The CBS miniseries adaptation of Alice Hoffman’s 2011 bestseller The Dovekeepers will premiere over two nights March 31 and April 1. Appearing with some of her cast at today’s Television Critics Association press tour, Roma Downey (who coproduced the project with husband Mark Burnett under their LightWorkers Media banner) said the mini’s debut immediately following NCIS was chosen in part to capitalize on The Dovekeepers star — and former NCIS favorite — Coté de Pablo’s fan base.
The Dovekeepers brings to life Hoffman’s stunning tale of a group of extraordinary women whose lives intersect in a fight for their lives in Masada, an ancient mountaintop fortification overlooking the Dead Sea in Israel. After being forced out of their homes in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 C.E., they are among the 900 Jews who escaped to Masada to evade the Roman armies. The miniseries recounts the events from the perspective of the women, who keep the doves that are essential to the community’s agriculture at Masada — and keep plenty of secrets, too.
Downey said the genesis for the series came from a journey she took to Masada several years ago. Moved by the plight of its doomed people and the idea that “the power of courage was greater than fear and faith and love was greater than hate and that sacrifice can be greater than the power of war,” she reached out to Hoffman to secure the rights to the book, then brought the project to CBS chief Nina Tassler. Coincidentally, Tassler herself had just returned from Masada and gave Downey the go-ahead.
“We’re most interested in telling stories that find light in the darkness,” said Downey of LightWorkers. “Dovekeepers is really a love story — a love story set against the backdrop of this incredible tragedy.”
Downey said that the mini will remain true to the spirit and essence of Hoffman’s novel, but condense the story to fit its four-hour timeframe. Dovekeepers filmed primarily in Malta, with a bit of additional film work in Masada itself and the Jordan desert.
Rachel Brosnahan, who plays Yael, said the unique light and extreme heat of Malta helped the cast embrace the circumstances in which the Masada residents were living. And while she admits she was unsure about her avian costars at first, she eventually bonded with one in particular — a female named Gertrude. “We hung out!” she beamed. “She was lovely!”
Downey said the feel of the miniseries, which she says features impressive CGI elements, is epic in the fashion of historical films of the past. But Brosnahan adds that focusing on “these individual stories bring the scope in very, very small.”
“I think, in the end, The Dovekeepers is a story about love and hope — and everyone can relate to that,” concludes de Pablo.
The Dovekeepers airs Tuesday, March 31 and Wednesday, April 1, from 9-11pm ET/PT on the CBS Television Network.
Photos: Kurt Arrigo/CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.