Jordan Walker Ross reflects on playing Little James in “The Chosen”

For the actor Ross, his role in the popular crowd-funded TV series from Angel Studios parallels his life in some ways, including having a disability.

Jordan Walker Ross is Little James in this scene from Season 3 of "The Chosen". (Image: Angel Studios)

In 1991, at the age of 29, Canadian-born actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease. Fox, whose roles included the iconic Alex P. Keaton in the NBC sitcom “Family Ties,” and Marty McFly in the “Back to the Future” trilogy, was forced to retire due to his declining health.

God could have healed him, but he didn’t. Why not?

In 2015, Chad Carr, the five-year-old grandson of former Michigan Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr, died after a yearlong struggle with an inoperable brain tumor. Chad and his battle had garnered the attention of football fans and players: Just days before his death in November 2015, the University of Michigan and Ohio State teams faced off against each another wearing “Chad Tough” stickers on their helmets. Coaches and fans raised money for the Chad Tough Foundation, a charitable organization founded to raise money for research into childhood cancers.

Thousands of sports fans across America had joined Chad’s parents, Jason and Tammi, in praying for Chad’s healing.

God could have healed him, but he didn’t. Why not?

When Angel Studios’ crowd-funded TV series The Chosen begins its third season this month, that question – “Why not?” – will be raised by Jordan Walker Ross, who plays the role of Little James. As one of Jesus’ apostles in the series, Little James (based on James the Lesser in the Gospels) follows the Lord from town to town, watching as he heals the sick and the infirm and even raises people from the dead. But why, then, didn’t Jesus also heal Little James, who had given up his life to follow Christ?

In August 2022, journalists were invited to the set of The Chosen in Midlothian, Texas, and I had the opportunity to meet Jordan and other members of the cast and crew, and to hear their stories about how the series has affected them personally. For Jordan Walker Ross, his role was in some ways parallel to his life. Like his character Little James, Jordan walks with a mild limp.

Since his birth, Jordan has faced physical challenges. He was born two months prematurely and had several medical issues, including minor cerebral palsy, severe scoliosis, and severe asthma. He was frequently hospitalized, undergoing multiple surgeries, including a full anterior and posterior spinal fusion.

But if Jordan’s illness prevented him from participating in sports or playground antics, he found time to pursue another outlet: acting. He was only six when he was cast in the role of Tiny Tim in a local production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. By the age of 16, he had appeared in over 40 professional productions throughout Texas and California.

“In Season Three,” Jordan revealed, “my character Little James has resentment and bitterness emerging. He asks, ‘Why me?’ or ‘Why not me?’ Little James has to come to the conclusion that he doesn’t need the healing, as he thinks he does.”

Jordan imagines that until The Chosen, there has never been a character in a series like this, who interacts with Jesus but who isn’t healed. And it’s not only Little James who has a difficult time understanding this. Jordan reported that people have argued with him on social media, insisting that he is supposed to be healed of his disability, that God wants him healed.

The disability that distinguishes Little James among the followers of Christ was not a part of the original plan for the show. Jordan first read for the roles of Andrew and Matthew, but was invited by the show’s creator and director, Dallas Jenkins, to accept the role of Little James. The script did not originally call for Little James to be disabled; but Jenkins noticed that the actor walked with a mild limp. “I wear a lift in my shoe,” Jordan explained, “that evens my legs out a bit. When I am barefoot or in sandals, it is much more apparent. Dallas noticed it on the set.”

Rather than attempting to disguise Jordan’s disability through careful camera angles, Dallas Jenkins instead made it a distinctive part of Little James’ persona. As the show developed, Little James’ unsteady limp became one of his distinct attributes – part of a backstory that was created for the character of Little James as the series progressed. “I hope,” the actor said, “that Little James can use it to help others.”

In The Chosen, Little James works through the problems posed by his illness – leaning on a walking stick for support on the rocky hillsides near Jerusalem. In real life, actor Jordan Walker Ross has learned, too, to deal with his medical challenges and finds that sometimes, his visible limp helps him to connect with others.

Jordan confessed that he has been humbled by the effect the show has had on viewers. “As artists,” he said, “you always want people to relate to you. One of the biggest things for me is how [The Chosen] has affected the younger generation.”

One family stood out in Jordan’s memory. They had two young boys, about eight years old. “When I was about to leave,” Jordan recalled, “these two boys ran up and hugged me around the legs and said, ‘Thank you!’ You can’t help but be emotional when people respond like that.”

Jordan has encountered viewers who are themselves dealing with cerebral palsy or other muscular diseases. One parent told him that his daughter had scoliosis. Another viewer, a young girl, had both scoliosis and cerebral palsy, as Jordan does; but her disease was more severe, and she required a wheelchair. “And it means a lot,” said Jordan, “to hear someone talk about polio, and to hear that they came out the other side. That means a lot to me!”

As excitement builds in the weeks before Season Three’s theatrical opening, Jordan hinted at what viewers can expect: “We’re seeing Jesus cracking jokes!” he said. “Dancing with the disciples, as he did in the fifth episode of Season One. Tears of joy, and tears of sadness.”

Followers of The Chosen will enjoy the opportunity to see new episodes on the big screen on November 18. Shortly after the theatrical opening, the first two episodes of Season Three will be available on the free “Chosen” app. The remaining six episodes will launch, one each week, through November and December.

Seasons One and Two are already available on multiple platforms; executive producer Derral Evans told me that the show can be viewed on 50-55 different platforms, including Amazon Prime, Roku, Tubi, YouTube, and Apple TV. Season Three will most likely receive the same wide distribution.

And while it is still unconfirmed, Dallas Jenkins hints that the final two episodes of Season Three may also be released in theaters – including the Feeding of the Five Thousand, which featured several thousand fans from around the world who paid $1,000 each to serve as extras, sitting on a hillside in the hot Texas sun and wearing costumes which they had sewn themselves.

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About Kathy Schiffer 15 Articles
Kathy Schiffer is a Catholic blogger. In addition to her blog Seasons of Grace, her articles have appeared in the National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Zenit, the Michigan Catholic, Legatus Magazine, and other Catholic publications. She’s worked for Catholic and other Christian ministries since 1988, as radio producer, director of special events and media relations coordinator. Kathy and her husband, Deacon Jerry Schiffer, have three adult children.

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