Roma Downey was just 10 years old when she first found solace in her faith - a devotion which has weaved its way through her life and shaped much of her Hollywood career.
The Derry born actress, author and producer, renowned for her award-winning role in CBS show Touched by an Angel and epic biblical productions with husband Mark Burnett, was left grief-stricken when her beloved mum Maureen died suddenly from a heart attack in 1970.
The loss had a profound impact on the young Roma; her childhood innocence and security replaced overnight by anguish and fear. But her father Paddy's strong faith reassured her and she clung onto the hope that she would see her mum again. The 'promise of heaven' kept her going through those dark days.
Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph from her home in Southern California, Roma says: "My mother was such a light in my life, she was laughter and joy.
"When she died unexpectedly from a heart attack, that light went out and the music stopped.
"My father was a devout person, who actively encouraged us to pray and go to church. We found a lot of solace and comfort in that for sure.
"If I hadn't had that hope; that promise of heaven, I really don't know how I would have coped. There's great power and reassurance in that belief, particularly for anyone who has lost a loved one. It made me believe that all was not lost."
The former Thornhill College pupil went off to Brighton to study art, before moving to London to attend drama school. But while there, she was dealt another devastating blow when her father passed away without seeing her graduate as Most Promising Student. Again Roma, the youngest of six children, dug deep. But at this stage in her life, her faith was more a peripheral aspect than integral. Still, prayer helped her deal with her father's death.
After touring the US in the Abbey Players' production of The Playboy of the Western World, Roma was encouraged by an agent to relocate to New York. She was cast in more shows, including The Circle with Rex Harrison. Work was quiet for a while but then she landed the part of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the television miniseries, A Woman Named Jackie, which won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries.
Roma's big break, however, came when she was cast in the CBS series Touched by an Angel, playing the part of the angel Monica.
But while it would be easy to presume the spiritual nature of the series was the draw, Roma says this wasn't the case.
"In the early Nineties, when I landed the role of Monica, I wasn't a religious person on a mission," she tells me, her accent still recognisably Northern Irish.
"I was looking for a job. I had rent to pay; a car to pay for; normal things out-of-work actors must think about.
"But that particular role required empathy and compassion; those were the qualities the angels needed to display constantly.
"I felt those were the gifts that grief had given me. I knew what loss was. I had suffered and grieved and that give me the ability to feel compassion and to express empathy.
"I truly believe that the show made my faith much stronger. At its centre was a simple message that God loves you and wants to be a part of your life.
"I know that to be true. That same message is embedded in all the shows we do."
In 2007 Roma married Mark Burnett in Malibu. A British producer and former solider, he created the American reality TV show The Apprentice, hosted by former US President Donald Trump.
Around 10 years ago, the couple, who have three grown up children between them, set up Lightworkers Media, a faith and family production company and a division of MGM. The company has produced numerous faith-based television shows and films, including the Emmy-nominated The Bible, which was watched by 100 million people on the History Channel, A.D. The Bible Continues for NBC, Messiah for Netflix and the films Ben-Hur and Son of God.
Their latest production is Resurrection, a star-studded feature film, released in time for Easter on the discovery+ channel. Roma, who acted in some of their previous stories, is back in the co-producers' role. Resurrection stars Greta Scacchi, Joanne Whalley, Adam Levy, Juan Pablo di Pace, Vincent Regan and Babou Ceesay and follows the immediate aftermath of Jesus's crucifixion.
It's a 'rich, colourful, gritty' depiction, says Roma, not 'scrubbed or polished', in the hope it will appeal to a younger audience who want realness.
With the story of the resurrection told so many times on the big screen and small, I ask her why now. And what makes this production different?
"Well, after the challenging year we've come through and indeed, are still coming through, to have the greatest story of hope available as resource for people was perfect timing," she replies.
"A lot of biblical movies spend more time on the ministry of Jesus; his arrest, trial and of course, crucifixion. We did so ourselves in Son of God.
"But no movie has taken the story and told it from the point of view of the disciples immediately after the crucifixion.
"The movie opens at the crucifixion and scripture tells us that only John was at the foot of the cross. We know Mary Magdalene was there and Mary, Jesus's mother. Judas had already betrayed Jesus. But it begs the question; where were the other 10?
"Where did they scatter to, afraid for their own lives? Were they going to be hunted down and murdered? There's so much confusion and fear around the loss of their leader. There's shame and guilt too.
"We get to see their humanity and vulnerability and how they were relatable people. We see their stories through a range of emotions on screen."
With cinemas closed due to the pandemic, Roma says she hopes the film will be watched by families, over Easter, in the safety of their own homes. She wants viewers to be 'inspired' by the triumphant- and familiar - message: that all is not lost.
"In a sense, we've all been in [a] tomb," she points out. "We've all been in lockdown and we're wanting and ready to step out into the light.
"We're all longing for our own resurrection and that symbolism resonates in people's hearts."
Although subjects such as politics (and, thereby Trump) are off the table, Roma is happy to talk about the power of social media and how she uses it as a platform for positivity and light.
"Our commitment (Lightworkers) is to tell stories that are uplifting, inspiring and encouraging, not necessarily faith centred," she says.
"And with social media, we're committed to encouragement and positivity too.
"We've all seen the negativity on social media; how some use it as a stick to beat each other with or to rain down hate. Ours is the opposite. We want to sow seeds of hope."
Working with her husband is 'fun', she says, joking that some of her friends claim they couldn't decorate together, let alone work side by side. With her stepsons James and Cameron and her daughter Reilly Marie (from a previous marriage), having left home, the couple are 'empty nesters'.
While she loves her life in Malibu and says America has been good to her, Derry remains her 'emotional home'; a place she tries to get back to as much as possible. She still has many friends and relations living between the city and Donegal and has fond memories of her childhood - despite the tragic loss of her mum at such a young age.
"I remember being sat in front of the television over Easter and watching programmes like Jesus of Nazareth, The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Story Ever Told," she says.
"I'm hopeful audiences will take on a new Easter tradition in their homes and watch Resurrection. It's important to remember what Easter is about.
"It's become about the Easter bunny and chicken and eggs. Don't get me wrong, I love my Easter eggs too, but the true meaning is easy to get lost."
Roma says she keeps an eye on what's going on in Northern Ireland but with so much news bombarding her, she sometimes feels the need to disconnect. She says it saddens her that religion has been used to 'beat each other up' and that 'we all belong to each other and have to take care of one another'.
With both her parents gone and the family home long sold, her connection to her native city is different from her younger days. It's a 'watering of roots' - but those roots are deeply embedded there.
The interview has run over the allocated time but I can't let her go without chatting Derry Girls. The popular sitcom was written by another ex pupil of Thornhill College, Lisa McGee. I ask her if she's been following the show.
"Are you kidding me?" she laughs. "I'm its number one fan! I love it. It's riotously funny.
"I keep hoping I'll get a guest role. I'd jump in with both feet for that.
"And yes, it's exactly like how I remember school."
Resurrection is available to stream on discovery+