A chat with the ‘Son of God’
LOS ANGELES—“Are you kidding me?” the “Son of God” star asked aloud. We wouldn’t kid the Son of God if it were really Him. We asked Diogo Morgado if he ever imagined that someday he would play Jesus. The Lisbon, Portugal native starred in History Channel’s miniseries, “The Bible,” 2013’s highest-rated cable show, and the movie, “Son of God.”
Diogo arrived in a screening room at the Fox lot sans beard and the long wig. With his short hair, the actor, dressed in a gray vest and dress shirt, with sleeves rolled up, and black pants, looked boyish. “I’m just glad to be acting,” said Diogo, whose good looks earned him the popular hash tag, #HotJesus. He’s also called Hot God in social media. “I never planned anything. I’m grateful to be blessed.”
“This started out almost as a docudrama,” he said of the chain of events that led to the movie produced by Mark Burnett (“Survivor”) and Roma Downey, the husband and wife team who also produced “The Bible.” (Roma, who was Monica on the TV series, “Touched by an Angel,” also costars as Mary, Mother of Jesus.) “Then, it turned into a dramatic miniseries. Now, it came out in 3,000-plus theaters all over the US, as an epic story about the love of Jesus. It’s overwhelming! Never in my wildest dreams could I have dreamed about this.”
Diogo started as a TV actor in his early teens in Portugal. Also a model, he acted in theater and movies, as well, including roles in Brazilian and Spanish cinema. “There was a lot of coincidences that made me get this,” he said of landing the Jesus role in the miniseries and movie.
He recalled, “They were struggling to find the person to play Jesus. It started with Roma shooting an e-mail, saying, ‘We are still searching for Jesus.’ Our first AD in Morocco got that e-mail. He remembered me from a previous project. He didn’t remember my last name, so he Googled it. Eventually, he got to me. He wrote back to Roma saying, ‘There was this guy that I met once, who somehow reminded me of the figure of Jesus. You should get in touch with him.’”
“I was not in town at that moment,” he added. “But, I was coming to Los Angeles for no particular reason. I auditioned on video. When I landed in LA, they asked to meet me. What was supposed to be a 15- to 20-minute meeting turned into two hours—and that’s how I met Mark and Roma.”
On his approach to playing Jesus, Diogo shared, “Let me tell you the story which was really definitive to me. While I was doing my research for the movie in Jerusalem, I was at the Wailing Wall. I thought, ‘What a perfect place to do my research.’ Then, I saw this father with his son. They were praying. That was the moment when I realized that what I was about to do would be important to that kid. Obviously, for his father, as well, but in a different way, because his father has his own references and beliefs.
“We are living in a visual world. I’m a father myself. I have a 4-year-old son. The responsibility is tremendous. It isn’t just religious. It is, above all, to teach the younger generation who Jesus is, and why the Bible is important. So, while I was portraying Jesus, I tried to be the most reachable Jesus possible. I wanted to portray a Jesus who doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, which I think was good, because it makes him closer and more connected to the audience.”
On shooting the sequence depicting Jesus’ torturous march while carrying the cross, Diogo recounted, “They tried to protect me as much as possible. Those whips were fake, of course. But, by the 20th lash, you start feeling it for real. You don’t realize it until you get home and see the bruises.”
Now that he’s very much identified as the actor who played the Son of God, has Diogo become much more conscious about his behavior in public? “No. The only judge of my life is me. At the end of the day, I’m the only one who has to pay the bills of my conscience. So, I never worry about what people think about me.”
As for the son of Diogo, Santiago, his kid with partner Catia Oliveira, the actor said, “He lives with me no matter where I am.” Diogo splits his time between LA and Portugal, where he plays Eduardo in the TV series, “Sol de Inverno.”
The buzz is that the Son of God will next play the Devil in a coming TV movie for CW, Stephen Williams’ “The Messengers.” Reports say that Diogo’s character, simply named The Man, wakes up naked and burned in the desert.
In the third season of ABC’s “Revenge,” Diogo has a recurring guest role as Dr. Jorge Velez.
Diogo also has two other feature films coming up this year: In “Red Butterfly,” directed by Jon Alston and set in New York, he stars with Christine Evangelista and Wilson Jermaine Heredia. He said, “‘Red Butterfly’ is an intense drama about three friends trying to survive, getting out of drugs and crime. I’m very proud of it.”
He described the other movie, “Born to Race: Fast Track,” directed by Alex Ranarivelo, as “an action movie. I play an Italian (he started speaking in an Italian accent). I played the bad guy, but in a goofy way. So, it was a lot of fun.”
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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