Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story
The Great Read
“The Chosen,” a TV series about the life of Jesus, pulls off a crowd-funded miracle: a hit with a Christian fan base that is breaking into the mainstream.
Send any friend a story
As a subscriber, you have 10 gift articles to give each month. Anyone can read what you share.
By Ruth Graham
To hear more audio stories from publications like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.
MIDLOTHIAN, Texas — In the biblical account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus uses two fish and five loaves of bread to feed a large crowd. The small amount of food supernaturally multiplies to satisfy 5,000 people who have gathered to hear him speak near the Sea of Galilee.
Re-enacting that scene for television could be viewed as a miracle of its own: 9,000 extras gathered over the course of three days at a Salvation Army camp south of Dallas this summer. They were not paid actors, but devotees of the television show they were making. Many of them had traveled from across the country to stand in the Texas heat, a reward for giving up to $1,000 each to fund the show.
“The Chosen,” a surprise hit television series, is billed as the first multi-season show about the life of Jesus — and one of the biggest crowd-funded media projects ever produced. The show’s third season will begin streaming online in mid-December.
Conceived by a little-known creator, featuring no major stars and funded primarily, at first, through small contributions without the support of a Hollywood studio, the series began on an obscure proprietary app and is now given away for free. Its I.P. is 2,000 years old. But despite the long odds, the faith-based drama series has become a bona fide phenomenon in many parts of Christian culture, attracting a fervent ecumenical fandom while remaining almost invisible to others.
Globally, 108 million people have watched at least part of one episode of “The Chosen,” according to an analysis prepared at its producers’ behest by Sandy Padula, an independent consultant. The show now also streams on platforms including Peacock, Amazon Prime Video, and, as of last week, Netflix. Producers recently announced that the third season of the show would also be available on a new “The Chosen” app.
The first two episodes of the show’s third season premiered together in theaters on Nov. 18, and brought in more than $8 million, coming in third at the weekend box office behind mainstream movies that screened in more theaters. A limited-run theatrical release of a Christmas special last year was extended weeks beyond its planned run and topped $13.5 million in ticket sales — a fraction of the box office for mainstream Hollywood films, but a record for Fathom Events, a large distributor that specializes in special events and short-run screenings.
The show first appeared in 2019, but it wasn’t until the coronavirus pandemic that it found its audience. The first two seasons are eight episodes each.
When Felicia Maize’s large evangelical church in the suburbs of Dallas temporarily closed down in March 2020, friends texted her and her family to urge them to tune in.
“This Jesus blinks his eyes,” Mrs. Maize recalled one friend telling her. He wasn’t some stiff and remote character from an old painting; he was relatable, like a best friend, she said. A few episodes in, they were hooked. The show spread among their friend group by word of mouth, and “sustained everyone,” she said. “We binged Jesus.”
Mrs. Maize had come to the Texas set with her husband and two sons, who stood in the baking afternoon sun waiting to be summoned to the cameras. “We’re not lukewarm!” she said cheerfully, a reference to the Book of Revelation’s warning against tepid faith, and a description of their burning fandom.
Part of the camp was an Instagram-friendly playground, where extras spent their downtime posing with life-size cutouts of cast members and browsing at a large gift shop. Other areas were transformed into first-century Galilee, including a replica of the seaside city of Capernaum, where the Gospels describe Jesus attending synagogue and healing people.
The series is based on the four Gospels, which follow Jesus from his birth in a stable to his resurrection after being crucified by the Roman Empire. But the show’s creator and director, Dallas Jenkins, an evangelical Christian, has fleshed out elaborate new back stories and personalities for the people around his central character.
The Jesus of “The Chosen” is serene, charismatic and intimate — something like a roving therapist. In the world of “The Chosen,” Mary Magdalene is an alcoholic and a victim of sexual assault. Matthew, the tax-collector disciple, is portrayed as on the autism spectrum, and the disciple Little James has a physical disability expressed as a limp. (The actor who plays Little James, Jordan Walker Ross, has scoliosis and mild cerebral palsy.)
