Netflix axes controversial ‘Messiah’ series amid coronavirus pandemic

"Messiah," which was released January 1, imagines how modern society would react if a mysterious religious figure leader appeared. (Photo courtesy: Netflix)

Netflix series Messiah, a political-religious thriller which courted controversy across the Middle East among Muslim viewers, has been canceled after just one season due to difficulties filming amid the global coronavirus crisis, actor Tomer Sisley announced on his Instagram page.

“I am sorry for all the Messiah fans over the world. Times are crazy. Season 2 was supposed to take place in Rome and we would all have loved to pursue this wonderful adventure, but as we know, times are crazy right now... Season 2 is not happening,” Sisley, who plays one of the leading roles on the series, wrote.

"Messiah," which was released January 1, imagines how modern society would react if a mysterious religious figure leader appeared, spreading his message rapidly via social media in a world grappling with "fake news" and breathless 24-hour bulletins.

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I am sorry for all the Messiah fans over the world. Times are crazy. Season 2 was supposed to take place in Rome and we would all have loved to pursue this wonderful adventure, but as we know, times are crazy right now... Season 2 is not happening. Thank you for your support, thank you for your letters, thank you for your passion. I had a blast interpreting this part. Aviram will stay with me for very long. Thank you for your love. I promise we will come back with something at least as exciting as this wonderful show once this worldwide virus is beaten. Love you. #michaelpetroni I am very proud to know you!!! James McTeighe and Kate Woods, thank you for your trust and talent. @michellemonaghan @johnortiz718 @sound_speed @wiltraval @stefanialavieowen @sayyidelalami @therealmpagehamilton #mehdidehbi #philipbakerhall @fares_landoulsi Realy loved working with you guys. See you soon... La saison 2 de Messiah devait se tourner à Rome... Les temps sont dingues et nous empêchent de la tourner cet été. Elle n’existera donc malheureusement pas et nous en sommes tous extrêmement peinés. Merci à tous les fans pour vos messages, vos lettres, et votre passion. Cette série originale n’a laissé personne indiffèrent, moi le premier, et j’y ai pris un plaisir immense. Aviram restera longtemps avec moi. Je vous promets d’autres projets au moins aussi intenses dès que nous serons sortis de cette situation mondiale dramatique. Bon courage à tous dans votre confinement. Le plus important maintenant c’est : #restezChezVous MERCI MERCI MERCI A TOUS!!!!! ❤️

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The question of whether the character – played by Belgian actor Mehdi Dehbi – is the genuine Messiah, a nefarious political agent or simply a trickster is at the heart of the show's premise.

That concept included building, at considerable expense, a scale replica of part of Temple Mount including the sacred Dome of the Rock, from where Muslims believe the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven.

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The first trailer for "Messiah" drew ridicule from some Muslim viewers, who noted that the name "Al-Masih" is used in Islamic theology by Dajjal, a false prophet comparable to the Antichrist.

Netflix quickly moved to quash claims this was a spoiler -- its Twitter account accurately noted "That's not actually the character's name" -- and plot details remain strictly embargoed.

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