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Feature Article on 'The Chosen' - A conversation with the producer

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Feature Article on 'The Chosen' - A conversation with the producer
The Chosen
Rhoda Hardie speaks to the producer Katherine Warnock.

In a recent feature in The Spectator, Krish Kandiah described The Chosen as ‘probably the most successful TV show you have never heard of.’ The largest crowd-funded media project of all-time, The Chosen is a ground-breaking multi-season television series about the life of Jesus and His followers. The series has had almost 400 million views in over 160 countries worldwide and has been translated into fifty-six languages and counting, with The Chosen app consistently ranked in the top fifty entertainment apps on IoS and Android.

The first season of The Chosen was released in the US in 2019; the second season was released on Easter Sunday 2021. DVDs of both seasons are now available in the UK along with eight session small group study guides for seasons 1 and 2 (What Does It Mean To Be Chosen? and Blessed Are The Chosen, published by David C Cook).

So what is this ground-breaking show which is taking the world by storm? We spoke to producer Katherine Warnock about the series’ success and the team’s plans for the future.

‘The goal of The Chosen is to introduce the world to the authentic Jesus,’ says Katherine. ‘Our main goal at the moment is to reach a billion people with the authentic Jesus, a human Jesus, a relatable Jesus, a playful Jesus.’ The production team plan to make seven seasons of the show, covering Christ’s three year ministry, His death and His resurrection.

The title of the series has dual significance, as Katherine explained. ‘It’s a historical drama about the life of Jesus, but told through the lives and the lens, so to speak, of those that knew Him best, those whom He chose, those to whom He said, ‘follow me.’ And the greatest message of all is that we – watching the show today - are also the chosen. God chose to give His only son for us, that we might know everlasting life.’

One of the impressive things about the impact of The Chosen has been its ability to break down barriers of language, culture and age. In a recent interview, Dallas Jenkins recalled a Chinese family who watched the show in English before a Chinese language version was available, yet seemed to understand the dialogue, even though they didn’t know any English. Children as young as seven have been captivated by the series, while people who have been Christians for forty years or more have said that it has brought the Bible and the character of Jesus to life for them in new ways. Among the many stories of people whose lives have been changed by the series is a woman who was on the brink of committing suicide when a friend sent her a link to the show – she watched it and, greatly moved, decided that life was worth living after all.

The diversity of faith perspectives among the cast, crew and production team behind The Chosen (many are non-believers and those who are Christians span many denominations) reflects the wide demographic they hope the show will reach, as Katherine explained. ‘The huge heartbeat behind The Chosen is the goal of being a bridge, not only between denominations of Christianity, but between differing world views, differing faiths. We want to introduce people to the authentic Jesus, no matter what your world view is, no matter what your faith background is. We have received testimonies from Hindus and Muslims telling us how much they love the series.’

Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus in the series, had worked with director Dallas Jenkins previously on some short films for Good Friday services at Dallas’s church, but never dreamed he would be depicting Jesus to a global audience on this scale. He says of the role, ‘there isn’t any other character that compares to Jesus – He is just so mystical and yet human and divine – how do you wrap your head around that as a performer?’ Roumie’s solution? ‘I pray a lot!’

Has the success and international appeal of The Chosen surprised the team behind it? ‘Yes and no’, replies Katherine. ‘The authentic Jesus is the most relatable unifying force that has ever existed, so that doesn’t surprise us at all. I think seeing the growth at such an exponential rate has been what has surprised us the most, to where we’re just trying to stay faithful to what God has asked us to do through The Chosen. So we’re trying to just keep up with Him and just lean into His wisdom and lean into His strategy. Our two main goals this year are definitely our international markets and territories, and also Gen Z, the generation that was born between 1997-2012. So we are working out how we can expand The Chosen globally, in terms of growth and expansion, but also demographically to Gen Z. So we’re really excited about that. And we have a number of fun projects coming down the pipeline geared towards Gen Z specifically.’

Tens of thousands of donors gave $10 million through crowdfunding to enable the production of each of the first three seasons of the series (over $30 million in total). Season 3 is currently in production and the show’s website has regular updates on how much of season 4 has already been funded (sixteen per cent at the time of writing). Money is raised through the option to ‘pay it forward’, where viewers can pay for free access for at least ten other people to watch the show and contribute towards the funding of future seasons, as well as through the sale of merchandise, including DVDs, T shirts and books. What is it about this series which has made people want to support it financially? ‘I think what makes The Chosen stand out’, reflects Katherine, ‘is that it is completely authentic, while also disrupting the status quo of how Christian media has been done historically and how mainstream media is executed today. Every character is so relatable. Every storyline is relevant to someone somewhere in the world. And that will continue in season 3. In season 3, we will see a number of storyline threads that speak to heartbreak and the reality of life today in modern society. And that’s hugely exciting as we seek to reach more people around the world through each season of the show.’

 

Study Guides for seasons 1 and 2

   

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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
Blessed are the Chosen (Paperback)
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The Chosen DVD Season 1 (DVD)
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The Chosen DVD Season 2 (DVD)
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What Does It Mean to Be Chosen? (Paperback)
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