It’s the phenomenon that’s sweeping the globe. For the past three seasons, The Chosen, a groundbreaking drama based on the life of Jesus, has garnered praise from critics and fans alike for its historical and biblical accuracy, playful spirit, stirring drama, genuine humour and disruptive impact. What started out as a crowd-funded project has now garnered more than 700 million episode views and more than 12 million social media followers.

The brainchild of film and television director, writer and producer Dallas Jenkins, The Chosen has just dropped its fourth of a projected seven seasons.

For this exclusive interview, Faith & Friends spoke to Dallas Jenkins on location at the Salvation Army camp in Texas where The Chosen is filmed:

What was the genesis of The Chosen

In 2017, I’d had an opportunity to do a big Hollywood movie, but that bombed and, licking my wounds, I was doing a short film for my church’s Christmas Eve service about the birth of Christ from the perspective of the shepherds. I returned to a script that my co-writer and I had written a couple of years earlier and filmed it on my friend’s farm in Illinois, 20 minutes from my house.

Dallas Jenkins
Dallas Jenkins

While I was making it, I was binge-watching some television shows with my wife, and I remember thinking, There have been movies and mini-series about the life of Christ, but there has never been a multi-season show where you can really dig into the stories, dig into the cultural and historical context, dig into the humanity of it so that we’re following these people from episode to episode, season to season. And I thought that would really be an amazing opportunity to bring these stories to life. But no one was lining up to do a Jesus show and certainly not to work with someone like me, coming off of a failure.

Our short film ended up going viral and launching a crowd-fund for the first season. The rest is history. And so now I’m talking to you with four seasons already completed. It’s phenomenal!

Have you felt closer to God after embarking on The Chosen? Has your faith deepened or broadened?

When you’re tasked with portraying Jesus to the world, you better know Him as well as you can, and so I’ve gotten to know Jesus more than ever over the past few years. And one of the things that has really impacted me is that I’ve noticed how intimate of a God Jesus is. Two thousand years ago, whether He was calling someone or healing someone or rebuking someone, Jesus knew what was in their hearts. He knew what their need was. And He knew that only He could fill it. And that’s the same today. And knowing that intimacy of Jesus, I think, is vital—knowing that He knows your heart and wants to have a personal relationship with you, that He’s not just a god of the masses. It’s something that has impacted me and is also imbued in the show.

Did Jonathan Roumie feel awkward portraying Jesus?

Jonathan and I had a very important moment in Season 1. He had done a good job of surrendering himself to the process. But there was a scene in episode six where he’s preaching to dozens of people in the street. “I don’t feel worthy saying these words,” he told me. He was emotional about it. I pulled him aside and said, “None of us are worthy to do this. That’s the point. Lean into that. Embrace that. Surrender. Let’s recognize that we’re not worthy, so that we are filled totally by what God wants us to do. Let’s acknowledge that—and get out of the way.” That became a seminal moment.

You’ve done a lot of filming at a Salvation Army campground in Texas. Were you aware of The Salvation Army before this? And how has your perception of the organization changed?

Well, I would hope that there isn’t anyone alive who hasn’t heard of The Salvation Army! I’ve been a fan of the amazing work they do my whole life. The Army has been extraordinary over the last couple of years.

Jonathan Roumie, in character as Jesus, talks with Dallas Jenkins on the set of The Chosen
Dallas Jenkins and Jonathan Roumie discuss a scene in a Season 3 synagogue

I believe that we’re doing similar work. With The Chosen, we’re trying to heal the world in whatever way that we can. We’re trying to do what God wants us to do, to reveal His Son to the world however we can. The Salvation Army does it through generosity, they do it through helping those in need. I’m doing it through a television show that’s about Jesus. But we’re hand in hand in this. And it’s been a beautiful experience to partner with the Army.

Have you received any feedback from viewers who have come to faith through the series?

We’ve lost count! It’s clearly in the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who have said they were far from God, had no relationship with God, had previously had one but had lost it in some way, maybe because of their own misunderstanding of who God was, who now have turned to Christ because of the show.

We know how important it is to say that we are not a replacement for Scripture. The Chosen, as a TV show, is not the end game. But we are hearing over and over and over again from people whose lives are being changed by it. And that never gets old!

Speaking of Stories …

… here are just a few of the many thousands of heartfelt testimonials that the creators of The Chosen have received: 

  • The Chosen opened my eyes to the hurts I caused others and brought me back to my faith with hope and love.”—Michelle 
  • “There was that scene where Jesus placed His hand on Mary and redeemed her. That moment marked a profound shift in my life, and I knew I wanted to follow Jesus.”—Lee
  • “I was lost for 40 years, but Jesus found this old lady. He filled me with His love, and now I know He’ll be with me always.”—Martina 
  • The Chosen has given me a platform to share Jesus with others, something I’ve always wanted to do but struggled with.”—Todd 
  • “To my surprise, I was instantly hooked. My friends now joke that I could be a marketer for the show, given my newfound passion for it!”—Vicky 

Did You Know?

Dallas Jenkins’ father is Jerry B. Jenkins, the Christian novelist best known for the Left Behind series, one of the highest-selling book series of all time, with more than 60 million copies sold

Photos: Courtesy of The Chosen

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