Roma Downey

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Roma Downey
TSM350 2015 - Mark Burnett and Roma Downey - Stierch.jpg
Downey (right) with spouse Mark Burnett
Born (1960-05-06) 6 May 1960 (age 55)
Derry, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Alma mater Brighton College of Art
Drama Studio London
University of Santa Monica
Occupation Actress, producer
Years active 1988–present
Religion Christianity
Children Reilly Anspaugh (daughter), Cameron Burnett, and James Burnett (stepsons)

Roma Downey (born 6 May 1960) is an Emmy-nominated actress and producer best known for her nine seasons as the tender-hearted angel on the hit CBS television show Touched by an Angel, for which she earned multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Best Actress nominations. Born in Derry, Northern Ireland, and classically trained in London, Downey has performed on stage with the famed Abbey Theatre and has appeared both on and off Broadway. She played the leading role of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in the Emmy award winning miniseries for NBC, A Woman Named Jackie. Downey starred in and was also executive producer for seven television movies for the CBS network. Downey is an ambassador for Operation Smile.

As President of Lightworkers Media, a United Artists Media Group banner,[1] Downey together with her husband Mark Burnett produced the Emmy-nominated mini series, The Bible for History channel which was watched by over 100 million people in the US alone. Downey and Burnett have also produced Son of God a feature film. Variety recognized Downey and Burnett as "Trailblazers"[2] and listed Downey as one of Variety’s "100 Most Powerful Women in Hollywood." The Hollywood Reporter included the couple in their "Most Influential People of 2013" and Downey as one of the "100 Women in Entertainment Power" in 2014.[3] Downey won the 2014 "Movie Guide Grace Award" for her role as Mary.[4] Downey was also honored on "Variety’s Women of Impact in 2014."[5] Together, Downey and Burnett have recently produced The Women of the Bible for Lifetime, The Dovekeepers for CBS and A.D.: The Bible Continues. Their upcoming series, Answered Prayers premieres on TLC on July 26. The couple is also producing the epic feature film Ben-Hur, a reimagining of the classic story with MGM and Paramount, set to release in Spring 2016.

Early life[edit]

Downey was born and raised in Derry, Northern Ireland,[6] in the Bogside district.[6] She attended Thornhill College. Her mother, Maureen O'Reilly Downey, a homemaker and actress, died from a heart attack at the age of 48 when Downey was 10.[6] Her father, Patrick "Paddy" Downey, was a school teacher by training but worked as a mortgage broker.[6][7] Her father died when Downey was 20.[6] Originally she planned to be a painter and earned a Bachelor of Arts at Brighton College of Art.[6] She turned her attention to acting, however, and had a classical training attending Drama Studio London, where she performed in plays by Shakespeare, Shaw and Chekhov.[6]


She joined the Abbey Players in Dublin and toured the United States in a production of The Playboy of the Western World.[8] The production led to a nomination during the Broadway run for the Helen Hayes Best Actress Award in 1991.[9] She also starred on Broadway in The Circle with Sir Rex Harrison and also at the Roundabout Theater and The Public Theater in New York City.[10]

Downey played the role of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in the 1991 U.S. TV miniseries A Woman Named Jackie which won the Emmy award for Outstanding Miniseries in 1992.[11]

Touched By An Angel[edit]

Her role as Jacqueline Kennedy led to her most famous role, as the angel "Monica", on the CBS series Touched by an Angel, opposite singer-actress, Della Reese, which ran from 1994 to 2003.