Mr. Jenkins’s tactic of expanding the characters around Jesus means there’s enough material to fill out a planned seven seasons, and enough new story lines to warrant fears of “spoilers” in one of the most well-known narratives in human history. The show includes complex relationships, suspense, political intrigue, and charged emotional moments.
Ryan Swanson and Tyler Thompson, who write with Mr. Jenkins, list influences including “Game of Thrones,” “The Wire,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “Star Trek” — the last one because it’s about “a captain and about 12 other people,” Mr. Swanson said.
The fact that “The Chosen” aspires to secular prestige TV quality is part of its appeal for an audience that has grown resigned to entertainment products that are often lesser imitations of mainstream hits. Many fans say the show’s production values drew them in. “It was far less cheesy than what I’m used to seeing,” said Luke Burgis, a Catholic writer who wrote an essay titled “Why We Love ‘The Chosen’ So Much” last year for the evangelical magazine Christianity Today. He generally eschews Christian media, he said, but the show is “like anything I’d find on Netflix.”
Neal Harmon, co-founder of Angel Studios, the distributor of the first two seasons, says the show was its first breakout hit: “What ‘House of Cards’ was for Netflix, ‘The Chosen’ was for Angel Studios,” he said. (As a marketing team, Mr. Harmon and his brother, Jeff, are behind viral advertising campaigns for products like the Squatty Potty and Poo-Pourri.)
Accounts abound of skeptical viewers unexpectedly ending up in tears as they watch scenes like one in the first episode, in which Jesus approaches a devastated Mary Magdalene, whom he has never met. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you,” he tells her, looking deeply into her eyes. “I have called you by name,” he continues. “You are mine.” The soundtrack soars.
The show can also border on the corny, with Bible characters using phrases like “not too shabby” and “I’ll be in touch.” But what stands out are the countless moments in which Jesus pauses what he is doing to witness and name a character’s struggle, even if he does not fix the problem. “I see you,” he tells the wife of one of his disciples. “I know it is not easy to be at home when your husband is out doing all of this.”
The title “The Chosen” can be interpreted as referring to Jesus himself, his disciples or even any of his followers — including those watching a television show about him in 2022.
“I think that’s what the banner over the whole show is: Jesus is a personal God,” Mr. Jenkins said. Mr. Jenkins grew up with an intimate view of what it looked like for a piece of Christian pop culture to blow up into the mainstream: He’s the son of Jerry B. Jenkins, who co-wrote the best-selling “Left Behind” series of Christian apocalyptic thrillers.
Mr. Jenkins relies on a panel of one evangelical Christian, one Catholic scholar and one Messianic rabbi to consult on the scripts. But controversies flare up occasionally. During the second season, Mr. Jenkins addressed accusations of blasphemy over issues including the depiction of Mary Magdalene’s “backsliding” into sin after being saved.
For many viewers, the appeal of the show is that it is pointedly not political.
“You can’t infuse American politics into first-century Judea,” said Erin Moon, an evangelical podcaster in Birmingham, Ala., who has recommended the show to her listeners. “There’s something very pure, or focused, that you’re not seeing with a lot of American churches right now.”
“Just preach the Gospel” is a cliché among some Christians tired of litigating cultural and political battles in spiritual spaces, Ms. Moon said. But in her view, “The Chosen” pulls it off.
“The Chosen” is “my literal favorite TV show,” she said. “It’s the thing I evangelize about.”
Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus on the show, has played the same role in three short films directed by Mr. Jenkins. Like most of the actors on the show, he also looks like he could have actually been born in the Middle East: His father is Egyptian.
For some viewers, it’s hard not to conflate Mr. Roumie with his role as the son of God.
The actor has in some ways taken on the role of spiritual leader himself. He has a partnership with Hallow, a Catholic meditation and prayer app that has also worked with celebrities like Mark Wahlberg and Brett Favre. In the spring, he collaborated on a Hallow production with Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ,” directed by Mel Gibson. (The two men have never met in person, Mr. Roumie said, joking that “the universe might implode.”)
