Roma Downey touches millions of people every week in the CBS-TV series Touched By An Angel as Monica, a wayward angel who helps mortals through the tough times in their lives.
She plays another kind of helper, Annie Sullivan, in Monday After the Miracle, to be broadcast Sunday, Nov. 15, at 9 p.m. EST on CBS. Downey is an executive producer of the TV movie, a continuation of the film The Miracle Worker, which tells the story of how Sullivan taught Helen Keller to communicate.
The movie is set at the turn of the century, when Keller was 20 and a student at Radcliffe College. Sullivan is still at her side. But their relationship changes after Sullivan marries a handsome young professor.
CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Mark McEwen, noting that Downey calls her series a "spiritual" show and not a "religious" show, asked the actress to explain the difference.
"Religion is man-made," she replies. "Anybody who has been on a spiritual journey will know the difference."
Downey, who is from Northern Ireland, "where people are fighting in the name of religion," says it was important to her "to become part of a show that didn't take the [stance] of, 'My God is better than your God'Â… The God the angels work for is the God of love."
Because she plays an angel, Downey receives a wide range of fan mail, and many viewers feel free to confide in her in their letters.
"It ranges from little girls wanting to be my penpal to people confessing very private, awful things," she says. "It amazes me how much abuse is in this country, how many - particularly women - have been abused through their childhoods."
Has she learned anything about angels by playing one?
"I don't know what I've learned about angels," says the 35-year-old actress. "I've learned how to become a better listener in my own life. I'm required to do that a lot as Monica."
When she was growing up in Ireland and attending a convent school, Downey thought of angels as "hovering, winged creatures at the foot of your bed. That is gone. I think angels come disguised as friends."
Downey has a 2-year-old daughter, Reilly Marie, and she tells McEwen that, for Halloween, the child dressed as a Dalmatian and the mother as Cruella De Vil, characters from 101 Dalmatians.
Any experience with the dreaded "terrible two's"? Admits Downey, "She waits for that moment in the mall where somebody [notices] I'm Monica the angel until she throws herself on the ground and makes a beautiful scene."
Downey says she's glad that her success came in her 30s, and not when she was younger. "I think I have a good sene of perspective on it," she explains. "I also think I have a great sense of humor."
She adds, "It wasn't that long ago where I couldn't get certain parts in certain movies. Now I'm being sent scripts and offered the same scripts I couldn't get.
"I'm deliciously aware of the fickleness of the business. I know this, too, shall pass. I want to enjoy it while it's here."