Haaz Sleiman, the Muslim-born actor playing Jesus Christ in National Geographic's upcoming "Killing Jesus" drama, recently described the role as a "dream come true" due to the Savior's strong impact on his own life.
In a recent interview, Sleiman explained that he had been going through "a lot" before being cast as Jesus.
"And I used a lot of Jesus' teachings, you know, to apply it in my life. So when this part came, it was sort of magical to me that I would be doing this and everything that he taught, I believed in," he told the Christian Post.
The Lebanese actor has previously come under fire for playing Jesus because of his adherence to the Muslim religion. However, in a previous interview, Sleiman explained that that Jesus is revered in Islam, although He is not considered to be the Son of God.
"Islam believes that Jesus is a prophet, and they honor him - highly - and they respect him and they follow his teachings," Sleiman said. "So, for me, as somebody who was raised Muslim, it is an honor to actually play Jesus, just because of that."
He added, "But I also, myself, for the past 10 years, have been shaped by Jesus. I really believe in his teachings."
Because of his--and millions of other's--respect for the person of Jesus, Sleiman explained that he took particular care when playing the character.
"I did the scene with healing the kid that was possessed by a demon, and looking at that child a certain way, not looking at him as a weak person. Or people with leprosy, not looking at them as weak. Or people who are poor, not looking at them as weak. But rather, all of them equal, to me, to everybody else and that they're strong," Sleiman explained.
"It's a wonderful thing that I get to do this everyday that I come to set," he added. "It's what I do in my life anyways. I try to do that in my life. In fact, now I can do that in my life and at work. It's like a dream come true."
"Killing Jesus" will premiere Palm Sunday, March 29 at 8 p.m. ET on National Geographic Channel. The three-hour feature is based on the New York Times best-selling book by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, and gives a deeper look at the Biblical account of how Jesus' message and preachings led to his persecution and eventual death.
The drama also stars Kelsey Grammer King Herod the Great, Stephen Moyer as Pontius Pilate, Rufus Sewell as Caiaphas, John Rhys Davies as Annas, and several other well-known actors.
You can learn more about "Killing Jesus" at the interactive website: http://killingjesus.nationalgeographic.com.