GRAPEVINE, Texas — Dallas Jenkins, creator of “The Chosen,” reflected on the show’s enduring popularity and how God is using the biblical series to “break barriers” between unlikely people groups.
Now in its second season, “The Chosen” is the first multi-season series based on the life of Jesus Christ and the largest crowd-funded media project in history. Since its premiere in November 2017, episodes of “The Chosen” have been watched over 150 million times and translated into over 50 languages.
In a sit-down interview with The Christian Post, Jenkins, creator and co-writer of “The Chosen,” said that while he’s “not surprised” by the show’s success, he “wouldn't have been surprised if it never took off at all.”
“I genuinely was in a posture of, one day at a time, just doing what God wants for me,” he said.
But what has surprised and excited him most is who “The Chosen” has touched over the last four years.
“Early on, our primary audience was believers because that's who was more attracted to a Jesus show,” he said. “But as the buzz has been building, we're hearing all the time from atheists, agnostics, people in the industry — even the friends and family of our casting crews, many of whom are not believers themselves, who just loved the show as a regular show.”
“Hopefully,” he added, “it's making them think more about who Jesus was and wanting to look more into it.”
“The Chosen” isn’t just impacting mainstream viewers; Jenkins said he’s heard countless stories of how the show has reached marginalized communities, from the elderly to those with special needs.
“One woman told me about her mom, who is in her 80s and has Alzheimer's,” he recalled. “Her brain is, for all intents and purposes, gone. And yet every time 'The Chosen' comes on, she engages, she responds, she laughs. Her daughter told me that the show is their opportunity to reconnect with their mom because of Jesus. That was pretty extraordinary.”
Numerous parents of special needs children, he revealed, have shared how the show has ministered to their families.
“We hear about these young children with extreme special needs who, when they watch the show, light up. It doesn't make sense because the show is complex. It’s not a simple, easy-to-follow Sunday school story. I believe that with this show, God is removing all these barriers and removing the scales from our eyes to allow us to see Jesus very clearly, from the very young to the very old.”
Season 2 of “The Chosen” was fully funded by November 2020, having received $10 million from 125,346 people. Episode six of the series premiered on Wednesday at the National Religious Broadcasters convention before an audience of over 1,300 fans in addition to a global livestream audience.
Derral Eves, executive producer of “The Chosen,” said the creators' goal is for “one billion people to see the authentic Jesus” through the show, adding: “I believe that we can inspire other people to have the values that Jesus Christ taught as we share ‘The Chosen.’”
“I truly do believe this show has impact, and it has power,” Eves said. “The world needs ‘The Chosen.’ If there’s ever a time that the world needs Jesus, it’s now — and not just Jesus, an authentic Jesus that people can literally connect with.”
Season 3 of “The Chosen” is 38% funded and will likely reach its goal in “a few months,” and filming is expected to begin later this year, Jenkins said. Still, the showrunner stressed he “doesn’t make predictions anymore.”
“It's not my job to feed the 5,000. It's only to provide the loaves and fish,” he said. “I’m on what my wife calls the ‘manna program,’ where we take whatever manna God gives us each day. God told the Israelites not to store it up because he wanted their hands outstretched every day.”
“So that's where I'm at,” he contended. “I really don't get caught up in the numbers or projecting the success or failure of it because I really don't care about success or failure. I just care about pointing people to Jesus.”
The son of Left Behind author Jerry Jenkins, Dallas Jenkins grew up in the church, listening to stories of Jesus and His followers. In creating “The Chosen,” Jenkins said writers strive to highlight all aspects of Jesus’ character, from His humble approach to humanity to His holiness and divinity.
“I do believe that Jesus could be super serious, telling people there's only one way to Heaven,” he said. “I do believe He also was very tender and loving. He said, ‘I didn't come here to judge but to save.’ In the past, people tend to just find one lane for Jesus. He's either super loving and never judgmental, or He's harsh and exclusive.”
“The God of the universe, the Creator of the universe, dwelt among us and was a human being like us. He laughed with his friends and danced at weddings. When He did miracles, it was to reach a specific person’s heart,” Jenkins continued.
Though creators strive to remain faithful to the biblical text, they do take creative liberties with characters whose backstories are not explicitly detailed in the Bible. Jenkins revealed that writers consult with everyone from Messianic and Jewish rabbis to evangelical scholars to ensure biblical accuracy when bringing such characters to life.
Jenkins emphasized that he in no way wants “The Chosen” to serve as a replacement for the Bible, or “say something new,” or reinvent God’s Word.
“I'm simply making a historic drama rooted in first century Galilee and based on the stories of the Bible,” he explained. “I believe that as long as we don't violate the intentions or the core character of Jesus and the Gospels, then it's interesting to explore.”
“The good news is, people who watch the show aren't saying, ‘I've seen the show, I don't need to read the Bible,’” he added. “They’re saying, ‘I want to read the Bible more than ever before.’ That gives us leeway to explore backstories and to put ourselves in these stories and connect ourselves to the people of first century Galilee, which will ultimately connect us to Jesus.”
Every episode of The Chosen is available to stream for free on the Angel Studios website, YouTube channel and on apps. The show is also available on NBC’s Peacock.
If a major streaming service offered to buy "The Chosen," Jenkins said, there is "no amount of money" that would make him consider doing so.
Though operating so far outside of traditional Hollywood structures has its challenges — particularly regarding distribution and funding — Jenkins told CP that avoiding major cable networks has allowed “The Chosen” creators to present “the authentic Jesus” to audiences without backlash.
“We can’t be canceled. We’re owned by nobody. We don’t have to alter our message whatsoever to please anybody. We play by our own rules,” he said.
“The whole spirit of the show is doing things unique and different,” Jenkins posited. “There’s a verse in Isaiah that says, ‘Behold, I'm doing a new thing.’ For us, we believe our operating principle is to do a new thing. I think that a lot of times, it's been a stained glass window version of Jesus in the past. I want people to know and love the authentic Jesus better.”