New audio Bible read by star-laden black cast Samuel L. Jackson has role of God; T.D. Jakes plays the Holy Spirit

By ADELLE M. BANKS (Religion Editor)

In a new audio Bible, the Holy Trinity has some familiar voices: actor Samuel L. Jackson plays God; actor Blair Underwood performs the role of Jesus and Bishop T.D. Jakes renders the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament portion of "Inspired By ...The Bible Experience" arrived in stores the first week of October. The all-black cast takes on the characters of the Bible, backed with music and realistic sounds to bring printed words to life.

The executive producers of the project hope the audio translation will reach a generation less interested in opening the printed pages of the Bible.

"We wanted to create a project, a Bible experience that would communicate to a young generation, and so we felt that we needed to create an urban product to do that," said Lou "Buster" Brown, co-founder of the Inspired By Media Group and one of the four executive producers of the audio Bible.

"While it is an all-black cast, it's not a black product by any means, because when you listen to it, you don't hear color," he said. "You hear the word of God."

The 19-CD package, which retails for $49.99, is expected to be followed next fall by an Old Testament dramatization. Both books are re-enactments of the Today's New International Version, a Zondervan translation.

Among the first people cast were movie stars Denzel Washington and Angela Bassett and Underwood, who played Jesus in an independent film.

Washington and his wife, Pauletta, recite Song of Solomon, the eight-chapter poetic dialogue between lovers. Bassett reads the stories of Jesus' Nativity and Resurrection.

Paul Caminiti, vice president at Zondervan, said audio Bibles have been a staple of his company, but the talent recruited for this version doesn't compare to past productions.

Jakes' Holy Spirit lines appear in four books of the Bible. Among them is one from Hebrews that reads: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."

Actors in some of the less heroic parts range from Cuba Gooding Jr., who plays Judas, to Eartha Kitt, who reads the part of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

Jackson, whose earthly roles have ranged from a foul-mouthed hitman in "Pulp Fiction" to a Jedi knight in "Star Wars," was originally cast as an angel. He asked to be promoted to God in the New Testament.

His lines include the scene of Jesus' Jordan River baptism: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well-pleased."