A new television series featured on BYUtv called “The Chosen” is becoming widely popular around the nation and is one of the most successful crowd-funded TV shows ever created. “The Chosen” is the first ever multi-season TV show to depict the life of Jesus Christ and shows much of His story through the eyes of His chosen disciples.
Writer and creator Dallas Jenkins is an Evangelical raised Baptist who studied both the Bible and media in college, culminating in his expertise in Christian filmmaking. “The Chosen” got its start in 2017 with a short film Jenkins made for his church depicting the nativity from the perspective of a shepherd.
Executive Producer Derral Eves watched Jenkins’ short film and saw the potential of what it could become. He enjoyed the heartfelt, human emotions in the film and “immediately wanted to be part of it,” he said.
He met Jenkins the next week, they became partners, and from there, “The Chosen” grew.
With hundreds of films, shows and videos already made about Christ, why is “The Chosen” making such an impact on believers?
The authentic human approach
“The whole purpose of the show is to have people experience an authentic Jesus,” Eves said. He believes the show is resonating with so many people because of its fresh, authentic, human approach to the Bible narrative.
Eves said in most religions, there is a trend of depicting the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ in a distant, stoic way. Without taking away Christ’s divinity, Eves said it is important to them that they also represent Christ’s human side.
Throughout the show, Christ is presented as a very real, authentic human. He and his disciples go through difficulties, problems arise, triumphs are made and miracles occur.
In Eves’ opinion, Christ was “the most magnetic person that ever walked the face of the earth” and so depicting him in “The Chosen,” Christ should be that authentic human who connects with the individual, he said.
“We’re not masquerading as something stoic,” Eves said. The show fully depicts the difficulty of life in the first century showing cultural oppression, starvation, racism, bigotry, Roman oppression and personal crises of the characters. “It’s accurate in the sense of real people, with real problems, with real issues.”
Tessa Bagley, BYU-Idaho student from Sandy said she loves the show because it helps viewers see Christ as a real person.
“It helped me recognize that he was a regular (though perfect) guy who likes to joke with his friends, loves His mom, and has a special connection with the little children,” Bagley said.
A message for everyone
Individuals working on the show come from various faith backgrounds, Eves said. There are Catholics, Presbyterians, Evangelicals, Baptists, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and even non-believers involved in the show. While the vision and direction of the storyline is portrayed from Jenkins’ Evangelical perspective, Eves said it’s vital that the show is not “pigeonholed” for one specific religion.
The show focuses more on the stories and life of Christ, rather than the theology that came after, Eves said. The whole cast and crew are working together to accurately depict the life of Christ as best they can, in a way that anyone, regardless of faith background, would enjoy watching, Eves said.
“That’s what I love. This message is for everyone,” Eves said. “It’s not trying to put your theology over somebody else’s theology. We are just focusing in on Jesus.”
“The Chosen” is helping some people discover Jesus for the first time, and others to re-discover the Jesus they grew up knowing, Eves said.
The show is not meant to replace the Bible, Eves said. Instead, the show’s creators hope as people watch, they will become curious and it will lead them to read and study the Bible more deeply.
Eves said he has heard from some who watch that they are “getting more devout. Instead of becoming a church goer, they are becoming a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ.”
If there was ever a time the world needed Jesus, Eves said, it’s now. “Now is the time we need to share the good word.”
The show’s deal with BYUtv
“The Chosen” is not endorsed by or affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but many members of the Church are embracing its messages.
Michael Dunn, managing director of BYUtv, said “The Chosen” is “one of the most remarkable, embraceable, approachable and understandable depictions of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ that has ever been produced.”
Some of the scenes in season two are filmed at the Jerusalem set owned by the Church in Goshen, Utah. According to the Deseret News, “The Chosen” is the first production to be filmed at the Jerusalem set that is not Church affiliated.
Dunn said after a lot of wrangling, “The Chosen” and the Church came to a “wonderful deal between all parties” allowing the actors to film at the Goshen set in exchange for letting BYUtv stream and broadcast the show on its channel. Several other factors also went into the deal, but both parties agreed on wanting to get as much exposure as possible for the show.
BYUtv is currently the only broadcast network “The Chosen” airs on, Dunn said.
Although “The Chosen” is not endorsed by The Church, Dunn said it is “right in the bullseye of where we aim to deliver in programming.” Because the show has good wholesome values, is family oriented, and promotes further study of the life of Christ, Dunn is happy to have it streamed on BYUtv.
Dunn said he thinks by the time creators of “The Chosen” release all seven seasons, it will be the most watched series ever on the life of Christ. He feels “very blessed” to be a small part of sharing the show with viewers, he said.
“The Chosen” landed on BYUtv with “great success and receptivity,” Dunn said. “In a very short timespan it has become one of our most watched and most popular programs.”
All released episodes are currently available on demand on the free BYUtv app and BYUtv’s website. Starting Sunday, May 30, BYUtv will begin broadcasting an episode from season two each week at 4 p.m.
Reaching a billion people
“One main goal we have is not only to produce the show, but to get it out to a billion people,” Eves said.
To do that, creators of the show made it available through a device almost everyone has access to: a phone. “The Chosen” has its own app anyone can download to watch each episode for free.
According to a counter in “The Chosen” app, there are already 170,980,200 views as of May 26, but the number is continually growing. Eves said creators hope that a billion people actually watch the show, rather than simply achieving a billion views.
“We’re not going to stop at anything until we get that because that right there, is something that we believe needs to happen,” Eves said.
When an individual finishes watching the show on the app, there is an option to “Pay It Forward,” giving free access for 10+ other people to view the show and contributing to the funding of future seasons.
The “Pay It Forward” option is one part of the crowd-funding that has funded the entire show. Other ways “The Chosen” fundraises is through selling merchandise such as T-shirts, hats, books and DVDs. Eves said on the app people can also pay to “unlock” certain features faster.
Creating a multi-season show from crowd-funding is a difficult task, but Eves said he believes “the content will sell itself.” So far the first two seasons were successfully crowd-funded and the third season is 38% funded.
The series can be viewed through its own app, on VidAngel and through various other streaming services, including BYUtv. Season one and most of season two are now available for viewing, with new episodes being released every few weeks. Season three’s script is written and production is scheduled to start later this fall.
In season one, Christ is gathering his disciples and backstories are shown of memorable main characters such as Mary Magdalene, Simon, Andrew and Nicodemus. The calling of Matthew, Christ turning water into wine, the healing of a paralytic and a leper and more familiar Bible stories are depicted.
Season two depicts Christ beginning his ministry as he and his disciples travel into Samaria and surrounding regions. The famous Sermon on the Mount is depicted in season two.
“The Chosen” creators expect to produce seven seasons that cover the rest of Christ’s three-year ministry, His death and resurrection, following the New Testament narrative.