If you haven’t already heard or read about “The Chosen,” suffice it to say that it isn’t a typical TV show about the life of Jesus Christ.
First off, the show is atypical because a massive crowdfunding effort allowed its creators to do an end run around the standard Hollywood production process. Secondly, it’s atypical because it’s more focused on the lives of people around Jesus than on Christ himself.
In an interview with Blaze Media, the show’s creator and director, Dallas Jenkins, says that the show, which is distributed by VidAngel Studios, began with a video about the birth of Christ that he made for his church one Christmas. He says he was coming off of a big career failure when “I poured myself into this short film for my church’s Christmas Eve service.” The 20-minute video told the story of the birth of Christ from the perspective of the shepherds. That short film, he says, eventually got into the hands of a streaming service, went viral, and led to the crowdfunding swell that started “The Chosen.”
Jenkins says that the concept of telling the story of Jesus Christ through the lens of the people whose lives he changed — often people who are only briefly mentioned in the Bible — helps serve a twofold purpose.
First, he explains, “Christ doesn’t actually make a great main character in a drama.”
“Main characters in dramas are supposed to have arcs, they’re supposed to have flaws that they overcome, they’re supposed to have lessons that they learn in some way,” Jenkins explains. “Any good character in the hero’s journey changes,” while Christ doesn’t. “He was perfect from the beginning, He didn’t learn anything new, at least in his adult ministry,” the director continues, “so when you make a movie about Christ or a miniseries about Christ and he’s the main character, it’s actually not all that dramatic from a character perspective.”
Secondly, Jenkins says, “I believe that if you can see Jesus through the eyes of those who actually met him, you could perhaps be impacted or changed in the same way that they were.”
But writing backstories for characters that the text of the Bible simply doesn’t spend much time on can be a challenge. Jenkins says that through a team of three biblical consultants — an evangelical scholar, a Catholic priest, and a Messianic Jewish rabbi — historical context, cultural context, and clues given by the text and human nature, his team aims to produce “plausible” stories where scripture drops off.
“When we get to the actual Bible stories themselves, we don’t change anything,” Jenkins explains. “If the scripture saw fit to tell it in that way, then we’re going to do that, but by adding some of this context, we just want to make sure that we’re plausible, we’re not claiming it’s fact. We are claiming it’s plausible. And we do encourage people to read the Gospels for the accurate understanding of each of these particular Bible stories, but we love bringing this backstory into it because it seems to bring it to life even more.”