In the early months of the pandemic, Mr. Roumie led a daily prayer session on Instagram, praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Rosary for thousands of people. Tuning into the prayers “became part of my routine,” said Anusha Jebanasam, the moderator of a Facebook fan page for Mr. Roumie.
Mr. Jenkins, the other face of the show, introduces episodes online, and interacts frequently with fans; he is often recognized in public. The fact that the show is crowd-funded means many viewers feel personally invested in its success and see themselves as part of a community. When Mr. Jenkins posts on social media about a streaming event, he said, “people will respond in the comments, ‘I can’t make it, I’m going to be at Bible study.’”
In June, Ms. Jebanasam traveled from her home in Sydney, Australia, to serve as an extra on set in Texas.
“All these 5,000 people here are new friends,” said Lori Mejaly, a Catholic from Detroit who was sitting at a folding table during a break with George Pechulis, a Baptist from Wyoming whom she had just met. “We’re all under one God.”
To prepare for the taping, Mr. Pechulis stopped trimming his beard a few months back, and Ms. Mejaly did a Google search for “first-century clothes.” She settled on Birkenstock-style sandals, an orange tunic and a bright head scarf.
Ben and Crystal Woods, who had traveled from Indiana, said “The Chosen” was a touchstone throughout the most difficult period of their lives. Their middle child, Calla, died at age 9 in 2019. Then came the isolation of the pandemic. Grieving at home, and unable to attend church in person, they began watching the drama with their other two children.
Mrs. Woods often prays as she watches the show, imagining herself in place of the characters as they interact with Jesus and receive his help and attention. She has watched episodes with a small group from church, with her neighbor and her family.
To prepare for the family’s appearances as extras, Mrs. Woods tried her hand at sewing for the first time, stitching a tunic for their 7-year-old, Lila.
Watching the show is “good for my soul,” she said.
Hours later, on the other side of the camp, Mr. Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus, was standing in front of the crowd of extras in a short burlap tunic, waiting for the cameras to start rolling again.
It was almost 6 p.m., and temperatures were still in the 90s. Piles of store-bought pita bread and dried croaker fish acquired from local Asian supermarkets were mounded in large baskets. Crew members circulated to distribute water bottles and umbrellas. The air smelled like hot seafood. But when Mr. Roumie lifted his phone during a break and smiled into the camera for a selfie, the crowd erupted in cheers.
Audio produced by Kate Winslett.
Continue reading the main story
Can I watch The Chosen on Netflix? ›
Watch all you want.Is there a season 2 of chosen on Netflix? ›
IS THE CHOSEN SEASON 2 ON NETFLIX? Nope.What network is showing The Chosen? ›
The ChosenIs Jesus Christ Superstar based on the Bible? ›
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR is one of several biblical-fictions that tell the interpretive back-story of these stories. Creators, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, express their interpretation of what this story means for our lives.Is The Chosen free on Amazon Prime? ›
Unfortunately, The Chosen Season 3 isnot available to stream for free on Amazon Prime Video. However, you can choose othershows and movies to watch from there as it has a wide variety of shows and movies that youcan choose from for $14.99 a month.Is The Chosen TV series Catholic? ›
The series was conceived within an explicitly Christian framework with an approach that is intended to be ecumenical. Writer and director Dallas Jenkins is an Evangelical, but the actor who plays Jesus, Jonathan Roumie, is a Catholic.Is The Chosen connected to the Mormon Church? ›
“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.Where can I watch Season 1 and 2 of The Chosen? ›
You can watch The Chosen on Peacock. Peacock currently has 2 seasons of The Chosen available for streaming.How do I watch The Chosen on my smart TV? ›
- From your TV's home screen, select "Apps." Scroll down to the "Search" option. ...
- Click on "Angel Studios" in the available options and select "Install" to add/download the app.
- You can now open the app and watch The Chosen.
Streaming on Roku. Add Angel Studios: Stream The Chosen, The Wingfeather Saga, Dry Bar Comedy, & more. The Chosen, a drama series starring Erick Avari, Shahar Isaac, and Noah James is available to stream now.
