Video: Behind “Revelations”

updated 4/15/2005 4:56:00 PM ET 2005-04-15T20:56:00

A young girl zapped by lightning on a Florida golf course briefly awakens from her coma to recite biblical prophecy in Latin.  The time is short.  The world will pass away.  Then comes plagues, famine, pestilence and war.

And that's just the beginning — the beginning scene in a new TV miniseries, rather.  NBC's apocalyptic show 'Revelations' follows the wildly successful 'Left Behind' series that sold over 50 million books.  A tsunami, earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes rocked the world this year, wreaking havoc and making some wonder if these are signs of Mother Nature's wrath or or the end of the world?

Pop culture has taken note.  MSNBC-TV's Joe Scarborough sits down with the creators of 'Revelations' to find out the driving forces behind the show.

Q — JOE SCARBOROUGH, 'SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY' HOST:  And some point to the end of the millennium for inspiring such dire talk, but others go straight to the words of Jesus, who said in Luke Chapter 21, there will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilence.  On the Earth, nations will be at anguish and perplexity at the roaring and the tossing of the seas.  And that time, they will see the son of man coming in a cloud with great power and glory.  Christians point to recent events such as the devastating tsunami in Asia, hurricanes in Florida, and earthquakes across the world, including a recent one in Iran that killed 50,000 people, and a Chinese earthquake that killed half a million.  All signs, they believe, that the end days are drawing near.  Let me start with you, Gavin.

A — GAVIN POLONE, 'REVELATIONS' PRODUCER:  Why this miniseries?  Why now?  Well, we didn’t really look to the current times when we were deciding on what we wanted to go out and sell the networks in program in the upcoming years.  We just wanted to do good television.  In my company, we try to look for projects that are dissimilar from everything that’s on the network currently.  And right now, you see a lot of cop shows.  Almost everything seems to be a cop show or a medical show or a lawyer show or a medical cop or a medical lawyer or a lawyer cop kind of show.

So, in trying to search for different topics, I went back to when I was younger.  And I had read Hal Lindsey`s "The Late Great Planet Earth," which deeply affected me as a boy and thought it would be really interesting to try to approach that topic of biblical prophecy for television.  And having worked with David Seltzer, who is probably the best writer I had ever worked with before, I went and talked to him about it and was very fortunate enough to get him to jump on board. 

Q — SCARBOROUGH:  You know, "The Late Great Planet Earth," in fact, that’s what we have this segment titled.  I remember also not only reading the books, but also looking at the movies, and that was pretty frightening fare in the 1970s.  Americans flocked to the movie theaters, read Hal Lindsey`s book.  They, of course, did the "Left Behind" series starting in 1995.  There seems to be such an appetite for this type of story.  Why? 

A — POLONE:  Well, I think that we all think about what is going to happen in the future, and what our place in the world is.  And, at the same time, we live in an extremely religious country, and it always has been a religious country, and our country is predominantly Christian.  And so, ultimately, thinking about something as personal and important as what is going to happen in the future and how it relates to the Bible, which most Americans hold dear, seems very natural. 

Q — SCARBOROUGH:  David Seltzer, you had experience.  Obviously, you wrote
"The Omen," the 1970s, a very big movie based on the Bible.  And there are a lot of people that went to that movie, though, went to the three movies, that weren’t necessarily Christians, certainly not evangelicals.  What about nonbelievers that may be tuning in to watch this tomorrow night and through the next five weeks?  Do you think nonbelievers are going to be as interested in it as believers? 

A — DAVID SELTZER, 'REVELATIONS' WRITER:  I think so.  I think everybody who tunes in is going to get a really fascinating ride, somewhat challenging as well.  It’s not just about religion.  It’s about how we live our lives, our responsibility to what is happening to the planet, socially, politically, physically, and what we have done, really, to create the scenario that looks like what is described in the Bible as the end of days.  We have a character who believes that man still has a responsibility, and that it is conceivable that mankind can step in and find the way before that happens. 

