Home Age Senior Planet Talks to…Roma Downey

Senior Planet Talks to…Roma Downey

by Editor

Twenty-one years after her beloved TV series Touched by an Angel went off the air,  Roma Downey, 63, returns with an inspirational new family drama series, The Baxters.

If she’s been largely absent from our screens during that time, Irish actress Roma Downey (at left) says she’s been busy writing books and, together with her producer husband Mark Burnett – responsible for Survivor, The Apprentice and Shark Tank – creating more faith-based content.

She talks to SENIOR PLANET about her extraordinary life:

Q: What was it about Karen Kingsbury’s books that inspired you to return to TV?

ROMA: Gosh, I came into the idea as a fan after reading The Baxters book about this husband and wife and their five young adult children. I just couldn’t put the book down and I kept seeing it as a TV series. People have constantly asked me: When are we going to get a show like Touched by an Angel back on television? So I thought maybe could fill that void and speak to those same values. We have tried to remain as truthful to the book as we can because the books are hugely successful with over 27 books in the series – so our TV series could run forever! And we’re grateful to launch in the Easter season because The Baxters are all about love, strength and hope. It plays out like a hope opera – and Easter is the greatest story of hope, the holiday of hope.

Q: And you also co-star with your real-life daughter Reilly Anspaugh in The Baxters?

ROMA: Honestly it was such a blessing. Reilly is in her mid-20s and she plays Erin, the youngest of the Baxter daughters. It’s a smaller role and she auditioned and did very well. Casting a family is always interesting because you want the best actors but you also want to hire a group of people that have some kind of physical similarity so they are believable as a family.  We also had another mother daughter team on the show Kathie Lee Gifford – who’s a good old friend – and her daughter Cassidy Gifford.

Q: How does The Baxters differ from other family dramas?

ROMA: Because drama requires conflict – most family dramas are where the families is really conflicted with each other because they’re trying to generate drama for the screen. But at the center of The Baxters, we see modeled a very loving and committed marriage in the matriarch and patriarch which is my character of Elizabeth and her husband, Dr. John Baxter, played beautifully by Ted McGinley.

Here’s a sneak peek.

Q: What have you been up to since Touched by an Angel went off the air?

ROMA: I’ve been hugely busy. I played Mary, mother of Jesus, in a series I produced called The Bible and then in a film, The Son of God. Really, though, my work has been behind the camera producing. I’ve also authored four or five books. I love what I do, and I’m a creative person. I’ve kept very busy but this was an opportunity to step into a role where I really like who this woman is.  She has a mother’s heart – as a mother myself that resonated with me. The Baxters are a relatable family with a myriad of challenges – like any family does. Just because they’re a family of faith, it doesn’t make them immune to heartbreak. If you live long enough you know that everyone is going to be touched by heartbreak.

Q: Before Touched by an Angel you began in theater. It used to be that actresses complained the work dried up past the age of 40.

ROMA: Yes. I’d worked at the Abbey Theatre, and did The Playboy of the Western World in Ireland and came over to America with a production of that, and stayed in America. I was classically trained, and did Ibsen and Shaw and Broadway with Rex Harrison.

But there’s a moment when you move from being a leading lady to playing moms. But I think there’s a plethora of good roles now, particularly because the streaming platforms have afforded that. And I think that there is a new openness and more of an acceptance to real life.

There isn’t just cookie cutter expectations of what people should look like; how old they should be; what color they should be, or what ethnicity they should be. So I didn’t feel any bias around my age. If anything, I’ve maybe felt a bit of bias that I lead with my faith. Not everybody’s comfortable with that, right?

Q: Is that difficult?

ROMA: No. I don’t separate who I am from what I believe, and I’ve always felt I was very privileged to be able to combine the two because I’ve lived comfortably in this faith and family space for a very long time.

Q: Do you have time for hobbies?

ROMA: I like to paint and I’m very interested in pottering around my garden even if I’m not a very good gardener. I’m trying to learn the cello. I really do believe that as we get older we need to challenge ourselves with things that are difficult. I’m also trying to learn French and bridge.  If you just keep doing the same old things, it’s easy to get into a rut.

Q: What’s your secret to aging with attitude?

ROMA: First of all, I just try to take care of myself physically, and that really requires eating well, having some discipline around getting up in the morning and moving. I work out five days a week – some days with much more commitment than others. I do pilates and some cross training and get a bit of cardio in – even if the cardio over the years has become less of a sprint and more of a fast walk. Drinking loads of water is important.

But most of all I meditate and pray. I start my morning with a prayer of gratitude.  I choose to say that everything is a gift. It’s about accepting that everything is as it should be, and to try to have gratitude around all of it. I think that really helps.

NB: The Baxters is available on Amazon Prime Video from March 28.

Gill Pringle began her career as a rock columnist for popular British newspapers, traveling the world with Madonna, U2 and Michael Jackson. Moving to Los Angeles 27 years ago, she interviews film and TV personalities for prestigious UK outlets, The Independent, The i-paper and The Sunday Times – and, of course, Senior Planet. A member of Critics Choice Association, BAFTA and AWFJ, she wrote the screenplay for 2016 Netflix family film, The 3 Tails Movie: A Mermaid Adventure. An award-winning writer, in 2021 she was honored by the Los Angeles Press Club with 1st prize at the NAEJ Awards.

Photo (Top) Roma Downey (middle) with full cast of The Baxters, courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

Photo: inset: Roma Downey, photo by John Russo

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