', which was one of the most successful TV shows of all time with audiences of more than 10 million for each episode.
'AD: Kingdom and Empire' has been released today on DVD in Australia and Di Pace, talking to Huffington Post Australia from his home in LA, said it was important for him to let go of his ideas about Jesus.
AD: Kingdom and Empire. Picture supplied
“I had to let go of what I’d read, what a priest told me in church; that information seemed like noise in the moment of playing him. So it was wonderful to play him like I’ve ever heard of him before. That was beautiful. Jesus was a very lonely man with a very difficult task. I’d like to say that was my take on Jesus. My take was he was a very vulnerable man.”
“I went into this thinking I don’t want to make him all powerful and beyond pain, beyond suffering. He would have been completely scared but knew he had to do it.
"Playing Jesus was a pretty intense and wonderful experience. I felt very lucky as it’s not something as an actor you ever feel you will play, so I was very humbled.”
While Di Pace grew up in a Catholic family, he considered himself the black sheep. But playing the role of Jesus was life-changing in many unexpected ways.
“I was the one who didn’t want to go to church. I’m not saying playing Jesus means I suddenly started going to church, but it made me listen to the original message of Jesus. Saying his words and getting into the psychology of Jesus -- and the loneliness and the enigma he was -- had a profound effect on how I see people and how I live my life,” Di Pace said.
“It made me realise that there’s a lot of beauty in simplicity. It demanded of me to at least try and be the purest person myself while filming. How can you portray this man if you can’t show this purity? Some of us try, but to live 24 hours a day really trying to be the best you can be is not easy
In Di Pace’s eyes, AD is all about faith and how strong a person’s message is after they have left this world.
“AD is about the book of Acts. So the battle to build the church has a lot of political intrigue. It’s definitely about faith and how strong someone’s message is once they’re gone; how difficult it is to continue that message.”
Greta Scaachi plays the role of Mary, Mother of Jesus. Picture Supplied
“When I read the project, I thought they were talking about Mary, Peter and John. But the first scenes of AD, when Christ dies, is filled with, “What do we do? Do we run away? Do we just forget everything that happened? Should we stay and wait? They’re doubtful, questioning their beliefs. It’s all about faith and them believing.”
Di Pace has shared some strange and supernatural moments that occurred before and during the filming of AD.
“I wasn’t onset at the time but during the shoot there was a triple rainbow. And then we all saw across the sky, as we were shooting in Morocco, a cross formed by clouds. It was a perfect cross. The photos are all over the internet now. It looks incredible, nobody could believe their eyes!
A cloud in the shape of a cross, spotted in Morocco as cast & crew were filming AD: Kingdom and Empire. Picture supplied
"After I auditioned for the role of Jesus, I was waiting to hear from my agent. So I was hiking in Beechwood in LA and I remember a voice in my head asked me, “Are you ready?” I replied, “Yes”. Then a flock of blackbirds few about my head and a twister started forming itself in front of me. It was amazing and surreal. Then I had a phone call from my agent to tell me I got the role.
"Everything about AD has been life changing for me.”