Q — SCARBOROUGH:  Did you have any resistance making this project?  You all -- I have read articles in papers saying that, you know, you mention Jesus and Jesus Christ, and it isn’t sort of universalist approach, very specific, whether it’s a Christian film or not, very specific about Jesus Christ.  Did you get any resistance from any of the networks or anybody in making this film? 

A — POLONE: Well, we originally went out and called all the networks to see who would be interested in hearing the pitch that we worked out.  And a couple of them did not want to actually hear the pitch because they were afraid of the subject matter, but four others did.  And when they heard the tremendous tale that David had spun, they couldn’t resist, and all four of them made offers on the show, and we chose to go with NBC. 

Q — SCARBOROUGH: Well, Gavin, why did you choose, why did both of you choose to mention Jesus and Jesus Christ explicitly, instead of taking a safer approach, like, for instance, "Touched With an Angel," where you just sort of generally talk about a Santa Claus type of God that makes everybody smile and feel good about themselves? 

A — POLONE:  Well, because the statistics show, and just everybody knows that Americans don’t believe in a very general kind of idea of God.  They generally believe in specific representations that correspond to religion.  And people generally believe in a Christian God in this country.  And so being a little more specific about it is more real.  When you watch shows like "Touched By an Angel" or "Highway to Heaven" or "Joan of
Arcadia," where people are talking to God, but you don’t really know what God or whose God or how it relates to any specific religion, that automatically just becomes false to the viewer, and I think that our show will seem a lot truer to what your average person believes. 

Q — SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I read Frank Rich’s column in "The Times" this past weekend.  A lot of people believe that this is geared for Right-wing religious fanatics.  But I was surprised to find a "TIME" magazine poll that said 60 percent of Americans, 60 percent of Americans believe that what they read in the Book of Revelation will actually come true.  Does that surprise you?  Does that number surprise you, too?

A — POLONE:  Forty percent -- 40 percent believe it will come true during their lives.

A — SELTZER:  When I wrote "The Omen," the biggest shock I had was how many people actually believed that what I was writing was true.  And it really gave me license to write more about it and deal more with the truth and the interpretations of the Bible. 

I didn’t know, for instance, that, when I spoke of the devil, that he existed in people`s lives as an actual persona, in the way that we depict him.  The Book of Revelations at that time and the mention of religion was something that was widely accepted by people, and I was even given all kinds of awards from Christian organizations for popularizing the scripture. 

We live in a different country today, and I think religion is so much more personal and volatile, that there will be all kinds of reactions to this show. 

Q — SCARBOROUGH: Gavin, do you agree with that?  You think it may launch a -- I mean, if you look at Frank Rich, it’s already sort of launched a new culture war.  Do you think some people are going to look at your miniseries and become angry? 

A — POLONE:  Well, you know, if you are doing anything good, there’s going to be controversy, because you have gone ahead and taken a side and taken a little bit of risk. 

I read Frank Rich pretty regularly.  He was blasting President Bush all the way through the election, and President Bush managed to get reelected.  I think it’s probably a sign of our impending success that Frank Rich has taken a stand against but.  But I think -- I welcome it, and I think that it’s good to talk about religion and it’s good to talk about controversial issues and bring them into the public discourse. 

And I really hope that "Revelations" does that, and I feel very confident that, even if you don’t necessarily agree with the theology or little points of view of the individual characters in our show, you are going to think that it’s a really well produced show, great production value, brilliant acting and, as I said before, the best writing that you are ever going to see. 

Q — SCARBOROUGH:  David, final question.  When you were writing this, were you writing to entertain or to inform? 

A — SELTZER:  I am always writing to entertain, but I don’t take a project that I can’t learn from, and what I hope is that that spills out of what I write to the audience as well.  

'Scarborough Country' airs weeknights, 10 p.m. ET


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