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AOL Chat Transcript for September 1999

In Heaven: Welcome to HEAVEN live!

We're here with Touched By An Angel Executive Producer Martha Williamson and co-stars Roma Downey, Della Reese, and John Dye. We're talking about TBAA's season premiere, which focuses on the issue of Sudanese slavery. Roma, Della, John and Martha, we are so pleased to have you joining us here tonight. Welcome!

TBA Cast: Thank you " it's a pleasure

Question: What is the storyline for the Season opener?

Roma: Lindsey Crouse is our guest star playing a senator who has to deal with a question of conscience about how to help the Sudanense and follow her conscience or make a more pragmatic choice for action.

Question: What are the causes you champion in real life?

Roma: I'm sure that we all have different causes that we each are passionate about. As the mother of a small child, I tend to put my energies into charities concerning children. I am also involved in the pursuit of peace in my home country of Northern Ireland.

John: I have been working with a documentary called "Journey To A Hate Free Millennium," and we have our world premiere in Fort Collins, Colorado on October 12th, and then in Los Angeles on the 14th at the Simon Weisenthal Center, Museum of Tolerance.

Della: I work with things that have to do with high blood pressure and diabetic conditions. I also work with the spirituality of people. I teach metaphysics and pastor a church.

Question: I Love the show! What is it like doing a show like Touched By an Angel?

John: It's a very good thing! It's wonderful to be able to do a show like TBAA.

Della: It's very seldom you get paid for doing what you love and telling the truth at the same time. It seems they don't often coincide.

Question: John Dye, May I ask where do you want to go from here with your career? KSadyLady

John: I'm pretty happy with what I'm doing now. I enjoy it and get to work with people whom I not only respect but love. It's rare and important and I appreciate it. I'm not sure it gets better than this.

Question: Hi! I was just wondering.. what do you have in store for this season?

Della: We don't have anything 'in store'. We might have a script planned for next week and then something important might happen, and we address that then. We don't have scripts planned that we intend to do " that keeps it fresh.

Question: Out of all the shows you have done, what is your favorite? I liked the episode with Montel Williams. It was very touching. All of your shows are great and I want to be an Actor some day.

Roma: My favorite was the series finale last year on dealing with civil rights in China. It was a 2 hour special which gave us a little longer to tell the story than we normally have. I thought it was intelligent, thought provoking and very moving.

Question: John, Being that you are one of the sexiest men in television, do you think that might over shadow your amazing talent in some eyes? i.e.,:casting directors, etc... KSadyLady

John: I only wish that were true. If that overshadows it, let the shadows come!

Comment: this is a great show my whole family watches the show

TBAA Cast: Thank you!

Question: Roma, Being that this is, so far, the biggest project in your career are you afraid you will be typecast into this kind of role for the rest of your career? KSadyLady

Roma: I'm delighted to be on the show. I have done many other projects during hiatus over the last few years where I have been allowed to play a wide array of characters, from romantic comedy in Borrowed Hearts to period costume drama of Teacher Annie Sullivan. Upcoming this season on CBS I will be seen in a suspenseful drama called "Test of Love."

Question: I want to know if you all feel closer to God from being a part of this show

Della: I have been a Christian all my life but it's impossible to be so deeply involved in these stories without it making you think again and without it making you consciously aware of the people involved. Each week from a different point of view you get another look at God and that's exciting to me.

John: I'm going to plagiarize Oprah here, but when we did Oprah about 3 years ago, she said it's a great joy to take her work home with her. Every week we get the great joy of being able to say God loves you, and that's a great joy for me.

Roma: I was born and raised a Catholic in Ireland. God is, was and always shall be a very important part of my life, and it is a joy to be able to remind people every week of God's love for them.

Question: Do you believe in the character you play?

Della: I believe in Tess - I absolutely do!

Roma: Of course! We are about to premiere with our 6th season this coming Sunday, so over the years I've grown very fond of Monica.

John: I'm not an angel...and I try really hard to imitate Andrew. The longer I get to hang out with this character, the more I like him. I admire his compassion, strength and reserve. He makes me a better man. Or at least I hope so.

Question: How did the issue of slavery in Sudan become the focus of this episode?

Martha: People often tell me great story ideas, and someone mentioned to me that there was slavery going on in the world today. I was shocked to hear about it. I did some investigating and learned about the abuses going on in Sudan. Then last year I was in Washington, DC and a delegation of Congress people and Senators tracked me down in a cafe and asked me to consider writing that story. It seemed like a very big subject, but God cares about everything, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

Question: Will future episodes continue to serve as vehicles for increasing awareness and encouraging people to get involved?

