In the first interfaith project of its kind, “The Chosen” looks to connect viewers with Jesus Christ through the eyes of those who knew him. The multi-episode streaming series is produced by and exclusively available to stream at VidAngel.
“People from the Jewish faith, evangelical Christians, Catholics and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all came together as one to make this series happen,” said VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon. “We celebrate the fresh, evangelical, and biblical script that is more concerned with telling a story from the New Testament that we can all relate to rather than focusing on religious differences between faiths.”
The first season consists of eight episodes and follows the stories of Mary Magdalene, Peter, Matthew, Nicodemus, and others as they learn of the man called Jesus and gain a sense of his divine mission. At the heart of “The Chosen” is a desire to tell the story of Christ in a living way.
“Aside from the fact that it is truly an interfaith project, we believe that people are responding so enthusiastically to the show because it’s authentic,” Harmon explained. “It brings the Bible to life by highlighting the fact that these people were real people and that this was a real human experience. Rather than feeling like distant pages, it connects to help people alive today, and I think that’s the magic that Dallas Jenkins, his team, and the backers (we call them The Chosen army) created.”
This magic began with a short film directed by Jenkins called “The Shepherd.” Originally intended to play at his church on Christmas Eve, the 23-minute film highlights the real experiences of shepherds in Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s birth. Jenkins had no idea his viscerally beautiful take on the Christmas story would lead to “The Chosen.” But after connecting with Harmon and others at the VidAngel team, it was decided “The Chosen” would be the first original scripted project under VidAngel studios.
But, working outside of the Hollywood machine has never been financially easy. How would VidAngel get the money they needed to build a team for Jenkins so “The Chosen” could happen? They turned to social media and crowd-funding. Initially, they thought they’d be impressed if they managed to raise $800. What happened next can be described as a miracle. By the time the crowd-funding project had ended, “The Chosen” had raised over $10 million dollars from more than 16,000 people. It became the largest crowd-funded media project of all-time.
Now, “The Chosen” team is working on funding season 2 and sharing their energized message of Jesus with the world.
“This series is in over 180 countries and being translated into 52 languages currently, and we are just getting started,” Harmon said. “Our goal is to reach the world with this show, and specifically we would like to break the 1 billion view record set by HBO’s Game of Thrones.”
The series looks to achieve this goal by combining historical authenticity, living characters with authentic story arcs, and a heartbeat for Christ. One way they’ve achieved this is through a diverse cast that looks unlike any other you’ve seen before in faith-based media. The process to find the actors was daunting, given both the iconic and influential nature of the characters. However, the team was able to find an outstanding cast to bring the story to life. Cast members include Jonathan Roumie as Jesus, Shahar Isaac as Peter, Elizabeth Tabish as Mary Magdalene, Paras Patel as Matthew, Noah James as Andrew, and Erick Avari (known for his roles in “Independence Day” and “The Mummy”) as Nicodemus.
“I love that the actor who plays Peter was born in Nazareth,” Harmon said of the cast and overall filming experience. “The entire team has been meticulous about making sure that this series is as historically-informed as possible. We wanted the show to look and feel like the gritty environment of first-century Israel, and we wanted the characters to come across as authentic. Dallas was deliberate about this in his casting selections, looking for people that are so believable that you forget you’re watching something produced for your TV.”
The scene below features Shahar Isaac as Peter and Jonathan Roumie as Jesus Christ in one of the pivotal moments of Season 1.
“Any retelling of such a sacred story will be imperfect and should only be a resource for building a personal relationship with Christ ourselves through prayer and the scriptures,” Harmon said. “That said, I feel like this retelling, born out of so much struggle by the creators and the distributor, has a special spirit about it. Seeing audience reactions to the first season of The Chosen has surpassed all my expectations.
And my family. Wow. My teenage daughter is not a fan of church stuff and has said, ‘it’s always so boring and serious.’ She finished episode three and asked me with a hopeful twinkle in her eye, ‘Do you think Jesus might have been like that?’ She watched them all, on her own, without me there. That one anecdote of so, so many, was enough to make it worth the enormous efforts it took to make ‘The Chosen’ a reality.”
Harmon hopes viewers will watch the series and share it with their friends and families. “The Chosen” is only possible because of viewers who are passionate about the message of Christ. The easiest way to get free access to all episodes of “The Chosen” is by downloading the app from Google Play or the App Store. With the app, you can stream all the episodes on your phone or cast them directly to your TV without the need for a subscription. You’ll also get access to behind-the-scenes content, funding opportunities for future seasons, and easy ways to share “The Chosen” with those you love.
You can also watch “The Chosen” with a VidAngel subscription.
“When we started VidAngel, our vision was to help you, the viewer, make entertainment good for your home. We do that by providing tools to control the content in your home and helping create brand new content based on your preferences. That’s exactly what we’ve been able to do with The Chosen, and we look forward to providing loads more programming just like this. Please check out The Riot and The Dance for example. Also laugh to no end with Dry Bar comedy, which gets over a billion views per year. And there’s much more on the way. If you’re not satisfied with what Hollywood has created for your home, we invite you to join millions who have decided to do something about it.”
Latter-day Saints are just one of many of the many people of faith who have come together to make this series possible and now it is hopefully the time for Latter-day Saints to celebrate and share “The Chosen.”
“My whole life I have wanted to be part of something where people who believe in the Bible put aside their denominational differences and focused on the greater good,” Harmon said. “That is taking place right now, and it is something that is honoring, humbling, and absolutely wonderful to be a part of. It’s my sincere hope that the future looks like the making of The Chosen, a place where people of faith can unite to bless the world.”
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.