When we’re considering the next TV show to binge watch, a series that follows Jesus and His disciples doesn’t usually immediately come to mind. Then again, there aren’t many shows out there — Christian or otherwise — that tell such a more relatable, personal and captivating story than The Chosen.
Creator, director and producer Dallas Jenkins says he “felt called by God” to release a binge-able series about the life, struggles and unconditional love of Jesus…and what better way to tell it than through the eyes of the people who knew Him best.
To bring one of the most well-known and well-studied stories in history to life in a new way, while staying true to Scripture, The Chosen opts for the personal, emotional angle, brining the flaws, faults, frustrations and challenges of Jesus’ disciples, followers and families to life.
The show is also unique in that its production was not backed by a big studio, but instead crowd-funded by individuals and fans donating ahead of time to bankroll each season. Long story short: The series became so beloved that viewers paid millions out of pocket to keep the show going. And it worked.
The Chosen has raised more than $47 million, been watched by over 94 million people of all faiths, ages and backgrounds, translated into 62 languages, and has spawned multiple specials released in movie theaters. It is continuously praised for its historical and biblical accuracy, and beloved characters.
Read on as we share more background about the show, introduce you to The Chosen cast, and reveal the amazing new way it’s coming to the masses starting July 16th!
How The Chosen got started
Growing up with a father like Jerry B. Jenkins, the Christian novelist best known for the Left Behind series — one of the highest-selling book series of all time with over 60 million copies sold — Dallas Jenkins didn’t any have a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps to create Christian and faith-based media. However, in 2000 at the age of 25, he decided that if he was going to ultimately make Christian movies, he would make them good enough to appeal to a mass audience.
The idea for The Chosen came in 2017 after Jenkins worked with Hollywood producers to make a film that was a dud at the box office. “The beginning of 2017 was the lower point of my career and one of the lowest moments of my life. In just a couple of hours, I went from a director with a very bright future to a director with no future,” Jenkins said in a Q&A session sponsored by the Arrington Lecture Series.
“In that moment, I was met by God more than any other moment in my life. God laid it on my heart so strongly and so powerfully and so clearly and explicitly that I needed to give my career to Him,” Jenkins continues. “If that meant not doing another movie, then that was okay. For the first time in my life, I was genuinely okay with never making another movie. God’s presence was so strong in that moment that I just knew all I want to do is be where He wants me to be.”
How the The Chosen was funded
The initial failure led Jenkins to make a low-budget short-film about the birth of Christ. It was told from the perspective of a shepherd and was titled, appropriately, The Shepherd. He uploaded it to Facebook and it garnered 15 million views around the world. The Shepherd later became the pilot episode for The Chosen.
Bouncing off the success of the Shepherd, producers began crowd-funding the series and audiences could view Season 1 of The Chosen for free on Angel.com or on The Chosen App with the option to “pay it forward,” meaning they would donate to fund the next seasons. These gestures ended up raising all they needed to make Season 2. As the funds rolled in, a Season 3 was then created. It generated millions in donations an has become one of the highest crowdfunded media projects in history.
An overview of The Chosen
The Chosen is the first multi-season series of its kind, a historical drama about the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of His followers. Each episode is set against the backdrop of Jewish oppression in first-century Israel and shares an authentic and intimate look at Jesus’ revolutionary life and teachings.
There have been three seasons released, with a fourth season in production and seven seasons total planned. Each season shares an authentic and intimate look at Jesus’ revolutionary life and teachings in a chronological progression of time.
Season 1: The first season covers Christ’s early ministry when he’s still an anonymous Jewish wanderer. The first eight episodes cover Christ meeting various disciples — Andrew, Simon Peter, Matthew, John, Big James — as well as Mary Magdalene.
Season 2: The second season focuses on the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry and what happens as word of His ministry begins to spread, and as he meets the other disciples, including Judas Iscariot.
Season 3: In Season Three, Jesus and the apostles feel the stress of their growing ministry, face greater resistance from Jewish and Roman authorities and deal with greater conflict between themselves, all threatening to undermine Jesus’ ministry.
Meet The Chosen cast
While some of these actors and actresses might not be familiar to you yet, don’t be surprised if you see their faces on your screen more and more as The Chosen reaches bigger audiences.
Jonathan Roumie as Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth and the son of Mary and Joseph, who is the awaited Messiah and the Son of God, is played by Jonathan Roumie.
“Four years ago, before I started this journey, I was in a much different place in my life,” the 48-year-old actor told The Christian Post. “But as you get to know Christ more and more deeply, [life] can never get worse, it only gets better. I think more people need to know that, to hear that. And if we can find a way to do that through modern media, like storytelling and television, then that’s our calling,” he said.
Elizabeth Tabish as Mary Magdalene
Elizabeth Tabish plays the role of Mary Magdalene, a redeemed woman from Magdala and one of the women helping Jesus’ ministry. In the series she is the first to follow Jesus.
“The thing that I keep returning to every time I get to play [Mary Magdalene], is just this deep, deep love for Jesus,” Tabish said in The Catholic Weekly. “In my own faith and my own connection to her it’s been very touching and sort of a sacred experience to be able to portray someone who was so close to Jesus and loved him so much. Being able to portray her the way they have written her in The Chosen has been a dream as an actress because they’ve written a wonderfully in-depth, psychologically complex character that is a privilege to get to play.”
Shahar Isaac as Simon Peter
Simon Peter is a former fisherman in Capernaum and the brother of Andrew. He is played by Shahar Isaac. “It’s real people with real issues,” Isaac said of playing one of the Twelve in an interview with ABC.
