Photo: Producer Mark Burnett, left, with Darwin Shaw, center as St. Peter and Diogo Morgado as Jesus. Courtesy Lightworks Media

Playing St. Peter in the movie Son of God

An interview with Darwin Shaw

By Elizabeth Solsburg, FAITH Catholic

Son of God, a new movie about the life of Jesus, opened in theaters Feb. 28. Produced by Roma Downey of Touched by an Angel fame, Son of God has been praised by religious leaders such as Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Archbishop Jose Gomez.

To watch a trailer, click here

You’ve played this role in The Bible (mini-series) and now the film, Son of God. How did you prepare?

My preparation was three-fold: Most importantly, of course, I read the Bible and the specific historical texts. I also spent time with Orthodox monks outside London for threedays of silent meditation, prayer and reflection. And I went to the Vatican – so I could get a feel for ancient Rome. I studied some of the art works depicting this time, and I visited St. Peter’s.

This is always a difficult story to present in a way – everyone has a clear idea of what it SHOULD look like. What were the challenges in making this film?

Peter is a crucial figure in the Church. The subtleties in the text have important theological implications. So we worked to find the story in the pure sense, and tried not to cause too much controversy.

For me, a major challenge was physical – we were shooting in the Sahara desert for four months – which meant four months of blazing heat for 14 hours per day. And the scene where Peter is walking on water, which we shot in a mountain reservoir – I had to focus on acting while also keeping warm and staying alive.

Has this role had an impact on your personal life?

One can’t approach any role, but particularly one like this, without studying the important texts and learning about the character who lived such an incredible journey – following Jesus and becoming the first pope. Immersing myself in this incredible history and theology stirred my emotions, and made me see the world through the lens of love, compassion and humility. Something like this can’t help but inform how you act with the world.

What made you decide to give up medicine and pursue theatre?

It wasn’t really a decision. I had a career break between surgical jobs and I spent six months living in New York. While I was there, I did a course on creativity based on The Artist’s Way. As a result, I took an acting class – from the first moment on stage, I knew it was something I would be interested in following. I got the bug and have been acting ever since.

What was one memorable moment that occurred during filming?

There were so many, it is hard to say. But one was while we were working on the scene after the Last Supper where Jesus and Peter embrace after Peter said he wouldn’t betray Jesus. I could feel the great love and brotherly affection between these two friends. It was inspirational to be part of something that was very organic and pure, and very moving. We shot a number of scenes that really involved examining the text and making something as deep and powerful as we could.

What did you love about this movie that you want audiences to know?

I think we’ve made something really different that gives a sense of the relationship between Jesus and all the people around him – how important the love, compassion and caring really are. I don’t think that has been shown before. When you see this, and feel this, you understand why people followed him and why they continue to do so.