“Traditionally Jesus has been played by a white man and I think the fact that this is a Middle-Eastern actor is significant,” Matthew Belloni, executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter, told ABC News.
Grammer will portray King Herod and Moyer, best known for “True Blood,” will portray Pontius Pilate in the TV film, set to start filming this fall.
National Geographic Channel turned two of O’Reilly’s previous books – “Killing Lincoln” and “Killing Kennedy” – into ratings success stories but whether they can do it again with “Killing Jesus” is an open question.
O’Reilly says “Killing Jesus” is a history book about Jesus the man, not the Messiah.
The book has faced criticism from evangelicals.
“It would be impossible to accurately discuss Jesus Christ without bringing faith into the picture,” said Pastor Dan Delzell, a columnist for The Christian Post.
“Killing Jesus” will air in 171 countries and 45 languages next year when it premieres on National Geographic Channel.