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Dallas Jenkins discusses the focus and purpose of The Chosen

“It’s important to me,” says Jenkins, writer and director of The Chosen, “to make as good a show as I can and to accurately represent the character and intentions of Jesus and the Gospels.”

Dallas Jenkins directs the first episode of Season 1 of the series, "The Chosen". (Wikipedia); right: Jonathan Roumie stars as Jesus in "The Chosen". (www.watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen)

Dallas Jenkins is known to many as the writer and director of The Chosen, the remarkable and increasingly popular television series on the life of Christ.

Jenkins is also the son of Jerry Jenkins, well-known to millions as the co-author (with the late Tim LaHaye) of the Left Behind series of novels inspired by belief in “the Rapture”.

One of the notable achievements of The Chosen is that Jenkins’ theological positions are nearly impossible to discern from the show; what is evident is his profound and deep love for Our Lord and Sacred Scripture. His respect for the Biblical accounts of the life of Jesus is evidenced by the fact that he and the other creators of the show aim to accurately and faithfully depict the events of Jesus’ ministry, while taking sidebars in order to flesh out the figures of the apostles, or to illustrate a part of Jesus’ personality. The show also retains a sort of advisory board of ministers—a priest, a rabbi, and a Protestant minister—to help the creators with theological issues and other questions.

The show is, in my estimation, a triumph; even a stunning achievement. At this point, just two seasons in, I have never seen an on-screen depiction of Our Lord that did such an incredible job of balancing the human and the divine, Jesus’ self-knowledge and personal struggles. This is more than an achievement on the part of the writers. Due credit must be given to Jonathan Roumie, who portrays Jesus on the show. Roumie’s portrayal of Jesus is stunning, and in turns gut-wrenching, amusing, and heartwarming. Roumie is devoutly Catholic, and it is easy to see his faith come through in his performance.

The show is, however, completely flawless. It has its shortcomings. But that does not take away from what an incredible achievement it is. The creators clearly express what the show is—an artistic representation—and is not—the inspired Word of God. With that in mind, the viewer is free to let The Chosen bring them into a deeper and more personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and a greater devotion to the apostles and others who walked with Jesus.

The series is funded by donations and merchandising. There are no subscription fees. The seasons are released on DVD, hundreds of t-shirts, mugs, hats, sweaters, and more are available for purchase; that is is how the show is funded. As of this writing, season 3 is almost completely funded, according to the show’s website. Production does not halt during the funding process; Jenkins and the rest of the creators have been hard at work writing the third season, and pre-production is underway. Those who are interested in contributing can do so at this link.

Dallas Jenkins recently spoke with Catholic World Report about The Chosen, his vision for it, and some of the challenges in its creation.

Catholic World Report: Why did you decide to have theological consultants from different backgrounds?

Dallas Jenkins: I just wanted to make sure I didn’t step on any land mines unnecessarily. I don’t mind upsetting some people for something I feel strongly about, but there’s no need to do it on something minor, and at the very least, I want to know what I’m potentially dealing with if there’s going to be disagreement or controversy.

Plus, I think it’s fascinating for Evangelicals, Jews, Catholics, etc., to hear each other’s perspectives in a respectful way.

CWR: Is it important to you that the show have an ecumenical and interreligious appeal?

Jenkins: I don’t really think of it in terms of “appeal.” I don’t think Jesus did, either. It’s important to me to make as good a show as I can and to accurately represent the character and intentions of Jesus and the Gospels. I can’t really think too much about who it appeals to.

CWR: Are you at all nervous about portraying some of the points that are points of contention between Protestants and Catholics? (For example, John 6 and the Last Supper, Matthew 16:18, etc.?)

Jenkins: I don’t really get nervous as long as I believe what I’m doing is good and faithful to what God wants from me.

But either way, this show is a portrayal of what we believe happened, not an analysis of the theological implications. Whenever we portray what Jesus said, it’s up to the viewers as to their interpretation and what church they want to attend when analyzing his words.

CWR: We have been so moved (to tears, quite often!) by the artistic choices you all have made, and the performances of the actors. Is it challenging to figure out just how to “think outside the box” effectively?

Jenkins: Yes, it’s always challenging to write compelling stories and dialogue, but that’s the fun part. We believe these characters were real human beings, so portraying them as having a wide range of emotions just like we do is the secret sauce to the show, I believe.

Everything needs to be “plausible,” but once we pass that test, it just becomes a fun puzzle as we try to think of ways to tell a familiar story in a unique way that’ll unlock emotion and insight for the viewer.

CWR: The way you have developed the personal backstories for each of the characters has been fascinating, and feels so authentic. What is your process for fleshing those out?

