But with parties and presents and any number of festive distractions, we’re often reminded not to overlook the real meaning of Christmas. It’s a story more and more viewers are following in a popular TV series about the life of Jesus. Lee Cowan takes a closer look.
So this is Jerusalem.
We are in Jerusalem, and now we’re going to Kippen.
To be guided down these narrow streets.
This is all built from scratch.
As to feel as if you’re walking through the Bible itself. It looks so real.
So Simon Peter’s house right there and Matthew’s tax booth down there.
But this isn’t the Holy Land. That isn’t the Sea of Galilee. And the man showing us around is no archeologist.
Cat is for women, for the vulnerable.
This is a production set in the heart of Texas.
It comes in here.
For writer and director Dallas Jenkins, the man behind the wildly popular faith-based series, The Chosin’.
There will come a time when this will become far more difficult. When persecution is an ever-present part of your ministry. When that time comes, you will follow in my footsteps.
In an era when studies show Americans are getting less and less religious-.
You, James and John, come follow me.
The chosen has found more than just a niche audience. No, no. -says Jonathan Roomy, who plays Jesus.
We even got a letter from somebody from the Church of Satan that was like, I don’t believe all this stuff necessarily, but you guys tell a really good story. I’m like, If that guy is taking the time to write.
Going on in his world.
While exact numbers are hard to pin down, producers claim more than 200 million people have watched the first three seasons. That’s Game of Thrones numbers.
The different ideas that people have in their head of who Jesus was is fascinating and-.
Fraught. Oh, I’m walking through. I wouldn’t say I’m trying to avoid landmines. I’m walking through landmines every day.
What makes the chosen different-.
You look troubled.
I am. -are the backstores that Jenkins has created for some of the Gospel’s most well-known characters.
I’m Judas of Karyot. We’re going to take.
Them down from stained glass windows. We’re going to take them down from statues, and we’re going to remind ourselves that these people had the same questions, struggles, and doubts that we have.
I hurt you.
The tax collector, Matthew, for example, he’s portrayed as living with mild autism.
I never understood why I was so different from everyone else.
I can’t faith him.
Mary Magdalene is suffering PTSD and struggling with alcohol.
He already fixed me once. I broke again. Why didn’t you tell me?
Because- Simon is married.
What did I do wrong? You didn’t do anything.
And isn’t above the arguments that old couples have. You did nothing.
You came home from being gone and you didn’t even ask how I was.
And then there’s Jesus himself. One of the rooms is haunted.
By my dead grandmother.
I’ll take that one.
Who it turns out has a pretty.
Divine sense of humor.
You wanted to use the power of God to bring down fire to burn these people up?
Well, it sounds a lot worse when you say it that way.
I think showing those sides of Jesus while you don’t see them often doesn’t make them wrong.
For all its popularity now, The Chosin’ was not something studios were jumping to make, especially with Jenkins.
You’ve only thought about quitting?
Oh, for sure.
His previous film had landed with a thud. Nobody wanted to back him on another project.
I imagine that God tends to use the broken and tends to use the humbled. I wasn’t a humble person until that day. Hi, I’m Dallas.
Director. He turned to.
Crowdsourcing to raise money. A long shot.
So we’re going to make a television show for you about the greatest story ever told.
But boy, did it pay off. More than $10 million poured in.
As a record.
For a crowdfunded media project.
I thought, okay, this is bigger than me.
Meanwhile, Jonathan Rumey was in a wilderness of his own.
It got pretty brutal.
Acting wasn’t really panning out in Los Angeles. I know it wasn’t panning out at all. The devout Catholic, he says he prayed and asked why.
Where did I go wrong? What happened? I said, If there’s something else I’m supposed to be doing and somehow I missed it, then you got to tell me.
The answer, he says, arrived in his mailbox the very same day. Money for work that he had long forgotten.
At the end of that, I had like $1,100. In two months later, I got a call from Dallas. He was asking me to show up for the show.
Were they miracles? Both Jenkins and Roomy say that’s up to you to decide.
What does seem clear is the show is apparently offering something that a lot of people were looking for.
We’re loving the stuff. It’s awesome.
This was a fan convention in Dallas this past October. It was like comic-con, except instead of superhero costumes, it was Bible chic. When Romy.
Arrived, as you might expect, that was a little like the second coming.
Look how many people we get to meet and hang out with.
Security had to usher him away.
It’s humbling, man. I’m a dude that shows up and reads lines and says them to another person who’s saying lines that they memorized. I don’t know that I’ve met anybody that actually was disconnected enough to think that I’m actually Jesus. Just in case it wasn’t clear I’m not Jesus. I’m not Jesus, incarnated. It’s not a thing. So give them something to eat without the food.
Without the food. During the end of season three, the show faced a wandering on how to show the magnitude of Jesus feeding the multitudes without breaking the bank.
Thank you so much for joining us.
The join- Extras would have.
Cost a fortune, but.
What about the show’s fans who had so generously donated to get the chosen maid in the first place?
This opportunity and we jumped on it.
They thought they’d get a few hundred volunteers. They ended up with thousands.
When my wife and I were pulling onto the set at 5:30 in the morning, we started crying, seeing… I can get emotional thinking about it because I’m seeing a couple of thousand people already on set.
But you clearly need actual food now.
So let’s eat.
The story goes, five loaves and two fish fed 5,000. Dallas Jenkins sees his job as just providing the bread and the fish.
Even if his audience feels full, he says, isn’t up to him.
When I’m writing at the computer when I’m on set directing, I’m not thinking, Oh, I hope the show converts people. That’s not the responsibility of a TV show. Ultimately, what happens as a result of the show is between them and God.