Filmmaker Roma Downey accepted a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame Thursday, declaring it a great day for the Irish and thanking America for the opportunities it offered immigrants like her.
The devoutly religious actress-turned- producer, best known for her long-running role as Monica the angel on CBS’s “Touched by an Angel,” was dedicated a spot on the famous thoroughfare next to husband Mark Burnett’s star.
“This is a great day, a great day for the Irish. Twenty-five years ago I came to America from Ireland looking for a dream. I came with a heart full of hope. The American dream meant to me freedom and opportunity,” she said.
“And like many immigrants before me this great country has offered me the opportunity to make my dreams come true.”
The 56-year-old is preparing for the release next week of period epic “Ben-Hur,” which she and Burnett are executive producing. Cast members including Jack Huston, Toby Kebbell and Rodrigo Santoro turned up to support her.
“This is an important film, and I hope that you’ll all go and see it. Because not only is it a great action adventure movie, it is a film that holds deep in its heart a message of peace, justice, reconciliation and forgiveness,” she said.
“And if there was ever a time more in our world that we needed this message, it’s now, more than ever.”
Born in Derry, Northern Ireland, Downey has picked up multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for “Touched by an Angel,” which ran from 1994-2003 and co-starred her husband, also 56.
She first became known to American audiences for her portrayal of first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in the 1991 NBC miniseries “A Woman Named Jackie.”
A devout Catholic with a master’s degree in spiritual psychology, she received a producing Emmy in 2013 for outstanding miniseries or movie for History’s “The Bible,” in which she also portrayed Jesus’ mother Mary.
Downey’s other producing credits include the miniseries “A.D. The Bible Continues” and “The Dovekeepers.”
She is president of LightWorkers Media, the faith and family division of MGM.
In a speech peppered with references to her faith, she recalled starting out as a coat check girl in a plush restaurant on the Upper West Side of New York.
It was there that she met her first celebrity, entertainer and television host Regis Philbin, who gave her a $20 tip.
Years later, and by then pulling in up to 20 million viewers a week on “Touched by an Angel,” Downey embarrassed the star by bringing up the encounter on “The Regis Philbin Show.”
“Only in America could that happen, that one year you’re checking coats and the next minute you’re starring on television,” she said as she accepted her star.