Belfast Telegraph

Roma Downey: It's seen a lot of changes but Derry's still my kind of town

BY BRENDAN McDAID

Actress and multi-millionaire Roma Downey has breezed into her native Londonderry for the first time in two years.

The Hollywood star returned to Northern Ireland to meet with City of Culture bosses over a potential collaboration on cultural projects.

The US-based star of Touched By An Angel is half of the UK and Ireland's richest movie couple.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph on her arrival for a meeting with the chairman of the Culture Company, Martin Bradley, and Derry mayor Martin Reilly, the actress said she was amazed at how the city had been transformed.

Despite recently being unveiled as Ireland's top earning female in the entertainment business, the 52-year-old showed no airs and graces as she hugged relatives, friends and local priest Fr Paddy O'Kane at the Guildhall yesterday morning.

Ms Downey is now worth almost £300m along with her her fourth husband, Essex-born US TV mogul Mark Burnett, making her one of the richest people in the British Isles.

Mr Burnett created shows such as The Apprentice in the US.

Bogside native and the former Thornhill College pupil Roma shot to fame for her portrayal as Jackie Kennedy in an Emmy-winning US mini-series and then later as the angel Monica in US smash series Touched By An Angel.

This year saw the release of the $22m mini-series The Bible, which was produced by the couple.

The first few episodes have been watched by a staggering 100 million people and it is today the number one most downloaded TV series on iTunes and the number two best seller on Amazon

Ms Downey – herself a committed Christian – stars in her second major religious role as Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the epic series.

The Derry woman was an early advocate of the city's bid to become the UK City of Culture and sent video messages from the US welcoming the award.

She said she was delighted to see it now bearing fruit for Derry.

"The city looks beautiful," she said. "It seems so alive and vibrant. Isn't it fantastic what is happening.

"There is a real transformation and I am so thrilled. I hear it has been really great, really valuable for tourism.

"I am staying at the City Hotel and it is as good as any hotel I have stayed in anywhere in the world."

Mr Bradley yesterday presented Ms Downey with a collection of children's books developed as part of the Return of Colmcille celebrations.

Presenting the mayor with commemorative books based on her Bible series, Ms Downey said she was amazed at the public response to the mini-series project.

Mr Bradley said he was delighted Ms Downey had managed to make the trip home during 2013.

"I will be taking her around the Millennium Forum and we will be discussing progressing a couple of projects," he said.

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