- - Monday, March 21, 2016

As you might expect, I have been asked many times recently what it’s like to play Mary, Jesus’ mother, in a movie.

Where do I begin? It was a challenge, a responsibility, a privilege and an honor. Mary is probably the most important and definitive female role in the history of mankind. She is the archetype of all mothers, and holds within herself also the essence of what it means to be a woman. In art, throughout history, Mary has been visually portrayed in so many different ways, and I think she is the one figure toward which all of us project a very personal imagery.

With this premise, of course, I was undoubtedly daunted. But that’s why I didn’t focus on portraying the icon — how do you play that? — I focused on the woman. I could only play my Mary.

The first thing that struck me about Cyrus and Betsy Nowrasteh’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel, “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” was the humanity that it transpired. It was the first time that I was “invited” to view and experience the Holy Family in a different way, and in a different and more “accessible” light.

In between the lines, I could sense the woman. I felt I could “play” that. The story in itself is unique — we have never seen on-screen a 7-year-old Jesus, (nor a 21-year-old Mary, for that matter) and it is based on a novel that meticulously referred to what is known in the Scriptures, which support some aspects and elements of this story, but that also respectfully explores what may have happened, within the reasonable, given documented circumstances.

Because, in the end, it is possible: Jesus was born and lived until the age of 33 — he must have had a childhood. And that is what we explored and what we (as parents, sons and daughters) can relate to.

I am not a mother — not yet. I definitely hope to be one, one day. Actually, I recall that on-set, I was one of the few adult actors who wasn’t a parent yet. Nonetheless, I asked myself: What would I do if I were the mother to such a special child, an empirical witness of a miracle of God, guided by faith, aware of her child’s mission, but unsure of the difficulties and adversities that surely were awaiting for us ahead? The answers I had were varied and layered, but they ultimately came down to my instincts, and it culminated in a sense of love, trust and faith. As a mother, I would do all I can in my power, in love and in grace, to protect and support my child — together with my husband. The relationship that Vincent Walsh (Joseph) and I developed on-screen in this movie, I must say has been revealing to me in understanding how important the “partnership” between a father-husband and a mother-wife is. They are a team, they support each other and they have at heart the well-being of their child, of each other and, ultimately, of the whole family.

In fact, what I think makes this movie universally appealing, is the simple yet universal and crucial message that it contains. I remember that what I found fascinating, when I first read this screenplay, was that if you take out all the names (Jesus, Mary, Joseph), the story stands — and it is so beautiful and powerful. It can speak to anyone, of any faith or background, because it ultimately speaks about love and family. These are two principles, two cardinal points that define us as human beings, and to which anyone can relate. They are two things that I believe are important to think and remind ourselves about, especially in this time of the year approaching Easter, and considering the challenging times that we are living in the world today. We can never really get enough of them.

Experiencing this role, making this movie, was truly an incredible journey, in every shape and form, for everyone that was involved. It was an honor and a privilege, and I am so proud to have been part of this film and to share its story.

Sara Lazarro is an award-winning actress who plays Mary in the film “The Young Messiah,” in theaters now.

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