The husband and wife duo behind the wildly popular 2013 History channel series “The Bible” and this year’s film adaptation “Son of God” were feted at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday evening during the ADL’s annual entertainment industry dinner.
The event raised over $1 million to help serve the org’s mission of fighting bigotry, prejudice and anti-Semitisim.
After gospel/pop group Raise kicked things off with a Michael Jackson medley, “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush began his duties as the evening’s MC and poked fun at the bearded Burnett, noting that he looked more like “Moses Burnett.”
Following an introduction by last year’s honoree, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Burnett took a moment to thank ADL national director Abraham Foxman for his contributions to their biblical-themed work.
“Abe taught us how to make ‘The Bible’ and ‘Son of God’ totally sensitive (so) that were never any misunderstandings in our work to make anyone feel anti-Semitic at all. We thank you so much for teaching us,” Burnett said before adding, “My wife will have the absolute last word.”
Downey, who grew up in the city of Derry in Northern Ireland during the tumultuous period known as The Troubles, shared how her personal experiences relate to the ADL’s mission.
“The people of Derry, driven by the same impulse that fuels the ADL, were not content to live in terror and hate. They made up their minds and committed their actions to making our country a safer and better place,” said the “Touched by an Angel” actress. “They chose to sit down together with a willingness to listen to each other.”
Like her husband, Downey also cited the process of making the biblical series and film as opportunities to build bridges of dialogue within the interfaith community.
“We could see how in the past there had been division and hurt created by not simply taking the time to sit down together and understand the concerns,” she said. “We share a focus in our common humanity as citizens of the world, irrespective of race, ethnicity and religion.”
“As the ADL has shown for more than 100 years, when you pursue the common good with all you’ve got, there’s nothing common about the results you get,” Downey said..
Earlier in the evening, “The Voice” season five winner Tessanne Chin performed renditions of Pink’s hit song “Try” and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song.”
The Tenors closed out the night with powerful performances of “Because We Believe” and “Instrument of Peace,” accompanied by David Foster.
Other guests in attendance included Hans Zimmer, MGM CEO Gary Barber, Shirley MacLaine, Fox’s Jim Gianopulos, “Survivor” host Jeff Probst and TV host Ty Pennington.
Burnett and Downey are currently producing the drama series “A.D.” for NBC as well as the four-hour miniseries “The Dovekeepers” for CBS. Both projects are slated to air in 2015.