Is The Chosen on Peacock free? ›
Peacock has free, premium, and ad-free options. While if you want to watch on the free tier of Peacock, you will have to wait eight days after network shows air on NBC, The Chosen is available completely on the free tier.Where can I watch Season 1 of The Chosen? ›
Currently you are able to watch "The Chosen - Season 1" streaming on Pure Flix, Amazon Prime Video, Crackle, fuboTV or for free with ads on Peacock, Peacock Premium, VUDU Free, Tubi TV, Redbox, The Roku Channel.Who is the best actor of Jesus? ›
- Lothaire Bluteau in Jesus of Montreal (1989) ...
- Ted Neeley in Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) ...
- Jeffrey Hunter in King of Kings (1961) ...
- Robert Powell in Jesus of Nazareth (1977) ...
- Enrique Irazoqui in The Gospel According to St Matthew (1964) ...
- Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ (2004)
This excerpt from 'The Fifty Year Mission' shows how Paul McCartney, Barry Diller, John F. Kennedy and, yes, even Christ all played a role in the original series movie that almost was.Did Brad Pitt play Jesus? ›
In the new movie “Son of God,” Jesus is played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado, whose appearance has been compared to Brad Pitt and a young Marlon Brando, and who has inspired a Twitter hashtag of “Hot Jesus.” Box office is booming: “Son of God,” which was made from footage shot for the History channel miniseries “ ...Who is streaming The Chosen for free? ›
Watch The Chosen - Free TV Series | Tubi.What religion is behind The Chosen? ›
“As I've said, many, many times, the content of the show has zero influence or input from any formal faith tradition or church. None.” However, Latter-day Saints are involved with the show. “The Chosen” is distributed by Angel Studios, which was co-founded by Latter-day Saint brothers Neal and Jeffrey Harmon.Is The Chosen true to the Bible? ›
Although The Chosen draws directly from the New Testament, it's become a global phenomenon largely because it doesn't treat the Gospels as, uh, gospel. Its creator, Dallas Jenkins, a recent Texas transplant, developed the series in 2018 with the hope of turning Bible stories into something truly binge-worthy.Is VidAngel a Mormon company? ›
Then of course, VidAngel's owned by 8,000 Americans of all different faiths. But the two founders, we are faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.Is The Chosen ok to watch? ›
The first episode is too intense for little kids but the rest of the episodes are fine for anyone. This show is a work of art that tells the beautiful story of the Gospel in a super cool way! 3 people found this helpful.
What does the Catholic Church say about The Chosen? ›
Created outside of the Hollywood system, The Chosen allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who knew him. The Chosen stays faithful to the Gospels and at the same time tells us a story that is in between the lines of scripture.Do the Mormons believe Jesus is God? ›
Like most Christians, Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Creator of the World.Do LDS Mormons believe in Jesus? ›
Latter-day Saints believe God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to save all humanity from death and their individual sins. Jesus Christ is central to the lives of Church members.How do I watch all seasons of The Chosen? ›
Download the Peacock app and start streaming full episodes of The Chosen. You can watch The Chosen on Peacock.Can I watch The Chosen on cable TV? ›
The Chosen season 3 is now streaming on Angel Studios and we've given you many ways to watch on your TV. For the best experience use the Angel Studios app available on Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Google TV.What app do I download to watch The Chosen? ›
Tune into the Angel app on your TV or watch online today.How do I get Angel TV? ›
Right now you can watch Angel on Hulu Plus. You are able to stream Angel by renting or purchasing on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play, and Vudu.Where can I see the Christmas with The Chosen? ›
Stream The Chosen: Christmas With The Chosen: The Messengers Livestream on Angel Studios.Is The Chosen free on Roku? ›
See the record-shattering series about Jesus that has a 9.9 on IMDb. Watch full episodes for free, stream on Roku, phone, tablet, or cast to your TV!Is The Chosen still on Hulu? ›
Watch The Chosen Streaming Online | Hulu (Free Trial)
How much is Peacock TV? ›
To access all of the content Peacock has to offer, you can sign up for a Peacock Premium subscription at $4.99 a month (+tax) or $49.99 per year (+tax).What channel is The Chosen season 1? ›
The ChosenWho else played Jesus? ›
|Robert Powell||Jesus of Nazareth||1977|
|Liam Neeson||Pilgrim's Progress||1978|
|Kenneth Colley||Monty Python's Life of Brian||1979|
In 1977, British actor Robert Powell was cast as Jesus for Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth. Acting alongside Hollywood greats, like Anne Bancroft, Christopher Plummer and James Mason, Powell gave the performance of his life.Who is the most respected actor in the world? ›
- Jack Nicholson - April 22, 1937. ...