Jenkins: We start with what we know from Scripture, and what each character’s big “moment” is in Scripture, and then we work our way backwards. We want those moments to be as impactful as possible, and we want the characters to be as human and authentic as possible, so we create these backstories accordingly.

CWR: Are you planning to go back and depict (maybe in flashbacks) some of the earlier scenes, like the Presentation in the Temple with Simeon and Anna? And the Visitation? And the Baptism in the Jordan?

Jenkins: We’ll see!


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About Paul Senz 93 Articles
Paul Senz has an undergraduate degree from the University of Portland in music and theology and earned a Master of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from the same university. He has contributed to Catholic World Report, Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly, The Priest Magazine, National Catholic Register, Catholic Herald, and other outlets. Paul lives in Elk City, OK, with his wife and their four children.

10 Comments

  1. I came to this series late and yet have watched all episodes of the two seasons currently available. It is FABULOUS!! Jesus is portrayed with respect and yet is a more human Jesus than I have seen in previous depictions of Him. The series is free to watch and you can get the free Ap for your Iphone and watch it there. Just search for “The Chosen”. Or search “The Chosen, Official Site” on google. The company which makes the show is called something like Angel productions and you will find it there to watch free on your computer screen. Each episode runs 45 minutes to an hour. You will also find many interviews of the cast and the director on You Tube. I have donated to the production, but they sell merchandise as a way to fund this filming also. So VERY much worth watching. Just be aware the first episode of season one is almost strictly about Mary Magdalene and Jesus only appears the last minute or so of that episode. Dont let that discourage you. This is a fabulous production well worth seeing.The episode where he calls Peter is amazing. It makes you think and feel.

      • I can’t remember anything showing Mary disrespect. There’s one scene where she holds her stomach in reference to her marriage to Joseph which might seem flippant, as if she were saying, You know how it goes, but that’s nuance, and if unfortunate, very subtle. Other than that one ‘minefield’, I understand that, with five seasons to go, and lots of backstory to fill in, it will need to be at times very careful, especially about such subtleties, and will certainly bear watching, but so far in a highly creditable sense of that expression.

      • I have not seen anything in which Mary is depicted badly. If anything she is very obvious in the immensity of her love for Jesus. You are missing something special if you do not watch. You must be aware that producer Dallas Jenkins ( evangelical) and the actor Jonathan Roumie, who portrays Jesus, recently had the chance to meet the Pope. Its doubtful he would have met with them if there was any word either Jesus or Mary had been filmed in a negative way.

  2. A great review Paul. My wife and I have loved watching this series and look forward to future seasons. Highly recommended. It’s great that it has been given some attention here.

  3. The first two seasons of “The Chosen” with even its minor flaws [they must be there although I have not noticed them] is nothing less than a contemporary masterpiece. Honestly I can’t believe it exists. It must be added that it is my ardent hope that the creators of “The Chosen” will continue with a theologically sensitive portrayal of the role of the Ever Virgin Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant. My viewing has been rewarded by observing the — surely unintentional — illustrations of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Grace. It left me quite astonished and deeply grateful while simultaneously bewildered that a production so strongly influenced by an Evangelical, as well as a Mormon perspective, would determine these truths as through a glass darkly while Roman Catholicism, which is blessed with the grace of the Apostolic Tradition, appears presently to be passively consigning these precious facets of the Faith to the margins. So much more could be written regarding the depth richness of “The Chosen.” It should not be missed. No one can view it without a deepened intimacy and love for the person of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

  4. I have been supporting this show, almost from the beginning. We’ve done multiple Catholic Bible studies with both seasons, buy multiple copies of the DVDs to hand out and wear our Chosen gear everywhere but at Mass. The show is remarkably respectful to Catholic beliefs and is unbelievably well written. My Season 2 Blu-Ray just came in the mail so we will start watching it again!

  5. I love the series, as a Devout Catholic Mary was not what I expected, but she is human which we are not in the habit of thinking her to be, so this is difficult to visualize. I don’t know what I expected. I love it and enjoy the personalities of the Disciples. They have done a wonderful job and I look forward to the 3rd. season.
    Linda Graham

  6. I love this series as well. One of my favorite moments was when Jesus were with the kids and when they started praying the Shema, there was a look of sadness and joy and peace on Jesus’ face. Another favorite – during the wedding in Cana, when Jesus and Mary exchanged knowing looks. Great acting. Having said these, I have one very very minor quibble. In the first Season, Jesus traveled with his disciples with a beautiful leather backpack (that I coveted). Jesus asked his disciples to travel with practically nothing, so why did he have a backpack and everybody else did not? Like I said, just a small quibble.

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