Mark Burnett Talks Reality TV and 'The Bible' With Oprah

The red-hot reality TV producer talks about his epic miniseries and the controversy over Satan.

Yahoo Contributor Network

It's been one heck of a chapter for Mark Burnett. The Emmy Award-winning reality TV producer -- and mastermind behind hit shows, such as "Survivor," "The Apprentice," and "The Voice" -- recently teamed up with his wife Roma Downey to produce the epic History Channel miniseries "The Bible." The labor of love took four years to come to fruition, and on this week's "Oprah's Next Chapter," the couple sat down with Oprah Winfrey to talk about the project and the controversy behind it.

While the miniseries was a ratings success, beating out hit shows like "The Walking Dead," it didn't come without controversy. Some of the scenes were extremely graphic (although let's face it, that was to be expected), and the physical resemblance between the actor who played Satan and President Obama was called into question.

"I honestly was horrified," Downey of the headline-making comparison of actor Mehdi Ouzaani to President Obama. "The night before that broke in the news, Jesus had made his first appearance on the screen, and I was so looking forward to Monday and knowing that Jesus would be on the lips of everyone. For Satan to be the point of conversation was really heartbreaking." (You can see a pic of Ouzaani as Satan here.)

Downey added that she and her husband love President Obama. "We have nothing but respect for the president," she said. "We felt somehow hijacked."

Burnett admitted that when his wife first approached him about the epic "Bible" project, he thought she was crazy.

"The whole Bible? From Genesis to Revelation?" he asked her. "Do you have any idea the enormity of what this would take and the pressure?"

While Downey described the idea for the series as something that "came from God, and it was placed in my heart," she told her husband to pray about it, as well. A long bike ride brought clarity, and he came back and told her, "You're right!"

So how does the deeply spiritual Burnett reconcile his reality shows with his religion? He says the new wave of reality shows is proof that cat fights and shock value aren't necessary for huge ratings.

"'The Voice' is number one on Mondays and Tuesdays, and it's kinder," he said. "There's no humiliation of anybody on 'The Voice.' And many people said when we started that, 'Oh people won't want to watch unless there's big fights,' and it wasn't true. 'The Voice' has succeeded with kindness and just great talent."

He added that the nation "is in the right place for hope."

"Oprah's Next Chapter" airs on Sundays at 9 PM ET on OWN.

More from this contributor:

The Best OWN Shows You Haven't Been Watching

Chelsea Handler's Surprisingly Serious 'Next Chapter' Chat

Dennis Rodman Talks Parenting on 'Oprah: Where Are They Now'

View Comments