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Hit audio Bible has all-black cast

New Testament draws on Hollywood A-list.

Published November 26, 2006


It's an epic telling of the life of Jesus, an ambitious production featuring an all-star cast. But it's not a movie or miniseries.

It's a new audio Bible released by Zondervan, one of the world's largest publishers of religious books.

Inspired By ... The Bible Experience: New Testament features a large, all-black cast including some of Hollywood's biggest names in an unabridged production of Today's New International Version (TNIV). And in the world of audio books, it's a smash.

It has been at or near the No. 1 spot among the bestselling books listed on Wal-Mart's Web site since its early fall release. The retail chain Family Christian Stores say it's the fastest-selling audio Bible it has ever stocked.

The 21-hour production features the voice talents of more than 250 singers, clergy and actors, including Denzel Washington, Cuba Gooding Jr., Angela Bassett and Alfre Woodard. Blair Underwood portrays Jesus, and Samuel L. Jackson, who played a Scripture-spouting hit man in Pulp Fiction, is the voice of God.

Bible Experience is available on CD and in MP3 formats, with an Old Testament version due in fall 2007 that is expected to run much longer. The project is the brainchild of Kyle Bowser, who helped develop TV's In Living Color and Roc, whose star, Charles S. Dutton, is one of the performers on the new audio Bible.

The producers decided early on to cast only black actors and other personalities, hoping to attract a black audience, as well as fans of some of the world's biggest box office draws. They also wanted to shatter the Hollywood mold of white Bible productions.

"I was particularly interested in developing a product that might resonate with the African-American community," Bowser said.

Bible Experience features a complete, original musical score with selections performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra. Its state-of-the-art sound effects take listeners into the story.

There was some debate among the producers whether to restrict the cast to Christians. They finally decided not to, since the Bible is filled with both Christians and non-Christians, Bowser said.

"That way we availed ourselves to the best talent in the community," he said. "But I can tell you, whether they were believers or nonbelievers, everyone that participated came with a high degree of reverence and total respect for the significance of this project."

[Last modified November 24, 2006, 11:47:17]

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