"Passion of the Christ" star Jim Caviezel told CNA that he relied on scripture, daily Mass and the rosary to portray holiness on the big screen in "Paul, the Apostle of Christ."

The film, which premieres March 23, depicts the persecution of the early Christians in Rome under Emperor Nero, along with an imprisoned Saint Paul conveying a message of hope at the end of his life.

"I thought that that was one of the greatest parts of the script," Caviezel told CNA. "Here is a beat up old man in prison, facing execution. How can this man be a light to the world?"

"But it's often through our struggles, our trials, our tragedies that triumph comes," the Catholic actor said.

Caviezel plays the role of Saint Luke, who regularly visits Paul in prison to document his story while composing the Acts of the Apostles. The audience sees Luke serving the early Christian community in Rome as a physician, spiritual leader and writer.

"He [Luke] mentioned the Virgin Mary more than any other writer," reflected Caviezel on portraying the Gospel evangelist, "I use the rosary to focus, to pray."

"I go to Mass every day and the Eucharist is Christ in me," Caviezel continued, "Everything that I do is always with heaven's help. It directs my path. It guides me. It is where I got my talent from. What I give back to God from what he has given me … he just multiplies it and blesses it in ways that I never thought possible."

Caviezel says that he also has "a great devotion to the patron saint of actors, Saint Genesius."

The role of Paul is played by British actor James Faulkner, who previously had supporting roles in "Game of Thrones" and "Downton Abbey."

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"Well I'm happy to admit that Jim is a much more devout Christian than am I, and I drew from his faith whenever possible," said Faulkner, who was raised in the Church of England.

Faulkner told CNA that playing Paul changed him as he "read and reread Paul's letters" in preparation for the role.

"Do I have more humility? Yes. Do I have more love for my fellow man? Yes. Is there a possibility of redemption even for myself? Yes, there is," reflected Faulkner.

Behind the scenes, "Paul, the Apostle of Christ" felt different than his previous experience on the set of "Game of Thrones," Faulkner said.

"Being placed in a much simpler environment, and feeling entirely supported by those around you, and loved by those around you, I found to be an extraordinary experience."
Conversion and forgiveness are major themes of "Paul, the Apostle of Christ," Caviezel said.

"The greatest controversy of this film is forgiving at all costs, and that doesn't mean weakness or the acceptance of evil. It means meeting evil face-to-face … that's the hardest thing," he said.

"Some of the most powerful dialogue centers around what true courage is," continued Caviezel, "Courage is ardent love. Love creates change by igniting a passion in each one of us. One person at a time."

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The film is dedicated to the world's persecuted Christians. "We were writing this script through those heavy intense times with ISIS and the problems that are going on in Syria and the Middle East," executive producer Eric Groth told CNA. He said his team also reflected "on the martyrs of the centuries who have laid down their lives" in guiding the actors of the film.

"Paul, the Apostle of Christ" was written and directed by Andrew Hyatt, who previously directed the film, "Full of Grace," about the Virgin Mary's last days on earth. Both films were produced by the Catholic group ODB Films, in partnership with Sony Pictures Entertainment.

ODB Films says it is "dedicated to fostering an encounter with Christ through artfully made, spiritually rich films."

Groth told CNA he hopes that Catholics will reach out and invite friends to the film who are not familiar with the Biblical story.

"I want them to reach out and take someone who might be struggling in their life and go to see a non-cheesy, Christian film that looks at faith through a very human lens and through a very real lens."