John: I hope so, because if we can't make a difference, I think we're all wasting our time.

Della: We have made people in the industry and the people that see us aware that God loves them. What we want to do now is to keep them consciously aware. We want to be a place where, and when there's no place else, you can turn us on and know that He's there, He cares and He's going to do something about it.

Question: Were the cast and crew familiar with the issue before?

Roma: Most of us were not. It was an education and an eye-opening experience for all of us, and profoundly humbling for us that take our freedom for granted.

Question: Do all of you realize that your show gives millions of people hope for better days?

Della: I know that when someone stops me in an airport or supermarket or ladies room and says "your show saved me, or your show put our family back together," I'm just overwhelmed by it.

Question: How has this episode and the issues it deals with affected you?

John: I know personally I'm one of those guys who considers myself aware and conscious. I read a lot of newspapers, watch CNN and CNBC, and all these outlets which give us so much information, and I was vastly ignorant, and that's surprising.

Question: What part of this episode was the most memorable part for you?

Della: While we were shooting it there was a tornado in Salt Lake City, UT. It was very memorable!!

Question: are your episodes ever based on true life experiences?

John: Every one of them are.

Question: hey!! I love your show!!! I was just wondering why doesn't Monica sing more? I think she has a great voice!!!

Roma: We have an ongoing joke on TBAA that Monica was kicked out of the celestial choir, because I, in fact, cannot sing. However, I like to sing and I have recorded an album on which I do not sing, to everyone's relief in this room. It's called "Healing Angels" and it's available on CD.

Question: Will you publish a new CD anytime soon??

Roma: I've no immediate plans to do so, but never say never. But there is another Touched By An Angel album coming out for Christmas.

John: I've heard her album and I liked it very much. It's quite moving " we're not prejudiced at all, but if you don't buy it you're in big trouble!

Della: I liked it too.

Question: For the whole cast: Is there anything about you that you think might surprise your fans? KSadyLady

Della: Well if so, I'm not going to tell it!

Roma: I know that when I meet strangers who are fans of the show they are always surprised at how small I am...but I'm really 7'3"... No, really...5' 4".

John: Roma was not born Roma...she was born Rodney... And she's from Missoula, MT...

In Heaven: LOL!

Question: Hey!! I LOVE your show.....Do you think you will be having more musical guests on the show?

Martha: We're going to be having Charlotte Church, the marvelous 13 year old classical prodigy. And the really big news is that we will also be having in November a special guest appearance by N'Sync.

John: In case anyone's missed this point, we've had the biggest prodigy ever for the last 6 seasons...Della Reese.

Question: I just love the show it really makes you think ..I wondered why do you think that this kind of show became as popular as it is ..

John: I was talking to a a friend of mine last week. He said 'I think the 60s were about drugs, the 70s were about sex, the 80s were about all kinds of stuff, and the 90s will be about spirituality,' so I think we've kind of hit on that.

Question: Sometimes when you do religious shows they're some incidents that has happen, has anything strange/evil/miraculous ever happen?

Martha: Not counting the tornado?

John: It didn't affect us that much, though.

Question: How did you get the idea to do this show?

Martha: CBS had been interested in doing an angels series for several years in the early 90s and they made a pilot but weren't really sure what they wanted to say and it didn't test well. So they went back to the drawing board and we ended up with what you have now.

Question: do you think this show effects the morality of young people in todays society?

Martha: I think that the show certainly challenges children and teenagers to consider alternatives to a lot of the social pressures that they've been subjected to. Particularly in recent years with the advent of the Internet.

Question: Every season, there seems to be an incredible variety of guest stars on the show; who will we be seeing this year?

Martha: It's a surprise, but we have some very big surprises coming up.

John: It's kind of a switch but we always have a lot of people coming to us wanting to be on the show, and that's a challenge, working with their schedule.

Question: Do any of you believe in real angels?

Della: I do believe in angels. I don't see how I possibly could have come from where I entered the planet to where I am now if there had not been angels along the way.

Question: How do you feel about the cast and show? Is it like your family?

Della: Well we know how to act right; we like each other. (laughing)

John: It is a great pleasure for me to go to work each day with people I love and respect so much. I didn't leave my mother, I just replaced her with Della, and Roma is the sister I never had with 3 brothers. And Martha is the other sister. (laughing)

In Heaven: Thank you ALL so much for being here with us tonight, we REALLY enjoyed it! Any closing comments? Martha: Watch Sunday night the season premiere at 8PM ET and PT, 7PM CT and MT, and Larry King live tonight on CNN - check local listings.

In Heaven: Thank you so much, from HEAVEN! TBA Cast: Thank you!

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