She received one nomination and one win at the TV Guide awards for favorite actress and also won two Emmy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations. Downey has said the character Monica interested her because it was a strong female role, which were "few and far between" and for its spiritual aspects:

Downey also produced and starred in TV movies including Borrowed Hearts and Second Honeymoon.[10] During the run of Touched By An Angel, she recorded the spoken-word album Healing Angel.[13] and wrote the children's book Love Is A Family.[14] She hosted It's a Miracle (TV series), on the Pax Network and appeared on stage in A Picasso at the Geffen Theatre in Los Angeles. She has hosted Saturday Night Live,[15] was one of People magazine's most beautiful people and is a spokesperson for the volunteer group "Operation Smile".[16] During her nine seasons on-air, she developed a chemistry with Reese and the two struck up a friendship that continued in the aftermath of the show's cancellation.[17]

In 2009, she starred in the movie Come Dance at My Wedding alongside John Schneider. On 16 July 2011, She appeared with actress Marion Ross in the made for TV movie Keeping up with the Randalls, broadcast on the Hallmark Channel.[18]

The Bible and beyond[edit]

On 24 May 2011, Downey and husband Mark Burnett announced they were producing a 10-hour docudrama for the History channel, The Bible, based on stories from the Bible scheduled to air in 2013.[19] They began planning it in 2009 and lined up their own financing.[20] The full production cost was $22 million USD.[21] Downey and Burnett wanted to stay as true to the content in the Bible as possible so they put together a wide variety of pastors and academics to review the script and filming. For example, they worked with Pastors Joel Osteen and Rick Warren and academics such as Craig A. Evans and Mark Goodacre.[22]

The Bible has been watched by over 100 million viewers in the US alone [23][24] The show has been the number one downloaded TV show in iTunes and ranked number 2 on Amazon's best sellers in movies and TV.[24] An under 2½ hour re-cut of the series meant for a theatrical release was released on 28 February 2014 in the United States, under the title Son of God.[25] The Bible was nominated for the 2013 Primetime Emmy Award, Outstanding Miniseries or Movie.' It is Downey and Burnett's first such collaboration as producers. Downey is playing the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus in the later stages of his life.[24] The Bible was filmed in 2012 in Morocco.[26][27]

In July 2013, it was announced that Downey and Burnett will produce A.D., the sequel to The Bible.[28] In December, 2013 NBC ordered A.D.. The series will cover the spread of Christianity after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[29]

Downey is the executive producer of the animated video series, Little Angels, which was released on DVD with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment on 14 February 2012.[30] She released a YouTube video with Cee-Lo Green, "Mary Did You Know," that went viral with almost 3 million views.[31]

In December, 2013 CBS announced a new miniseries with Downey and her husband, Mark Burnett, The Dovekeepers based on the New York Times Bestseller by Alice Hoffman. The miniseries is set to air in 2015.[32] In September 2014, MGM acquired a 55% interest in One Three Media and Lightworkers Media. The two companies will be consolidated into a new film and television company, United Artists Media Group. Burnett will be UA's CEO and Downey will become president of Lightworkers Media.[33][34]

Downey has been producing content for the big screen as well. Along with Burnett, she has produced Little Boy,[28] which is set to be released in February 2015. An even bigger story is the re-telling of Ben-Hur,[35] which is planned to be released in 2016. Jack Huston is slated to star.[36] In July 2015 Downey will release "Answered Prayers" for TLC a show about modern day miracles and divine intervention.[37]

Personal life[edit]

She is married to television producer/entrepreneur Mark Burnett. She has three children, two step-sons James Burnett and Cameron Burnett and her daughter Reilly Marie Downey Anspaugh (born on 3 June 1996) from her previous marriage to director David Anspaugh. Reilly is named after her grandmother, Maureen O'Reilly Downey.[6] On Thanksgiving Day 2006, Burnett proposed to Downey during a family vacation in Zihuatanejo, Mexico.[38] They wed on 28 April 2007 in their Malibu home.[39] Her Touched By An Angel co-star, Della Reese, officiated at the wedding.

