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Karen Kingsbury’s Bestselling Book Series, ‘The Baxters’, Comes to Life in New TV Series Starring Roma Downey

Stream on Prime Video starting March 28th!

Everyone knows that a great book can take you on an amazing journey. For actress, author and producer Roma Downey, a gift from a friend led to the new TV series The Baxters, which launches the first 10 episodes March 28 on Prime Video.

“I came to the series really as a fan of the books,” Roma tells Woman’s World of the Karen Kingsbury series. “A friend had given me the first book, Redemption, and I was reading it on a flight from LA to New York. I just fell in love with the family. I fell in love with the characters. I thought the plots were exciting and dynamic and I just loved how relatable they all were.  It was telling the story of a family of faith. People who went to church, but not perfect people, not pious people. They are just regular people like you and me with the same problems and challenges that we all have, but they come together. Even when they don’t like each other, they always love each other. It is such a great portrayal of family.”

Roma admits as she was reading the book, the wheels started turning and she began thinking about bringing the books to the screen. “I had visuals in my mind. I thought this has to be a TV series,” Roma recalls. “So I reached out to Karen. I didn’t know her at the time, but I reached out to her and asked her if she would consider letting me have the rights to the books to bring it to the screen.”

As the two women discussed the project, Karen confided something that really touched Roma’s heart.

Redemption was the first one I wrote about the Baxter family, and I have a picture of my dad reading it on a park bench,” Karen tells Woman’s World. “He was absorbed in it and when he got finished reading it and he said, ‘Karen, this is so good. This needs to be a TV show and you should call that Touched By an Angel woman, Roma Downey. I am confident that she would love to make a TV show on this.’ This was in 2001. I said, ‘Great idea Dad! Do you know her number because I don’t have her number?’ 

“Then fast forward. My dad had already gone to heaven, and it was maybe 2015 when I got a call from Roma Downey in that beautiful Irish voice and she said, ‘Hello Karen, I would like to have your blessing to make the Baxters into a TV show.’ I was hoping my dad had a definite window from heaven in that moment.”

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Bringing The Baxters to life

When Karen shared that story with Roma, she knew it was meant to be. “He thought that I would be the person to make the TV series. When I heard that, I just knew that there was serendipity in play. On Touched By an Angel, we used to say that coincidence was God’s way of remaining anonymous and I loved it. I loved the coincidence of that.

Karen Kingsbury and Roma Downey at The Baxters premiere
Karen Kingsbury and Roma Downey speak onstage at The Baxters premiereDanielle Del Valle/Getty Images for Prime Video

“So Karen agreed to entrust me with the TV rights,” Roma continues, “and I set about gathering a fabulous team. Obviously, it takes a village to make a series and I brought in some great writers, directors and producers. Then we started casting. Karen was available for consulting whenever we needed her. She was very generous with her time and incredibly helpful during the process.

Roma continues, “I felt that as we put this family together it was important that they had physical similarities so that the audience would believe that this group of people were in fact related to each other. It was a lovely process finding each one of these up-and-coming talented young people who all bring such uniqueness to each of these roles.”

The Baxters TV Show poster
Amazon MGM Studios

When it came to casting Elizabeth Baxter, Roma knew exactly who should play the matriarch. “I thought, I know this woman. I know her well. Maybe I should just step into this part myself,” she says. “Elizabeth has a mother’s heart, which I can relate to as a mom myself, and we see how compassionate and how much empathy she has for her children when they are going through heartache. We see how feisty she is and defensive if anybody from the outside is trying to harm any of her children.”

“Most of all what I love about her is she’s a prayer warrior,” Roma says. “She’s not afraid to stop what she’s doing and call on the Lord, call in prayer to bless her children and to watch over her family. I haven’t been on a series since I did Touched By an Angel and to be back in front of the camera, as well as behind it, was a lot of fun for me.”

Finding the perfect cast

The cast includes Ted McGinley as patriarch John Baxters with Ali Cobrin as Kari Baxter Jacobs, Josh Plasse as Luke Baxter, Masey McLain as Ashley Baxter, Emily Peterson as Brooke Baxter West, Roma’s daughter Reilly Anspaugh as Erin Baxter, Cassidy Gifford portrays Reagan Decker, Brandon Hirsch is Tim Jacobs and Jake Allyn is Ryan Taylor. “The Baxters have five adult children,” Roma says. “Ted McGinley’s name came up and we brought him in to play John Baxter. Ted represents American masculinity, very steady, very reliable, very loving and is a great choice for that role.”

