CAPTION: The director and creator of “The Chosen” series Dallas Jenkins said he wanted to create an authentic and intimate depiction of the life of Jesus Christ. Photo credits: The Chosen press kit / Angel Studios
By Yvette Walker
GRAPEVINE, Texas – Fans of “The Chosen” are used to seeing creator and director Dallas Jenkins. He introduces every episode’s livestream premiere, and spends a few moments talking about the upcoming show. He has a friendly face and an unassuming demeanor for someone who leads an army of fans more than a million strong.
But unassuming makes sense for someone telling the story of the life of Jesus Christ.
Jenkins sat down to talk about the groundbreaking project and his life at the National Religious Broadcasters convention last week. He and his wife, Amanda, and their team have created a different kind of show about Jesus. And, Jenkins said, he’s “obsessed” with making the experience authentic and intimate for viewers.
However, it’s NOT the Bible.
“I don’t want people to glorify the show to the point where they think this is a replacement for the Bible,” Jenkins said. “I’m saying from the beginning, that the show is not God’s word. Jonathan (Roumie), who plays Jesus is not Jesus. I’m not the creator of the universe. I’m a broken, flawed man … who’s trying to do my best to capture the character and intentions of Jesus in the Gospels.”
“The Chosen,” now in its second season, is the first-ever multi-season show on the life of Christ. It is successfully crowd-funded, and is translated into 50 languages. Fans have watched the series more than 200 million times on its own app, and its YouTube page has topped one million subscribers.
The season finale is next week, and season 3 is more than halfway funded by fans who “pay it forward” in contributions that help future viewers watch for free.
Jenkins said the reason the show resonates with so many people is because this representation is not a “formal, distant, stiff” Jesus. He believes this is the Jesus who connects with and makes sense to people both in the first century and today.
“If you can see Jesus through the eyes of those who actually met him, you can be changed and impacted in the same way they were.”
Relationships are important in the show, Jenkins says, and helps fans identify with the struggles and questions of faith. “(Jesus) didn’t just get up on stage and do a bunch of magic tricks. He was personal, he was intimate, he was purposeful, which I think is important. He did miracles to reach a person’s heart,” he said.
Jesus’ female followers
Part of Jenkins search for authenticity is using a multiethnic and multicultural cast. Not to “would be inaccurate and dishonest and not representative of the Gospel,” Jenkins said. Episode 6 of the first season is especially inclusive, where Jenkins tells the Bible story about the friends of a paralyzed man who tear open a roof to get the man to Jesus. The episode features an Ethiopian woman as the leader of the friends’ quest for a miracle.
Jenkins described his casting this way: “The Jewish followers of Christ are going to look Israeli but there were people from Ethiopia, there were people from Egypt, there were people from all over who represented all the different colors of the rainbow. And that was extraordinarily important to me not only to be historically accurate but because I wanted the viewers to say, ‘I’m part of this story, too.’ “
Women play a large role in “The Chosen” and Jenkins says he did this for a reason. “Women often get overlooked in the story because they were overlooked for centuries. If you read the Gospels, Jesus clearly thought very highly of women in a way that wasn’t typical,” he said, describing Mary Magdalen, the Samaritan woman at the well and the women who first discovered the empty tomb. “There are key moments in Scripture in which a woman plays a very important central part.”
At the convention, Jenkins was a kind of faith-filled Pied Piper, drawing people who clamored to take selfies with him. He graciously stopped for fans, who marveled at how tall he is.
The humility extends to interviews, where he’s revealing about his background: he discloses the “failure” (a word he uses) about the 2017 movie “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone,” his inability to get a job in the film industry for nearly 2 years, and his past addiction to pornography.
He said he carries this honesty on to “The Chosen,” adding that he takes the words of a Facebook friend to heart, who told him that his job was not to feed the 5,000 but rather to provide the loaves and fishes.
This reference to the miracle of Jesus feeding a crowd of 5,000 with a boy’s humble offering of a few loaves and fishes is reflected in his connection with viewers.
“We’re gonna be real about the struggles, we’re gonna be real about the joys, we’re gonna be real about our vices – my own and my wife’s sin struggles that we have. We want people who watch the show and who get to know me to be able to trust that this show is in the hands of someone who acknowledges my own brokenness and my own sin.”
Jenkins is currently writing season three and expects to film in the fall or winter of 2021. The season finale of The Chosen will livestream on YouTube in early July.
Yvette Walker is the host of the award-winning podcast Positively Joy and provides daily inspiration at positivelyjoy.com.