Downey is a "Smile Ambassador" for the non-profit organization Operation Smile which provides surgeries for children around the world who were born with severe cleft lip and palate.[40] She supported the unsuccessful candidacy of Martin McGuinness for President of Ireland in 2011.[41] Downey received the Sally Award by the Salvation Army for her contribution to entertainment and helping those in need on 1 October 2015.[42]

Downey was raised, and remains, a Roman Catholic.[43] On 18 April 2009, Downey and Burnett delivered the keynote address and accepted an honorary doctorate of law at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management commencement ceremony. Downey graduated from the University of Santa Monica with a master's degree in spiritual psychology.[44]

Music career[edit]

In 1999 Downey signed with RCA Victor Records and recorded a CD called Healing Angel, released on 14 September 1999.[13]

Year Album details Peak Sales
US New Age
1999 Healing Angel
  • Released: 14 September 1999
  • Label: RCA
5 US sales: 42,901[45]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage, TheThe 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage Danielle St. Clair Television movie
1992 Getting Up and Going Home Kimberly Stevens Television movie
1992 Devlin Eileen Television movie
1993 New Year Suzanne Hartman Television movie
1994 Hercules and the Amazon Women Hippolyta Television movie
1995 Last Word, TheThe Last Word Roxy
1995 Child Is Missing, AA Child Is Missing Samantha Hallihan Television movie
1997 Borrowed Hearts Kathleen Russell Television movie
1998 Monday After the Miracle Annie Sullivan Television movie
1999 Secret Life, AA Secret Life Cassie Whitman Television movie
1999 Test of Love, TheThe Test of Love Cassie Whitman Television movie
2001 Second Honeymoon Maggie Weston Television movie
2001 The Sons of Mistletoe Helen Radke Television movie
2004 Survivors Club, TheThe Survivors Club Jillian Hayes Television movie
2004 Funky Monkey Megan
2008 At Jesus' Side Petra (voice)
2009 Come Dance at My Wedding Laura Williams Television movie
2011 Keeping Up With The Randalls Barb Television movie
2014 Son of God Virgin Mary


Year Title Role Notes
1988 One Life to Live Lady Johanna Leighton Unknown episodes
1991 Disney Presents The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage Danielle St. Clair 7 episodes
1991 Woman Named Jackie, AA Woman Named Jackie Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Episode: "The Bouvier Years"
1994 Diagnosis: Murder Heather Winslow Episode: "Reunion with Murder"
1994–2003 Touched by an Angel Monica 211 episodes
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama (1998–99)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (1997–98)
1996–1998 Promised Land Monica 3 episodes
2004 Division, TheThe Division Reagan Gilancy 3 episodes
2013 The Bible Mother Mary 3 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries

Awards and nominations[edit]

