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NBC, Joe Alblas, AP Photo/LightWorkers Media
In this image released by NBC, Juan Pablo Di Pace portrays Jesus, left, and Johannes Haukur Johannesson portrays Thomas in a scene from "A.D. The Bible Continues." The first of the 10 episodes airs on Easter, picking up where its predecessor, the wildly popular “The Bible” series from the History Channel left off and going on to tell the story of what happened to Christ’s disciples after the crucifixion.

NEW YORK — You may know the characters in "A.D. The Bible Continues" — but if the actors are less familiar, the creators of the upcoming series aren't complaining: They say they cast a wide, international net to find a group of diverse actors to tell the story.

Premiering at 9 p.m. EDT Sunday on NBC, the series is the follow-up by husband and wife team Mark Burnett ("Survivor," ''The Voice") and Roma Downey to their wildly successful 2013 History Channel miniseries "The Bible." The 12-part "A.D." tells the story of what happened to Christ's disciples after the crucifixion, as detailed in the first 10 chapters of the New Testament's Book of Acts.

Downey says despite the success of "The Bible," she and Burnett faced criticism because much of the cast for "The Bible" was white.

"We decided then if we had an opportunity to do this again that we would remedy that," she said.

The two looked to places like Africa to cast key roles: Mary Magdalene, for example, is played by Zimbabwean actress Chipo Chung, who is Afro-Asian, and Gambian Babou Cessay, who is black, plays John the Beloved. Jesus is played by Argentine Juan Pablo Di Pace.

Other roles such as Simon the Zealot and the disciple James were filled by British actors of African descent.

Said Burnett: "I feel it's so important for all communities to see themselves on the screen, but in the end our goal was to find the best and by casting that wider net we found the best actors (for the roles)."

Online: http://www.nbc.com/ad-the-bible-continues

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