Juan Pablo Di Pace as Jesus, Adam Levy as Peter star in A.D. Photo: Joe Alblas/LightWorkers Media/NBC.

Juan Pablo Di Pace as Jesus, Adam Levy as Peter in A.D. Photo: Joe Alblas/LightWorkers Media/NBC.

GALO: A.D. is set to focus on “the fallout and the impact the Crucifixion had on Jesus’ mother, Mary, his disciples, and key political and religious leaders.” It’s stated on your Twitter that you had your mother watch your Crucifixion scene for emotional support. What was her reaction when she first viewed it — was it what you were hoping for?

JP: Roma was kind enough to fly my mother to the set for the Crucifixion scene, because I knew my mother would just love being there. She actually painted the Crucifixion scene with me as a model when I was 25 or something. She was like, “Hey, can I use you as a model to paint you for the Crucifixion?” So we did that 10 years ago, and now here we are [again] in that moment; she’s watching the monitor, I’m up on the cross, and it just kind of makes life that much more interesting. But my expectation of it? I mean, I’m just really happy she had that moment. I’m happy I had her in that moment for myself. I know, because she said it afterward, that it was a crazy, intense thing for her. She usually prides herself in being quite tough and quite critical with her kids. She can watch them play everything and be very, very objective. Once it was done and she went back to Italy, she said, “You know, I never told you, but I actually felt sick to my stomach when I was up there. I didn’t see my son. I saw Jesus. And it just felt heartbreaking and it was really hard for me.” So I don’t know, in a way, I really worry for her because she has a sensitive heart and that’s not something I want, but it was kind of an amazing compliment at the same time.

GALO: How did you mentally prepare to take on such a big scene that essentially drives the whole series?

JP: I had to concentrate on the specifics of what was going through his mind and also what was going through his body. I watched, especially one video, but I watched a lot of explanations, like medical explanations of what would go through a body that is crucified. So I remember [this one] doctor saying that because he was nailed through the hands and feet, the pain was so huge that he had to be balancing himself between one kind of pain and another kind of pain. So he would actually have to choose between the lesser of the pains. He was balancing his body so that he would feel less pain in one place or another, and then the pain of that experience would make him sweat blood. So, you know, that helped because it just kind of made me [be] present in the moment of those physical sensations. What was going through my mind at the time was just the fact that here’s a man who has decided to die and decided to take it upon himself — he basically just accepts it; he’s not resisting to do that, and that was probably the hardest acting exercise.

GALO: I can definitely see how looking at it through a medical perspective really helped in getting through that scene.

JP: As an actor, especially when you’re doing something as extreme as death or dying, you have to know what kind of death you’re having [to deal with], and you have to know what kind of pain they’re going through during the death. What do they feel? Do they feel cold? Do they feel sick to their stomach? You have to know as an actor what they’re faced with. So that was a very interesting and weird process as well. On one hand, I’m super happy I’m playing Jesus; but on the other hand, it is like, “Oh my God, tomorrow I’m going to die.” So I really had to go there; I had to go there, you just do.

GALO: Sometimes when actors take on such a demanding role, they employ method acting techniques that put an emotional strain on their lives that they carry with them even after the role ends. How did you feel psychologically when you went off-set?

JP: Well, it’s a very interesting question. I don’t consider myself a method actor — that works for some people and it doesn’t work for others — but I tend not to go there. But having said that, you do have to make it very real for yourself, otherwise you’re not in the moment. So leaving the set and going home, even though you’re happy to do the work, I do remember the next few days being — well, I flat out could not do anything else. Even though we had to keep shooting because we had to do other things, I do remember feeling emotionally spent and even depressed. I did some ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement), some vocal works many months after I shot the Crucifixion scene, and I was doing that again but with my voice. I was screaming with my voice and I just remember feeling horrible, just horrible to revisit that.

GALO: Roma Downey stated in an interview that they shot The Bible series in Morocco because they “wanted the feel of the real locations in the Bible, and the landscape there provided by it.” You also shot the A.D. series in Morocco. What was it like shooting there and how did it help you come into your role?

JP: It was just a dream. Morocco was the perfect place to do this. We had so many shots there, it had a perfect feel for what we were doing. Everything was beautiful; it was just perfect.

GALO: The hashtag “hot Jesus” was trending on Twitter during the Bible series, and many say it will be trending during A.D. as well. Societies, or rather individuals, tend to have a specific visual of Jesus in their minds, both in terms of looks and character. In the case of films and shows, this can often lead to disputes, such as if the actor playing Jesus resembles the religious figure. What are your thoughts on attractive actors playing Jesus, or rather fans seeing them as such, and how do you respond to any criticism?