List of awards and nominations
Year Award Category Work Result
1991 Helen Hayes Award Best Actress The Playboy of the Western World Nominated[9]
1997 Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Touched By an Angel Nominated[46]
1998 Emmy Award Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Touched By an Angel Nominated[46]
1998 Gemini Award Best TV Movie or Mini-Series Borrowed Hearts (shared w/co-stars) Nominated
1998 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Drama Touched By an Angel Nominated[47]
1999 Golden Globe Award Best Performance by an Actress in a TV-Series – Drama Touched By an Angel Nominated[47]
1999 TV Guide Award Favorite Actress in a Drama Touched By an Angel Won[48]
2000 TV Guide Award Favorite Actress in a Drama Touched By an Angel Nominated
2013 Emmy Award Outstanding Miniseries or Movie The Bible Nominated[49][50]
2013 Movieguide Award Grace Award The Bible Won[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Christ of Lightworkers Media". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Variety’s Most Influential People of 2013". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "The Hollywood Reporter's 2014 Women in Entertainment Power 100". December 4, 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  4. ^ a b "Movieguide-Grace Award". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "Variety’s Women’s Impact List 2013". Variety. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Tracey, Olivia. An angel with her feet firmly on the ground, Irish Independent, 7 January 2001.
  7. ^ "Roma Downey Biography (1960-)". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  8. ^ "Abbey Theater, at the Kennedy, does 'Playboy' as it should be done". Baltimore Sun. September 19, 1990. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "HHA Nominees & Recipients". Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "Roma Downey". Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  11. ^ "Awards for "A Woman Named Jackie" (1991)]". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  12. ^ "Ability Magazine: Interview with Roma Downey - by Chet Cooper’’". Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  13. ^ a b "Roma Downey: No voice of an angel". cnn. October 15, 1999. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  14. ^ "Love Is a Family". Amazon. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  15. ^ "Roma Downey Monologue". Saturday Night ( Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  16. ^ "Roma Downey works miracles with Operation Smile". USA Today. November 4, 2003. Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  17. ^ "Producer, author, actor Roma Downey’s life has been more than touched by an angel". Retrieved 20 September 2015. 
  18. ^ [1][dead link]
  19. ^ "Reality TV producer Mark Burnett tackles the Bible," New York Times, 24 May 2011.
  20. ^ "Producers had big plans for 'The Bible' at its genesis" USA Today, 27 March 2013.
  21. ^ Ellerton, Julie & Knowles Adkisson. Roma Downey reflects on ‘The Bible’, The Malibu Times, 27 March 2013.
  22. ^ "About The Bible". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  23. ^ Somers, Meredith (2014-05-27). "What would Jesus think? Smash-hit scripture-based quiz show doles out cash prizes". Washington Times. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  24. ^ a b c Press Release. Roma Downey And Mark Burnett's #1 New Cable Series THE BIBLE Is Also A New York Times Best Seller, Dominating Amazon And Is #1 On iTunes And #1 On Twitter, 25 March 2013.
  25. ^ Daly, Sean (2013-04-23). "From TV to silver screen: ‘Bible’ movie in the works | New York Post". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  26. ^ Elber, Lynn (24 May 2011). "'The Bible': History Channel, Mark Burnett Creating CGI 10-Hour Miniseries". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  27. ^ Lloyd, Matt. The Bible Series History Channel Reaches Nearly 70 Million in 3 Weeks, BREATHEcast News, 21 March 2013.
  28. ^ a b "'The Bible' Sequel From Mark Burnett Bought By NBC". 2013-07-01. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  29. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (2013-12-17). "NBC Sets 'The Bible' Sequel 'A.D.' For Spring 2015 Premiere". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  30. ^ "Roma Downey has lofty goals with 'Little Angels' –". 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  31. ^ "CeeLo Green - Mary Did You Know (The Bible)". YouTube. 2012-12-11. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  32. ^ Goldberg, Lesley. "CBS Orders Mark Burnett Mini 'The Dovekeepers' for 2015". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  33. ^ "MGM Buys 55% Of Roma Downey And Mark Burnett’s Empire; Relaunches United Artists". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  34. ^ "MGM buys 55% stake in production firms of Roma Downey and Mark Burnett". Los Angeles Times. 2014-09-23. 
  35. ^ McNary, Dave (2014-04-25). "Mark Burnett, Roma Downey Board ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake". Variety. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  36. ^ "‘Ben-Hur’ Remake: ‘Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston Lands Title Role". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  37. ^ Friedlander, Whitney (2015-06-11). "Roma Downey's 'Answered Prayers' Premieres in July on TLC". Variety. 
  38. ^ Cotliar, Sharon (2006-11-27). "Mark Burnett and Roma Downey Engaged - Mark Burnett, Roma Downey". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  39. ^ Wang, Cynthia (2007-04-29). "Mark Burnett, Roma Downey Marry in Malibu - Weddings, Mark Burnett, Roma Downey". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  40. ^ "Roma Downey". Operation Smile. Retrieved 8 June 2011. 
  41. ^ "Hollywood Stars line up to support McGuinness". candidancy. Retrieved 12 January 2012. 
  42. ^ "Roma Downey to Receive The Salvation Army’s Sally Award on October 1 at L.A. Live". 2 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  43. ^ "Actress Roma Downey on religion, faith (2:19) - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. 
  44. ^ Roma Downey, [dead link]
  45. ^ Billboard Oct 2, 1999. p. 26. 
  46. ^ a b "Roma Downey". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  47. ^ a b "Golden Globes: 2 Nominations, Wins: 0". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  48. ^ "Roma Downey". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  49. ^ "Roma Downey at Emmy Awards Show: 'The Bible' Success Was 'Sweet, Pleasant Surprise'". September 24, 2013. Retrieved 21 September 2015. 
  50. ^ "The Bible' Miniseries Earns Emmy Nomination; Roma Downey Calls It a 'Blessing'". Retrieved 21 September 2015. 

External links[edit]