Skip to main content

Tyler Perry's 'Passion' The Crucifixion Story Like You've Never Seen It Before


Share This article

Tyler Perry and Fox are teaming up to bring "The Passion," a live musical production of Jesus' crucifixion, to the small screen on Palm Sunday in New Orleans.

Its creators hope "The Passion" will follow the same ratings trend as the "Sound of Music" - more than 20 million people tuned in to watch the production.

Jencarlos Canela plays the lead role. He spoke with CBN's Efrem Graham about bringing the final hours of Christ's journey on Earth to life for the performance.

"It is one of the biggest honors I have ever been given," Canela said.

Modernizing the Crucifixion Story

"The Passion" is a musical take on the 2,000-year-old story set in the streets of present day New Orleans.    

"We are staying true to the biblical sense of it and the scriptures. That is intact. That is not being changed. No one is writing words in Jesus' mouth. That is not going to happen," said Canela.

"Everything around it refreshes and I feel that it is going to appeal to an even bigger audience that needs to hear that story about love and acceptance and forgiveness," he explained.

"I know that I needed to hear that message when this opportunity came into my life," he added.

All-Star Cast

Country superstar Trisha Yearwood plays the mother of Jesus. Tyler Perry, who is from New Orleans, narrates the two-hour Fox television special. The show includes performances from gospel artist Yolanda Adams and American Idol alum Chris Daughtry.

Daughtry plays Judas. "I think it's a character, I think there is a bit of Judas that we can all relate to," he said.

"We have all made decisions that we didn't exactly think about the ramifications before doing it. And we have all felt guilty for doing something," he added.

A Trend That Started in the Netherlands

While this production is new to American television, it's become a tradition in the Netherlands.

There are multiple moving parts throughout the Crescent City: a stage, big screens, and people carrying a 20-foot, illuminated cross from the super dome to the banks of the Mississippi.

The massive production is part of what attracted Michael W. Smith to the project, playing one of Jesus' disciples.

"I think it is unique. I think it is a wild and wonderful idea that has worked in Holland and why would it not work here. And I found out who the case was and thought I could sink my teeth into this thing and here I am," said Smith.

Shane Harper -- known for his break-out role in "God's Not Dead" – also plays a disciple.

"There are people who are going to be very familiar with this story, who grew up hearing about it un Sunday school. There are going to be people that have not had that experience. And I hope that both of these groups of people will come with open hearts to this performance," said Harper.

The play hangs on popular music, with lyrics re-written to tell the story.  

"I sing 'The Reason' by Hoobastank, which for me was always a great song about love," singer Prince Royce told CBN News.

"It was always one of my favorite records and coming here to 'The Passion' and signing this song after Peter denies Christ three times and now seeing the song from a whole other point of view, it is going to be an emotional performance," he said.

A Story of Unconditional Love

"My biggest prayer is that this will reach millions of people who normally would never hear the Gospel, but they would probably really, totally understand who Jesus really is because I think there are so many misconceptions about who he is," said Smith.

Canela is proof that prayer is being answered on set as cast members practice for the live Palm Sunday performance.
"When I said yes to this I started becoming even closer than I was before to the story, to the scriptures, to the book, to the Bible and in doing so, I was reminded that yes, He was such a powerful being," said Canela. 

"But He was also human and people forget that He was human," he noted. "And I think we need to be reminded of those moments of humanity."

Share This article

About The Author

Efrem Graham

Efrem Graham is an award-winning journalist who came to CBN News from the ABC-owned and operated station in Toledo, Ohio. His most recent honor came as co-anchor of the newscast that earned the station’s morning news program its first Emmy Award. Efrem was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, but his formal television and journalism career was born across the Hudson River in New York City. He began as an NBC Page and quickly landed opportunities to work behind-the-scenes in local news, network news, entertainment, and the network’s Corporate Communications Department. His work earned him the NBC