Shortly after marrying in 2007, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey decided to work together as producers, creating the company LightWorkers Media. "We didn't have any doubts," says Burnett. The same cannot be said of their stunned pals. "We have so many friends who say, 'Working with your husband? Are you crazy? I couldn't hang wallpaper with my husband!'" says Downey. "But it's been fantastic."
That is an understatement. The couple's first project, 2013's The Bible, for History, became the year's highest-rated cable miniseries, drawing more than 100 million viewers during its run. "You might as well start big!" says Burnett.
"That was epic," adds Downey, president of LightWorkers, which is now United Artists Media Group's faith and family division. "We hoped that it would have reach. We had no idea that it would have the kind of reach it had."
Since then, Downey and Burnett have teamed up on miniseries A.D. The Bible Continues, last year's film Son of God, last December's Lifetime special The Women of the Bible, last month's CBS miniseries The Dovekeepers, the upcoming TLC series Answered Prayers and next year's remake of Ben-Hur. "We have a little slogan over at LightWorkers, which is that it's better to light a candle than curse the darkness," says Downey. "And so I'm personally most interested in material that in some way celebrates the triumph of the human spirit, that has as its essence an optimism or a hopefulness."
It has been an organic evolution for Downey, who starred as the angel Monica on CBS' hit drama Touched by an Angel from 1994 to 2003. "I've spent the last 20 years of my life telling dramatic stories on television, so it's been great," says Downey, who during her Angel run also produced seven CBS movies of the week, "back when that was still a living, breathing entity. I so love being able to use the skills I have learned to spearhead this department for us."
Downey and Burnett have proven to be an ideal match in business as well as in life, perfecting their own version of good producer/bad producer. "My husband is great at kicking doors down, and sometimes that's an extraordinarily useful skill. But sometimes a gentle knock on the door is the preferred method of entry," Downey explains. "And so we're a good team. Mark is very noisy, and I have a much quieter approach."
Now that her acting career has gotten "complicated," as is the case with most actresses who enter middle age ("The truth is that there just are fewer roles available," as she puts it), Downey is thrilled to segue into this new chapter in her career, and with her husband in the next office.
"It's been really a meteoric rise and we're so enjoying the ride," she says. "We get to do what we love to do, and we get to do a lot of it together."
Photography: Mark Mann; Hair: Arturo Swayze for Oribe Haircare; Makeup: Eve Pearl; Grooming: Jessi Butterfield for Exclusive Artists Mgmt using Talika and Alterna Hair Care