Lara Silva as Eden
Eden is the wife of Simon Peter and the daughter of Dasha, played by Lara Silva.
“I think The Chosen does such a great job at really not sugar coating any experiences or emotions, and they write it in such a beautiful way that people can relate to so well because it’s raw and vulnerable. It’s so well done, and we’re excited for people to see that,” she said in an interview with Hope 103.2.
“Being able to bring Eden to life has been an incredible gift because we know so much about the disciples and a lot of the guys have texts to go off of to create who their character would be. But for Eden, I had to think about, ‘What kind of woman would be married to Simon?’ So that was really great to bring some of me and my truth to who Eden is, and a lot of that came through prayer to give the story justice and play Eden with so much freedom.”
Noah James as Andrew
Andrew is played by Noah James. Andrew is a former fisherman in Capernaum and the brother of Simon Peter. “It feels like you’re in Capernaum, 2,000 years ago,” actor Noah James told Christian Headlines. “It’s unbelievable….You feel like you can really seep yourself in the time and feel the authenticity.”
Paras Patel as Matthew
George Xanthis as John
George Xanthis plays John, a former fisherman in Capernaum, one of the sons of Zebedee and Salome, and the younger brother of Big James. Xanthis has acted in other roles, but he says playing John the Apostle in The Chosen is “the best role of my life, for sure.”
Abe Martell as Big James
Big James is played by Abe Martell, a former fisherman in Capernaum and the older brother of John, a former fishing partner of Simon and Andrew.
Vanessa Benavente as Mother Mary
The wife of Joseph, a carpenter from Nazareth, and the earthly mother of Jesus, Mary is played by Vanessa Benavente.
“I always wondered how she must have felt having to learn to be a mother while fulfilling such an important mission. I mean, it’s mind-blowing to me,” Benavente told Eternity News. “And her strengths and her character, her devotion, and her faith, all these things coming together. And the trust that she has to have in God. So all these things inspire me — they really do.”
Yoshi Barrigas as Philip
Yoshi Barrigas has played Philip, a friend of Andrew in his hometown Bethsaida, and a former disciple of John the Baptist, for the second and third season of The Chosen.
When Barrigas met Justin Bieber on a hiking trail in L.A. and Bieber invited him to church, Barrigas couldn’t refuse. He spent the next six months attending church and learning about the teachings of Jesus, so when the role came up to play Philip, he jumped at the opportunity. “I felt very prepared for it and it felt like something I really wanted and [was] really motivated to get,” Barrigas told Pure Flix Insider. “And here we are.”
Barrigas has since departed from the series, but the role of Philip will continue to be played by Reza Diako.
Jordan Walker Ross as Little James
“In season three,” Jordan revealed to Catholic World Report, “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.”
“I hope that Little James can help others,” he says. “As artists, you always want people to relate to you. One of the biggest things for me is how The Chosen has affected the younger generation.”
Joey Vahedi as Thomas
“When we were shooting in Texas, I went to grab some barbecue at a restaurant,” Vahedi told Christian Headlines, “And this guy, while I’m sitting down, walks up and stares at me just for a long time. He ended up coming over, and he said, ‘Hey, are you Thomas in The Chosen?'” The man showed Vahedi a business card he had been handing to strangers. It said, “Watch The Chosen.” The man had handed out 500 of them. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would meet somebody doing something like that,” Vahedi said. “It’s a testament to the show.”
Yasmine Al-Bustami as Ramah
Played by Yasmine Al-Bustami, Ramah is a former vintner from the plains of Sharon, the business partner of Thomas, and one of the women helping Jesus’ ministry.
“I’ve never played in a historical piece, which I didn’t know I would love so much,” Al-Bustami told the Daily Express US. “It’s a blast, especially with a story like this. It’s something that has been an experience that I was just not expecting.”
Alaa Safi as Simon Z.
Giavani Cairo as Thaddeus
“One of the most incredible experiences not only as an actor, but in my life as well,” Cairo said on Instagram. “Getting to bring this story to life with my family was truly special.”
Luke Dimyan as Judas Iscariot
Luke Dimyan plays Judas Iscariot, a former business apprentice and one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. “This was one of the most fulfilling acting experiences I’ve ever had,” Dimyan said on Instagram. “Everything you loved about the past seasons is just bigger, better, and stronger. You’re in for a real treat,” he told LDSLiving.
Austin Reed Alleman as Nathanael
Where to watch The Chosen on network TV
The first three seasons of the hit show will air for the first time on US broadcast television on Sunday, July 16 at 8:00pm ET/PT on The CW Network. This highly anticipated series will continue its run throughout the fall. The season three finale is set to air on Christmas Eve.
“As part of our global representation of this coveted property, we are pleased that The CW will become another great partner for The Chosen,” said Lionsgate President of Worldwide Television Distribution Jim Packer. “This groundbreaking series already has a massive global following, and The CW platform will provide the perfect opportunity for the show to reach existing fans and inspire new ones.”
“The Chosen is based on the biggest IP of all time and is truly a one-of-a-kind series that tells this historically significant story in a captivating, dramatic and premium way,” commented Brad Schwartz, President of Entertainment, The CW Network. “This show has already connected deeply with viewers around the world, and The CW will expand its audience even further.”
“To me, one of the joys of this project is seeing the religious walls that come down when we’re focused on Jesus himself,” Jenkins said. “It’s just been so beautiful to watch.”