Probably no role gets more scrutiny and praise at the same time than that of Jesus of Nazareth.
The story of the father of Christianity brings out all the emotions – from love to hate, and everything in between.
Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado, who starred in the History Channel’s miniseries “The Bible” last year, will once again bring the life of Jesus to the silver screen in the upcoming film “Son of God.”
The 34-year-old actor told Fox News Latino that while he was extremely proud and happy when he got the role, it also made him panic. That fear, he said, pushed him to do extensive research on the story, reading many books and talking to religious historians in preparation.
“(But) at one point I figured out that it would not be an acting skill or book to help me out,” Morgado said. “It had to be something from the inside out, probably non-rational … It had to be the ultimate message of Jesus, which for me was pure love, unconditional love.”
“Son of God,” co-produced by Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey, tells the story of Jesus starting from the Christmas story through to his death and resurrection. It is a re-edition of the greater 10-hour miniseries “The Bible.”
Morgado said he never stopped to think about the magnitude and significance of the miniseries and subsequent feature-length movie while filming, but that he always took into consideration that it is a story of great importance for billions of people.
“I grew up as a Christian, so for me it was something really, really big,” he said. “The last time that the whole life of Jesus was on screen was 50 years ago… so there (are) a lot of kids out there, there is a young generation that doesn’t have a visual reference of the life of Jesus.”
The actor, who recently played a doctor in the ABC show “Revenge,” said although Jesus was the son of God, it was important in his portrayal to show that he was also human, who had to challenge his own decisions, like anyone else.
“I used to see projects with Jesus and it’s almost like he is unreachable – almost like he is above everyone else – and he was because he was the son of God, but he came as a human,” said Morgado, adding that there is a scene in the movie where he needs to find his own way after noticing something is not working. “It’s these little moments that we identify with; sometimes we are lost and we don’t know the way.”
One of the most iconic scenes in the story of Jesus is the crucifixion – the birth of Christianity. Morgado said it is one of the moments from filming that he does not visually remember, but the importance of it all was not lost on him.
“I had this sense of ‘it’s just a fraction, a second of what it might have been,’” he said. “Every day I felt this sense of gratitude and privilege, and an honor of playing someone that had such an impact in the world.”
From the success of “The Bible” – which garnered more than 10 million viewers on the History Channel – Morgado has been called “Hot Jesus” on social media, a name he does not completely understand yet does not dislike.
“There would be no ‘Hot Jesus’ without people watching the show, so I think it’s a reaction of the success of the show,” he said. “Last week, we got this wonderful guy doing a scene of Jesus and Peter in Lego … I was so happy. I was like 'this is another manifestation of appreciation and love for whatever we are doing here'.”
He continued: “For me it’s the greatest love story ever. Hopefully that is what people will get out of it.”
“Son of God” hits theaters in English and Spanish on Feb. 28.
Follow Lucia I. Suarez on Twitter @luciasuarezsang