SALT LAKE CITY — “Touched by an Angel” (1994-2003) star Roma Downey is best known to fans as the hit TV show's resident angel, but now the actress, producer and author is inviting people to learn more about the woman behind the angel in her new book "Box of Butterflies: Discovering the Unexpected Blessings All Around Us" (Howard Books, 256 pages).
“I think that the story really is my story," Downey said in a recent interview with the Deseret News. “It’s (a) deeply personal book, using the stories of my life to really share how God has been with me my whole journey.”
“Box of Butterflies" is a part-autobiography, part-inspirational work that includes scriptures, poetry, prayer and illustrations. The Northern Ireland-born Downey called it a “spiritual memoir,” delving into her childhood growing up in Northern Ireland during the war.
It was there, in the face of personal tragedy, that she first learned to love butterflies, coming to think of them as a special gift from God.
“When my mom passed away when I was just a little girl … it was as if the lights had been turned out and all the color pulled out of our lives,” she said. “And my father took me up to the cemetery not long after she had passed to visit her graveside. I brought with me a bunch of pansies because those were my mom’s favorite flower — she always said they looked like little butterflies. And as I was placing the pansies on her grave, a real butterfly flew by and my dad said, ‘Would you look there. That wee butterfly could be your mom’s spirit.’ And the idea that a butterfly could symbolize my mother who I missed so deeply was, say, a little bit of light in the darkness of my grief.”
Downey later moved to the United States “in search of the ‘American dream,’” first to New York and later, Hollywood.
“Since then, my whole life, butterflies have shown up and they’ve served as a reminder that I believe Mom’s still watching over me, and of course that God has been with me every step of the way.”
Downey is very open about her relationship with faith and God, choosing roles and projects that allow her to share her beliefs. She played Mary, the mother of Jesus, twice, first on the History channel miniseries “The Bible” (2013) and in the film “Son of God” (2014), both of which she produced with her husband, Mark Burnett. They have produced a number of other Christian-themed shows together, including NBC's "A.D.: The Bible Continues" (2015) and "Ben-Hur" (2016).
But, of course, it is "Touched By an Angel" with which Downey is most closely connected — a show that was largely filmed in Utah. Downey, who still has a home in Park City, said she fondly remembers her working days in the state.
“We have great memories working in Utah and (of) how incredibly friendly and nice everybody was,” she said. “It certainly was a wonderful decade from my life being in Salt Lake. … I love Utah.”
As she continues to produce new shows that reflect her faith — Downey and Burnett are executive producers on a new Netfilx series titled "Messiah," due out in 2019 — she hopes "Box of Butterflies" will comfort and encourage those that are going through struggles or personal hardships.Comment on this story
“We just keep moving forward,” she said. “We keep building bridges where we can. I’m aware that we live in a divided time and just try to keep showing up with kindness and doing good work. And be leading by the best example through our work.”
If you go …
What: Roma Downey's "Box of Butterflies" discussion and book signing
When: Friday, March 23, 7 p.m.
Where: First Baptist Church of Salt Lake City, 777 S. 1300 East
How much: This is not a ticketed event, although those who have prepurchased the book from The King's English will have priority placement in the signing line.