- Daniel Day-Lewis - April 29, 1957. ...
- Tom Hanks - July 9, 1956. ...
- Mohanlal - May 21, 1960. ...
- Leonardo DiCaprio - November 11, 1974. ...
- Choi Min-Sik - January 22, 1962. ...
- Gary Oldman - March 21, 1958. ...
- Heath Ledger - April 4, 1979.
In fact, while Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 3, Episode 12, “The High Ground” was a pointedly political episode, a throwaway line of dialogue led to it being banned in both the UK and Ireland for decades.Did Kirk and Picard ever meet? ›
Kirk Meets Picard ('Star Trek: Generations,' 1994)
Only the Nexus could allow these two greats to meet. The two Enterprise captains team up to save the day from Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell), with Kirk (William Shatner) ultimately dying in one of the most controversial and debated moments in Star Trek history.
Two immortal beings, the Sphinx and the first vampire Varnae, observed Jesus during the time he was alive. In Immortal X-Men #1, Exodus implies that Jesus was a mutant, despite having no proof or any way of knowing Jesus' actual status.What religion is the actor who plays Jesus in the chosen? ›
Jonathan Roumie, the 48-year-old native New Yorker who portrays Jesus, is a devout Catholic. After filming ended one evening, he provided a special moment of prayer by reciting the Our Father in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, for those present. “He was so personable with the crowd between takes,” McAdam said.Did Joaquin Phoenix plays Jesus? ›
Here's one thing he refused to do. Joaquin Phoenix is Jesus in Garth Davis' "Mary Magdalene," which opened Friday in the United States.
Did Will Ferrell play Jesus? ›
Superstar (1999) - Will Ferrell as Sky Corrigan, Jesus - IMDb.Is The Chosen Bible series on Netflix? ›
Globally, 108 million people have watched at least part of one episode of “The Chosen,” according to an analysis prepared at its producers' behest by Sandy Padula, an independent consultant. The show now also streams on platforms including Peacock, Amazon Prime Video, and, as of last week, Netflix.Is The Chosen on Amazon Prime or Netflix? ›
The Chosen - Amazon Prime Video Series - Where To Watch.Does Hulu stream The Chosen? ›
Watch The Chosen Streaming Online | Hulu (Free Trial)Is season of the chosen free? ›
The Chosen is the first-ever multi-season series about the life of Christ. The free show that tens of millions of people won't stop talking about.Where can I find The Chosen for free? ›
The Chosen Season 3
The Chosen Season Three is now streaming on all of Angel Studios' platforms. Enjoy all three seasons for free and get introduced to amazing new content that amplifies light.
For the best experience use the Angel Studios app available on Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, and Google TV. Don't have access to any of those devices? No problem! The Angel Studios app for iPhone, Android, and Angel.com support casting options for AirPlay and Chromecast.Where can I watch season 1 of The Chosen? ›
Currently you are able to watch "The Chosen - Season 1" streaming on Pure Flix, Amazon Prime Video, Crackle, fuboTV or for free with ads on Peacock, Peacock Premium, VUDU Free, Tubi TV, Redbox, The Roku Channel.How can I watch The Chosen Christmas? ›
Stream The Chosen: Christmas With The Chosen: The Messengers Livestream on Angel Studios.