Sara Lazarro: Playing the Mother of Jesus Teaches the Universality of Love and Family

A scene from the film "The Young Messiah," by Focus Features. Adam Greaves-Neal as the young Jesus and Sara Lazzaro portrays his mother, the Virgin Mary. (Focus Features)
A scene from the film “The Young Messiah,” by Focus Features. Adam Greaves-Neal as the young Jesus and Sara Lazzaro portrays his mother, the Virgin Mary. (Focus Features)

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.

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

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