Roma Downey turned to faith after childhood tragedy: ‘Life brought us to our knees’

Roma Downey turned to God during one of the most painful moments of her life.

As a child, the former “Touched By an Angel” star’s mother died of a heart attack. 

“My mother died when I was just a little girl,” the 63-year-old told Fox News Digital. “I was only 10. And I can honestly say if we hadn’t had our faith to support us and our church community to surround us … life brought us to our knees.


Downey leaned on her faith to get through tough moments in her childhood. (JC Olivera/Variety via Getty Images)

“But while we were down there, we prayed,” the actress shared. “We prayed for strength, we prayed for understanding, we prayed for comfort. And the Lord provided. [Faith is] central to who I am and in my work.”

Downey is starring in the faith-based series “The Baxters” on Amazon Prime. It explores how a family turns to God during tough times. It features Kathie Lee Gifford, her daughter Cassidy Gifford and Ted McGinley of “Married… With Children” fame. 

Many fans still recognize Downey from “Touched By an Angel,” which became one of TV’s highest-rated dramas. The series, which told the tale of three angels sent to Earth to give people comfort, aired from 1994 until 2003. 

Downey described how it’s been essential in her decades-long career in Hollywood to create faith-based content for families.

Roma Downey at the premiere of "Someone Like You."

Downey finds it essential to create more faith-based content. (Danielle Del Valle/Getty Images for Someone Like You Movie)


“Not everybody is able to bring what they believe into what they do, particularly in show business,” said Downey. “But I’ve consistently done that from my days on ‘Touched By an Angel’ through producing ‘The Bible’ series to last Easter’s Prime Video movie, ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’ with Dennis Quaid, which was a story of hope and faith.

“I’m committed to telling stories that inspire and uplift,” Downey noted. “It’s a space I want to be in. It’s the work that I think is important.”


In 2016, it was announced that the Emmy winner and her husband, reality TV producer Mark Burnett, were launching LightWorkers Media, a faith and family entertainment broadcast. It aims to “create engaging uplifting and inspirational content,” as well as motivate “people to celebrate and share the good all around them,” the network’s website states.

“God is the light. We’re the workers,” said Downey. “And our mantra always has been that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. So, stories of hope interest me. So, making ‘The Baxters’ a hope opera is certainly something that is part of my life’s purpose, part of the calling on my life really, to help people feel connected and closer to God.”

Roma Downey at a screening for "The Baxters."

Downey said making “The Baxters” was part of her purpose in life. (Danielle Del Valle/Getty Images for Prime Video)

Viewers will see how faith is the glue that keeps the Baxters together. It was no different from Downey’s upbringing.

“I grew up in a family that was quick to pray,” said Downey. “My father used to say, ‘The family that prays together, stays together.’ … We rarely, as people of faith, get to see faithful families on television, stopping an everyday activity and just praying. And yet, we see that often in ‘The Baxters.’

“We see John and Elizabeth Baxter, played by myself because I’m back on camera … and Ted McGinney plays John, my husband. We’re worried about our daughter Carrie,” Downey shared. “We learn through the episode that her husband is unfaithful to her.

“It’s a heartbreaking time and a challenging time while she’s dealing with this pain of this betrayal. And we see the mother and the father come together, holding hands and praying in the name of Jesus on her behalf.”

Roma Downey and Ted McGinley on the red carpet.

Downey and McGinley play husband and wife on “The Baxters.” (John Sciulli/Variety via Getty Images)

Downey insisted that even those who don’t share her faith will still appreciate the series and its message.

“Everybody’s got a family. Every family’s got problems,” she said. “But for people of faith, I think it will be very meaningful to see a church-going family leading this story. … For me, since ‘Touched By an Angel,’ I haven’t really been on television much. I’ve mostly been producing and writing. And so, to get back in front of the camera [and play] Elizabeth Baxter has been very fun.”

In 2018, reported that LightWorkers Media would produce “The Baxters,” which is based on Karen Kinsbury’s bestselling literary series, “The Baxter Family.” According to the outlet, the 26-novel series has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.


Downey said she first learned about the Baxter family after a friend gave her a copy of the first book in the series. She couldn’t put it down.

“I was reading it on an airplane from Los Angeles to New York,” Downey recalled. “I just poured through it. I was laughing, I was crying. It was meaningful. I recognized these people, the versatility of these stories, and I reached out to Karen. I didn’t know her, and I said, ‘Please, would you allow me the rights to bring this to television?’

Roma Downey and the rest of the cast of "The Baxters" at a special screening for the show.

Downey fought for the rights to adapt “The Baxters” from a novel to a television show. (Danielle Del Valle/Getty Images for Prime Video)


“I’m so grateful that she did,” said Downey. “And here we are. … I think that America is going to fall in love with this TV series. … It’s challenging stuff for this family. But, ultimately, they come together. It’s hopeful stuff.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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