TV and film producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are known as the husband and wife duo responsible for some of the most popular faith-based entertainment of late, creating “The Bible,” “A.D.” and “Son of God,” among other projects.
But just as captivating as the stories they tell on the big and small screens are their intriguing personal back stories. Did you know both Burnett and Downey took some surprising jobs after they immigrated to America? Both shared their very personal — and inspirational — stories earlier this year during a keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast.
Burnett, who has gone on to produce shows like “Survivor,” “The Voice” and “The Apprentice,” described how his first job after leaving Britain and moving to Los Angeles in 1982 was as a live-in nanny. Saying he had no real skills at the time, Burnett, then 22, responded to an ad for the job, which paid $125 per week and included a room, a car and a TV.
Considering his newfound arrival in the U.S., Burnett was desperate — and was surprised when he landed the gig (he also sold T-shirts in Venice Beach, California, to make ends meat).
“I began the next day in America as a domestic-help nanny housekeeper,” he said. “It’s just really amazing.”
It was that simple position that ended up giving him a springboard from which to achieve the American dream. Decades later, when he became president of the MGM Television and Digital Group, it all came full circle, as he realized he could see the house where he nannied from his office — something that truly stunned him.
“This can only happen in America!” Burnett told the audience. “It’s the American dream.”
Downey, too, shared a similar story about her journey from Northern Ireland to America, explaining how she initially worked checking coats at a nice restaurant, where she received small tips. But just a few years later, she, too, had the chance to live out the American dream, moving to Los Angeles and starring in the popular show “Touched By an Angel.”
“Checking coats one minute,” she quipped. “Starring on TV the next.”
Watch Burnett and Downey discuss how they achieved the American dream below:
When Downey received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this year, she spoke once again about her decision to come to America, saying she arrived in the U.S. with a heart “full of hope,” the BBC reported.
“The American dream meant to me freedom and opportunity and like many immigrants before me this great country has offered me the opportunity to make my dreams come true.” she said.
Read more about Burnett and Downey and their immigration stories here.
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