JP: That has nothing to do with me. That’s flattering that you even mention it. I think it has to do with TV; it has to do with casting, and it has to do with Roma and Mark. That’s something they can answer way better than I can. I’m just the man playing the role and I’m so happy to be doing it. I think what’s relevant is how the series will be received. I think people are saying that now because they haven’t seen the show, but once they’ve seen me all covered in blood and disgusting, I don’t think they’ll be saying that anymore. [Laughs]

GALO: You’re known for playing Nicolas Treviño, a mysterious man in TNT’s TV show Dallas. In fact, your character actually turned out to be a devious killer. What was it like to go from playing a character that would go to any lengths to get what he wanted to your role in A.D., one of a moral religious leader?

JP: It’s a thrill! For an actor, the best thing you could possibly hope for is to play completely opposite characters. I love it. If I could keep doing this for life, going from one extreme to the next, I would do that because it’s a challenge. Even when I got [my role on] Dallas, I was like, “I have to make this work.” He was a nasty piece of work and I had to give him life, and I remember really, really enjoying the process of Dallas. Here’s a guy that was willing to kill his half-brother to get what he wants, and to lie and deceive and all sort of things [in the process], and I thought how enjoyable it was to play someone so far from who I am. It gave me the license to do things I would never do. So that’s the wonderful thing about playing a villain, it gives you license to be as nasty as you want and it’s actually OK — no one thinks that’s who you are. But with Jesus, it’s the opposite. I found it way harder to play Jesus because, obviously, you have to find that real purity in him — that thing that he communicates that’s unconditional, absolute love. It was tough to find that place, but hopefully, people are going to love it!

GALO: Actresses Greta Scacchi and Chipo Chung play Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, two women who played a very influential part in Jesus’ life. What did it feel like to be on set with these two actresses when you first met, and how would you describe their personalities?

JP: Well, they’re both amazing! I mean, I know Greta from the movies. She was such an amazing symbol for many, many decades, so that already was humbling to be able to work with her. And then to have her as my mother and to share a moment where I’m just lying dead in her arms… I mean, I was dead. She was just stunning; she’s such a wonderful, wonderful lady. And Chipo is just a dream, she’s very lively — there’s something really wild about Chipo, and I think they did something really fantastic in casting Chipo as Mary Magdalene because she’s an incredibly strong woman. Chipo herself is a very, very strong woman, so I think she fits Mary Magdalene perfectly, just perfectly.

GALO: It’s great when actors are already so much like their character. How would you describe your relationship with Chipo?

JP: We have a laugh every time we go there. And also, our relationship off-screen is actually quite ridiculous. [Laughs]

GALO: In the last episode of the Bible, Jesus returns from death and commissions the disciples to preach his word. John the Disciple is exiled to Patmos where he receives a revelation that Jesus is returning. What can we expect to see in the A.D. series and what characters will play a main role?

JP: After the Crucifixion and the Resurrection — the Resurrection is episode two — the guys who carry the story are going to be the Apostle Peter, played by Adam Levy, and obviously, Pontius Pilate, played by Vincent Regan, and Richard Coyle who plays Caiaphas. I would say those are the big players — the three of them are driving the story because they all want what they want, which is to succeed and to knock the other person off. So I would say it’s between them. And then later, you will see Emmett Scanlan who plays Saul. But I would say it’s an extremely wonderful cast with extremely wonderful characters, and you will see all these wonderful stories interconnect with each other. I mean, I’ve always loved films that have storylines that intertwine and A.D. is very much like that in a way.

GALO: You recently tweeted that you finished a second draft of your first feature script. Can you tell us more about this project and what else you might have planned after the end of the show?

JP: Absolutely! I’ve been planning that feature script for a while now. It’s something I’m really, really looking forward to. It’s a completely different medium, but, I don’t know, it’s just a lovely story. It’s very biographical, yet humorous. I cannot wait [to share it]!

Video courtesy of A.D. The Bible Continues.

Video courtesy of A.D. The Bible Continues.

The season premiere of “A.D.” aired April 5 at 9/8c. Catch an all-new episode Sunday, April 19th on NBC. Missed an episode? You can catch up online at NBC or via Hulu. To learn more about Juan Pablo and his projects, you can follow him on Twitter @JuanPabloDiPace.