(L-R) Ali Cobrin, Roma Downey, Karen Kingsbury, Brandon Hirsch, Asher Morrissette, Cassidy Gifford and Kathie Lee Gifford attend "The Baxters" special screening for fans and readers
(L-R) Ali Cobrin, Roma Downey, Karen Kingsbury, Brandon Hirsch, Asher Morrissette, Cassidy Gifford and Kathie Lee Gifford attend The Baxters premiereGetty/Danielle Del Valle/Stringer

Roma’s motherly role extends off screen as well. “I particularly love this cast I worked with,” she smiles. “There was a lot of joy on set, a lot of good friendships struck up and in the years since Touched By an Angel, I have moved into the Della Reese role becoming the elder actor on the set. And I’ve tried to mentor and be encouraging and helpful to this young cast when I could. They are really a talented bunch of kids.  I think they’ve all done a great job.”

Roma Downey and Ali Cobrin attend "The Baxters" special screening
Roma Downey and Ali Cobrin attend The Baxters special screeningGetty/Danielle Del Valle/Stringer

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Karen is pleased with how the show has come together. “It’s been a long journey, a long process, but I have been privileged to see everything that’s been created so far and it’s just so good,” she smiles.  “It’s griping and it’s real. There are five young adults. They are making some bad decisions. They are being human like we all are and so I feel like it’s a different kind of show where you have praying parents who are leaning in and loving and showing grace and young adults who are making their way and sometimes making the worst decision of their life, but finding the hope and grace that you only find through God and family.”

On the red carpet at the recent premiere of the new film Someone Like You, based on Karen’s book of the same name (in theaters April 2nd), Cassidy Gifford spoke to WW about joining The Baxters cast. “To be honest it was Roma and Karen being a part of it,” she says when asked what drew her to the role of Reagan Decker.

Cassidy Gifford and Ali Corbin at the Someone Like You movie premiere
Cassidy Gifford (left) and Ali Corbin (right) at the Someone Like You movie premiereDanielle Del Valle/Getty Images for Someone Like You Movie

“Then when I read the book, it was just the sweet spirit of Reagan. And it was just so fun meeting Roma because I had known about Roma forever. She’s been friends with my mom [Kathie Lee Gifford], but I really appreciate the freedom that they gave me to make Reagan a little bit my own. That was wonderful.  You’re not always afforded that opportunity especially when something was adapted from a book. I just feel very, very blessed to be a part of it.”

Roma refers to the show as a “hope opera,” as opposed to a soap opera. “We see a family come together and that’s one of the lovely things about this series is that we see a family modeled well. The series plays out like a great hope opera,” she says. “We anticipate that Easter weekend there will be a lot of families across the United States curled up on their couch, in the comfort of their own homes, binging on The Baxters.

“When Karen wrote her books, she designed them in a way that you can’t wait to get to the next chapter,” Roma continues. “You want to know what happens next. You want to find out what happens next, so we obviously wanted to create that in the TV series as well that you would no sooner finish an episode then you’d want to see the next episode. With the streaming capabilities now, The Baxters will be there, already dropped and you’ll be able to binge and watch multiple episodes when it first goes up.”

The Baxters is a full family affair

Roma says over the years when fans have come up to her to talk to her about Touched By An Angel, they don’t just remember the show, but who they watched it with. It was a family affair for most people, and she’s hoping The Baxters will be as well.

“Our viewing habits have changed because people are watching things on their phone or their laptop so that family moment of coming together and watching something has altered slightly,” Roma says. “We’ve become more isolated in our viewing patterns, but my hope for The Baxters is that families will get together on the couch and make it a shared experience, and maybe say, ‘Mom, I’m coming over. Let’s watch The Baxters together,’ particularly because there are so many mother and daughter themes written into the story.”

“Kathie Lee Gifford and her daughter Cassidy are both in the series, and you have me and my daughter Reilly, who plays Erin Baxter. There’s a lot of mother/daughter stuff going on so I hope that maybe some moms and daughters can get together this Easter and watch together.”

Roma Downey (left) and Kathie Lee Gifford (right) at The Baxters special screening premiere
Roma Downey (left) and Kathie Lee Gifford (right) at The Baxters special screening premiereDanielle Del Valle/Getty Images for Prime Video

Cassidy agrees that’s the show’s strength. “A family rooted in faith is one of the most important things in the world,” she says. “You can get through it all together if you lean on one another, ask for help and put your faith in the Lord.”

Roma hopes the show will have broad-based appeal. “I think people of all faiths will enjoy the show because it’s relatable as a family drama,” she says. “I think that particularly people of faith will love to see our values reflected on the screen. Don’t they say the family that prays together, stays together? We’re going to see that sort of play out in The Baxters.”

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