With more than 200 million viewers around the globe and more than 12 million social media followers, The Chosen has become one of the most successful shows in television history. Today, the historical drama based on the life of Jesus will hit the big screen as season four, episodes one through three premiere in theaters, with episodes four to six following on February 15 and episodes seven and eight arriving in theaters February 29. Written, directed and produced by creator Dallas Jenkins, The Chosen has become one of the most-watched shows across streaming platforms Amazon Prime, Peacock and Netflix, as well being a top-rated weekly broadcast on The CW.
Sitting down with Woman’s World prior to The Chosen season four premiere at the Ace Theater in Los Angeles, Jenkins is more focused on continuing to create great television than he is in basking in the show’s impressive statistics.
“I don’t think too much at all about the success of the show,” Jenkins says with a warm smile. “I didn’t do this show in order to be successful, so I’m really trying to keep that out of my experience as we make it. With that said, you can’t ignore what is happening.”
The Chosen shows the human side of Jesus
So to what does Jenkins attribute the show’s groundbreaking success? “One thing is the humanity that we are capturing of Jesus and the Disciples, taking them down from stained glass windows, taking them down from statues and allowing you to really experience and see what was real,” Jenkins says. “I don’t think we’re creating this. We are revealing it, which is that they were human beings. Jesus was God. He’s divine.”
Jenkins continues, “He does miracles in our show. He asserts authority in our show, but by seeing him dance with his friends at a wedding, by seeing him brush his teeth, by seeing him laugh or tell a joke and by seeing the disciples in their home life or in marriage or loss and struggle, all of those things allow us to go, ‘Well, this is human. This is authentic. This is similar to what we experience.’”
Jenkins leaves it up to God
Jenkins admits that he’s also at a loss to really explain the phenomenon that the show has become. “There is also the part of this that you can’t explain and is similar to the feeding of the 5,000. I’m bringing my five loaves and two fish (John 6:1-14). I’m handing them to God. He deems them worthy of acceptance, for me, the transaction is over, the multiplication is up to him,” Jenkins says.
“There are things happening with this show. There is multiplication happening. There are people being reached and touched that normally you wouldn’t, but I’m not good enough to have the kind of impact the show is having. There is a multiplication that is happening from God that I can’t explain or take credit for.”
Jenkins jokes, “At the end of season seven, I’ll be able to look back on it and go, ‘Alright, I feel like I honored God and the gospels, now we can celebrate and maybe I can take a nap.’”
Dallas Jenkins on external pressures when writing The Chosen
The Chosen started as a crowdfunded project and has become a global success. By the end of 2024, the show will be dubbed in more than 50 languages. With his work becoming such a worldwide platform for sharing the gospel, does Jenkins feel an extra weight of responsibility?
“I have tried to avoid that from the very beginning,” he says. “Early on before season one, I felt a strong impression from God that this show would have global reach, but at the same time, I felt this relief a little bit of God saying, ‘I’ve got this. You focus on the work.’”
He continued, “It’s really hard to write a good show. The Chosen is really hard to do. I don’t need to add more challenge to it by going, ‘And now we also have to live up to the weight of responsibility of accomplishing some sort of mission statement of accurately impacting people and their relationship with Jesus.’ That’s God’s responsibility. That may or may not happen with each viewer. I’ve got to first focus on the work. I’ve got to avoid some of those pressures because if I start to think about it, it could be overwhelming.”
Finding the right faces to play these iconic roles
In crafting The Chosen, Dallas Jenkins has brought together a talented ensemble of actors which includes Jonathan Roumie as Jesus, Shahar Isaac as Simon and Elizabeth Tabish as Mary Magdalene. “Casting is a huge part of the show’s appeal,” Jenkins says, “We, from day one, said, ‘We don’t care about celebrity. We don’t care about stardom. All we care about is who is best for this role and that means who is going to look like they’ve come from first century Israel, especially when we are showing our Jewish characters. [Casting] American, blue-eyed folks distracts from the authenticity…The star of the show is the story itself and, of course, the character of Jesus that we’re portraying. God has brought us some extraordinary people and we’re very fortunate.”
Jenkins takes a unique approach with the character of Matthew
One of the most intriguing characters in the show is Matthew, the tax collector, portrayed by Paras Patel, as a person on the autism spectrum. In writing the character, Jenkins says there were several things that led him to develop Matthew’s character as he did.
“When we were first choosing Matthew to be a featured character, we noticed, okay, he is a numbers guy because he’s a tax man. He’s a facts guy because the first chapter of his book is a genealogy divided into three sections of 14 names apiece, so he’s very precise,” Jenkins explains.
“He chose a profession that made him an outcast,” continues Jenkins. “I’m very familiar with the autism community. It’s in my family. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work there, so looking at that I go, ‘Boy, these are traits of Asperger’s or the autism spectrum. Wouldn’t that be interesting, very human and relatable to have a character who is like that? Is it factual? I don’t know. It’s plausible, and I think one of the top things that we’ve seen people relate to most with the show is the character of Matthew.”
Dallas Jenkins talks honoring the female characters in The Chosen
From the outset, Jenkins has been very intentional in the way the female characters are portrayed. “One of the things that we’re very proud of with the show is — and I don’t think we’re creating this, we’re revealing something that sometimes people forget is — just how much Jesus honored women in a time period and a culture that wasn’t always as honoring as you might expect,” Jenkins says.
“Some of our actresses and female characters are some of my favorite parts of this show,” Jenkins explains. “You see Jesus through a different perspective and through a group of people who were maybe disadvantaged at the time, but they saw how much Jesus cared more about the disadvantaged than he did the entitled and I think that’s been a big part of it as well.”
Jonathan Roumie, who portrays Jesus, readily agrees. “I think Jesus himself placed a really high priority on including women in his ministry and so I think we’ve got a wonderful group of writers that have significant women in their life and know character development. I think when you see how Jesus prioritized these women, adapting that for the screen and for the television series is something that just made sense and we wanted it to feel right.”
Deep-dive into The Chosen before season four
Pick up the new The Chosen special collector’s edition magazine from the editors of TV Guide for insider info on all four seasons, episode recaps, stunning photos and insights into the lives of the show’s dynamic stars and more!
What to expect from The Chosen season four
Jenkins and his talented cast have been hard at work on The Chosen season 4, and he is excited to take viewers further on the journey. “Season 4 definitely has some wonderful big Bible moments,” he reveals. “We have the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). The death of John the Baptist (Matt. 14:1-12) is obviously very sad, but we show you why it is meaningful and caused growth in the disciples. There’s the scene where Jesus assigns Peter a new name (John 1:42) and I think the audience looks for these moments from scripture that they can get behind, but this is a very heavy season.”
“There’s sadness, in fact, Jesus is sad,” Jenkins reveals. “This season might not be easy, might not be fun, but I think it’s important and we do some things in this season that are artistically, and I think spiritually, deeper and more intense and more envelope-pushing than we’ve done. I think the audience is ready for something like that.”
How to watch The Chosen season four
In theaters: Episodes one to three play in theaters on February 1, episodes four to six on February 15 and episodes seven to eight on February 29. Get tickets here.
There will be a five-minute intermission during episodes one to three and episodes four to six, so you can stretch your legs, hit the restroom and refill your popcorn without missing a beat. However, episodes seven to eight will not have an intermission, and we know you’ll be on the edge of your seat right to the finish!
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