"We were going through an awful lot of plastic water bottles, grabbing them out of the fridge, and we had all these half finished bottles around the house," says Roma Downey, who came up with a great solution: "We keep pitchers of water on the kitchen counter, in our bathroom, in the kids' rooms. It's working with a great degree of success," she reports, adding that she uses cloth grocery bags and her home's roof has solar panels. "They don't power the whole house, but they supplement," she says. "We have a mind and a consciousness about it. Every little bit helps. We have an obligation not just to our children and our children's children, but to our planet. It's too easy to think it's going to be somebody else's problem."
Downey's concern for children is behind her latest project "Little Angels," a DVD series that teaches pre-schoolers basic skills and faith-based values, using Bible stories as lessons. Inspired by a prayer her father recited to her as a child that she, as the voice of the mother in the series, says to her son and daughter. When she's out of sight, the titular cherubs, depicted in a ceiling mural, come to life to teach the kids about the alphabet, numbers and animals in the first three of a planned ongoing series (shapes and colors are next).
"They're teaching the children practical life skills, things we'd call traditional family values, things we hope our children are learning to make them good citizens of the world, while bringing the Bible to life," says Downey, noting that the series received the Golden Seal of Approval from Mothers of Pre-Schoolers. She hopes that the recommendation "will show parents and grandparents that this content will not only educate but elevate, and that they can trust it to support the values they're already teaching in their homes."
Downey, who appears in DVD extras called "Little Life Lessons" in each DVD, consulted with educators and child psychologists on the series. "They encouraged me to share the message that the important thing is to listen to the children when they experience fears and always make the child feel safe." Each DVD comes with a digital version downloadable for devices, and the LittleAngels.com website features games and extras like printable valentines for Valentine's Day. CDs and books are forthcoming, as are a Bible and toy line.
"I'm committed to this for the long haul. I'm hoping it will be a lifetime of work for me," says Downey. That doesn't mean she's given up acting, however — she stars in the Hallmark Channel movie "Second Honeymoon" with Tim Matheson on Feb. 18. But she will concentrate on producing in the near future as she has a massive project in the works with her husband, reality TV mogul Mark Burnett.
In creating "Little Angels," Downey had input from Burnett, whose latest edition of "Survivor" premieres this week on CBS (Feb. 15), and they're currently collaborating on a Bible series for the History Channel that will be shot docudrama style and premiere next spring. "I'll be leaving in March to go to Morocco. We're shooting Genesis through Revelation. I couldn't be more excited," says Downey. "It will be 10 hours and I'm hoping it will air in five two-hour blocks."
In addition to reenactments, the series will feature experts "who will set it in a historical context so that the audience can understand what was really going on in the Holy Land at the time." As for narration, "The ideal voice would be Morgan Freeman," who of course has played God. "I played an angel, a very poor second, I think," laughs Downey, referencing her most famous role, in "Touched By an Angel." It's a huge undertaking, she acknowledges. "I'm really humbled, scared to death and excited all at the same time. But as person of faith, it's right up my alley."