Pasadena, Calif. — When Roma Downey read Alice Hoffman’s bestselling novel The Dovekeepers, she knew she had to make it into a series. She remembered being “profoundly touched” by the ancient story of the siege of Masada upon visiting the site a few years back, and when she met with Nina Tassler, the CBS Entertainment chairman had coincidentally just come back from Masada.
The four-hour series, the first project from CBS’ Limited Series and Event Programming unit, airs March 31 and April 1 from 9-11 each night.
“I’m most interested in finding light in the darkness, and certainly Masada has to be one of the darkest moments in history,” Downey said Monday at the TCA winter press tour. She was joined on a panel with series stars Cote de Pablo, Rachel Brosnahan, Kathryn Prescott and Diego Boneta.
Downey, the star of Touched by an Angel, said that while the series had condensed the many characters and stories of the book into four hours, it stays true to the spirit of the book, which focuses on women working with doves at Masada rather than a straightforward account of the Romans’ siege. “What’s great about the story is it’s relevant to today,” Boneta said. “It talks about virtues like courage, honor, love.”
Hoffman was with them every step of the way, Downey said. “If Alice is happy, I think you will be too.”
Other highlights from the panel included:
—The series was mostly shot on the island of Malta, with the set built on actual ruins. “It has that feel and that vibe to it, that period, epic feeling to it,” Boneta said. “Being able to shoot surrounded by so much history made it feel that much more authentic.” Brosnahan noted that the light in Malta was unique to everywhere else she has been. “It made it feel otherworldly,” she said.
—Real doves were used for filming, which frightened Brosnahan a bit at first. “By the end she had a dove in each hand, walking around as if it was nothing,” de Pablo said. “These doves became an extension of Rachel Brosnahan.”