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Biography of Roma Downey

Roma Downey was born in the early 1960's on the 6th of May in Derry City, County Derry, Northern Ireland to Patrick "Paddy" and Maureen Downey. She is the youngest of six children. Her father Paddy had four children, John, Patrick Jr., Ann, and Jacinta, when his first wife died. He married Roma's mother, Maureen, and they had two children, Lawrence (who is four years older then Roma) and Roma. She grew-up in a three-bedroom brick row house in a working-class area of Derry. She attended a Catholic convent school. Her father was a schoolteacher and her mother a homemaker.

One of Roma's deepest sorrows was, at the age of 10, losing her mother to a heart attack. She has said, "It was devastating. One day she was there and the next she was gone."

It also wasn't easy for her growing up in Northern Ireland's Catholic minority in the 1970's. Her family personally experienced the violence of the Troubles. Her family witnessed "Bloody Sunday", January 30, 1972, one of the bloodiest events in recent Irish history. There was an illegal civil-rights march and the British Army shot into the crowd and killed 13 people. She knew some of the men killed. Despite all of this, she has said that there was alot of love in her home and in the community.

With her father's encouragement, she attended Brighton Art College in England. She studied painting, but discovered that she really enjoyed drama. After graduating from Brighton, she met a theater director, Roy Grant, who convinced her that she should take her talent to the London Drama School. She was denied a grant to continue her education and Grant and two other teaches pooled their savings and offered to pay her tuition. They told her that it was 'an investment', not a loan, and that they believed in her. Her father gave his blessing as long as Roma worked hard and proved to these people that she was worth their confidence. Well, she certainly has done both!

In 1985, while she was attending the drama school, her father died (another great sorrow) and didn't get to see her graduate -- winning The Most Promising Student of the Year Award.

Shortly after the death of her father, Roma eloped with an American classmate, Leland Orser. They were married in Rome. They moved to New York City and the marriage fell apart. They divorced in 1989.

She was very sad and was thinking about returning to Ireland, when Rex Harrison cast her in his Broadway production of The Circle.

She didn't work again for two years and found herself working as a hat-check girl in a Manhattan restaurant while auditioning for commercials.

Her next break came in 1991 by landing the starring role in the TV mini-series A Woman Named Jackie. She thought that this would be her big break, but people ended up thinking of her "as the actress that played Jackie Kennedy". They didn't even remember her name!

She did a few movies, including a cable movie with Bryan Brown called Devlin in 1992, which is one of my personal favorites. I, also, enjoyed when she played the Queen of the Amazons in Hercules and the Amazon Women with Kevin Sorbo.

In 1994, she received the script for the pilot of Touched by an Angel. And although the show had a rocky start (it premiered to low ratings and disastrous reviews), it went to the top of the ratings with a huge fan following. The show ended it's nine year run in the spring of 2003.

Roma met producer David Anspaugh in 1994 on a blind date. They were married November 24, 1995 and they have a beautiful daughter, Reilly Marie, who was born on June 3rd, 1996. Della Reese was given the honor of being her godmother. Sadly, the marriage ended in divorce in March of 1998. I have chosen not to include any of the details of this very painful experience for Roma, out of respect for her.

Roma has said that 1998 was a tough year for her, but now she and David have come to a place of healing and they have their beautiful daughter Reilly.

Roma was heard saying in interviews that she'd like to marry again and have more children. She has said, "If there is anybody out there for me, he's got to love my kid."

For numerous years, Roma lived with her daughter, Reilly, in a beautiful, rambling country-style home in Salt Lake City, Utah, which was where theTouched an an Angel series was filmed. When Touched by an Angel ended it's 9 year run, she and Reilly moved in June 2003 to Southern California to her beach house in Malibu, California. Being raised in Ireland she has a great love for the ocean and enjoys being able to live in Malibu full-time.

In 2004 she started dating Mark Burnett. Her dreams of marriage and more children came true when she married television producer/entrepreneur Mark Burnett and became a stepmother to his 2 sons. On Thanksgiving Day 2006, Burnett proposed to Downey during a family vacation in Zihuatanejo Mexico. They wed on 28 April 2007 on the grounds of their Malibu estate which over-looks the ocean. Her Touched by An Angel co-star, Della Reese, officiated at the wedding. Mark Burnett is the producer of many popular reality-based shows including Survivor.

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Last Updated July 2011.