“A powerful thing that I will keep forever”
It has been ten years since we’ve seen Jesus on the screen in The Passion of the Christ and even in that movie it was the last twelve hours of His life. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado played Jesus in The Bible mini-series which has screened to over 100 million people worldwide and now portions of the series have been edited into the film Son Of God. Insights interviewed Morgado in the lead up to the film showing in cinemas and discovered a deeply religious and gracious person who felt the burden of portraying Christ for a new generation. Morgado has made it clear in past interviews that he takes his role as Jesus very seriously, understanding the impact his acting could have on viewers who are unsure about religion or the Bible.
“I understand that you were cast quite late in the process of the mini-series, how did you come to audition for the part? “
Basically the process for me on my side was quite simple. When I got in touch with the project, I got informed that the casting was already happening out of England. Casting Jesus was kind of a saga because they were seeing a lot of people, but they were not content on what they were seeing, though I don’t know the specifics. What I do know is that they came across my name and I was actually going to LA when I got in touch with this and they requested for video edits and one of the scenes was the Gethsemane scene, which is a really personal strong scene and next thing I know they requested a meeting, a twenty minute meeting. It turned out to be a two hour, almost three hour, conversation between myself and the producers. Then next thing I know I have the role.
“What was the experience like, how do you actually prepare to play the Son of God?”
First of all, while I did the audition I never imagined that I would get the role. I was like, no not in a million years will this happen. So what I did was I took that time and did the audition and for me, I tried to express my own beliefs because I grew up as a Christian, I grew up with Jesus Christ. I think somehow that was helpful, because I took out the pressure of portraying Jesus and I just showed what I believed, almost a personal relationship. Then when I got the call saying that I was the one, I just freaked out. I was in panic, I was like, how in the world am I going to be able to do this, where am I going to start.
“And so what was the next step in preparation?”
I did my research, I saw everything I could and then I travelled to Jerusalem and it was actually [there] in Jerusalem next to the Crying Wall that I was reading my books that I saw this ten year old child, and he was praying. Two to three hours later when I was about to leave, I looked up and he was still there. I realised that what I was about to do would be tremendously important, especially for that child. The last time that Jesus was on screen was exactly ten years ago, so probably I would be his reference as the figure of Jesus. That’s a huge responsibility. So for me it was important to reach out and approach the role, and I realised there would be no books that would help me, there would be no study that would help me.
“How did you approach the interpretation of Jesus?”
I think one of the things I didn’t appreciate in terms of the interpretation was that everyone held onto the words, and what the exact words that were used, what he did not say, and people tend to forget the wider message. He was speaking with parables, so everything was more than what he was saying. People have to understand that. I tried to portray a figure of Jesus, a perspective of Jesus, that the words would be a consequence of what He is and what people would feel around him even if he wasn’t speaking. That was part of the process, and I went from there.
“It was interesting that you were speaking before about the child I Jerusalem, and that for a lot of children you would be the embodiment of Jesus for them…“
The whole life of Jesus was [portrayed] almost 50 years ago, with The Greatest Story Ever Told. So you can see there’s a whole generation and a new generation, including myself, that have only Jim Caviezel referenced as Jesus from The Passion of the Christ.
“For this generation one of the primary ways they experienced things is through through film, so this is a very important and powerful devotional tool.”
Oh yeah, it is a strong visual tool that doesn’t work with books or lessons. We live in a visual world now. Children can learn a lot by seeing things rather than reading it. So I really understood the responsibility of portraying Jesus.
“It’s a really important thing that Mark and Roma have done really in being able to put the whole Bible on film and now the Son of God. There are some pretty intense scenes like raising Lazarus from the dead and the crucifixion scene. How did you prepare yourself for those scenes — they are very powerful on film.”
Look you mention a scene that was quite a critical scene for me, which was the Lazarus scene. That was a perfect example of a scene that I really tried to balance the two sides of Jesus – the fact that He is the Son of God and that he is also 100% man. He was in the human condition, so I always thought, and as a Christian, I found it harder to believe for myself that someone would be spreading the word just performing miracles. What I’m trying to say that obviously if you’re performing miracles everyone is going to listen to you, because you’re almost above them. But what I tried to do was bring Jesus into more of a human condition – still performing the miracles but using things like he would be also amazed by his own miracles. That’s why the Lazarus scene, where he resurrects Lazarus, although he knows he can do it because he is the Son of God, he can’t stop himself from being, very emotional. He gets emotional with the moment because it’s a beautiful moment and why not embrace that moment with emotion, because he should not be distant, and he knows he can do it. If he was in a human condition, fear was part of the way all the time – fear of not going down the right path to achieve what He had to do. That’s why the scene of the feeding of the 5000, he says, “No, this is not the way”, when they are proclaiming him as their King. He says “No, force is not the way…” – so there are certain scenes for me, key scenes, which I tried to bring to a more reachable sense and be in it completely.
“And the crucifixion scene…”
The crucifixion. I don’t even know how to start speaking about it, because it was one of the most amazing and special moments of my entire life that I’m going to keep forever. There was a sense that every little moment of your life was leading up to that moment. Everything you learn, every word from my grandmother, every lesson from my father and my mother, and all the love that I receive and the hate that I receive, was for a purpose. And the purpose was that moment. It was a powerful thing that I will keep forever.
“Jesus is a lot of things to a lot of people. Who is He to you?”
To me, He is love, He’s a pure love. Ultimately, He is the purest form of love, for me.
“What affect did playing Jesus have on your belief in God?”
Mmmm. [thinks about the answer] Well, it just got stronger.
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