Diogo Morgado is likely the first actor ever trending on Twitter for portraying Jesus of Nazareth. Certainly he's the only one inspiring the hashtag #HotJesus.
Morgado, 34, is a Portuguese model and telenovela hunk accustomed to being ogled. That can't be avoided when you're the spitting image of Brad Pitt, with an exotic accent, too.
"First of all, I take it as a compliment, obviously," Morgado said by telephone from a Son of God media stop in Miami. "Normally, the first comment (from viewers) is: 'Hi, hot Jesus,' and the second will be: 'I loved your work and what you've done with the story of Jesus.' That means the most to me."
"But I must say that whatever makes the story more effective to get a wider audience, I applaud."
Morgado first played Jesus on 2013's History channel miniseries The Bible, now edited for the big screen and augmented with fresh footage. Immediately his looks became a topic of interest but, he hopes, not a distraction from a devoutly crafted performance. The Jesus in Son of God broods less, smiles more than previous movie incarnations, clearly intended to make a deity more approachable.
"I got this privilege of having Oprah (Winfrey) say this is what she imagines Jesus would be like," Morgado said. "But the first thing out of her mouth was 'hot Jesus.' (laughs) I take it as a manifestation of love for the project. The story is about love. And I think all demonstrations of love are valid."
Morgado said with the exception of his son's birth in 2009, playing Jesus is "the most impactful experience" of his life. He claims to have had an out-of-body experience of sorts while filming the crucifixion scenes, leaving him without "a visual, rational memory of probably 80 percent" of three days spent on the sequence.
"I grew up as a Christian, so I was obviously familiar with the Bible and all the stories in Jesus' life," he said. "But you grow up taking things for granted ... not thinking truthfully about what it means. As an adult, you come back to what you think you know and you need to know more.
"That was something that blew my mind and spirit. I found myself rediscovering my own spirituality and my own faith."
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.