The Chosen Season 4 creators speak!
Series creator Dallas Jenkins and several of the actors talk about humanizing Jesus, dealing with loss, and the freedom – and unpredictability – of playing fictitious characters in a biblical setting.
The Chosen Season 4 is here—or at least, the first three episodes are.
I had the opportunity to go to Los Angeles for the season’s world premiere two weeks ago. While I was there, I did some sit-down interviews with series creator Dallas Jenkins and seven of the show’s actors, and I spoke to a few more people on the night of the premiere itself as they walked the teal—not red, but teal—carpet.
I went on that trip as a freelancer for Christianity Today, but I could only use a few of the quotes that I got in my article. I do have the full interviews on video, though, so I figured I would post them here, as well as a few soundbites from the carpet.
Before I get to all that, a few quick notes, if I may:
This trip marked a number of firsts for me: It was my first junket since the pre-Covid times; it was the first time I did in-person interviews on camera; and it was the first time I participated in on-the-carpet interviews at a premiere.
The sit-down interviews were easily the shortest I’ve ever done; I’m used to doing interviews in the 15- or even 10-minute range, but some of these were only five minutes long. (One of the other reporters compared it to “speed dating”.)
The teal-carpet soundbites, of course, are even briefer.
These videos are the first I’ve ever done where I was given different angles from different cameras and I got to weave them all together, choosing which reaction shots to use, or whose faces to focus on, etc., etc. Editing these videos was fun, and I hope to do more work like this in the future.
And now, for the interviews.
First, a quick note: We writers aren’t supposed to discuss the spoilers from any given episode until the day that episode comes to theatres. So, there is one video missing from this batch, because the interviewees and I talked about a scene from Episodes 7-8, which comes out in four weeks. I will post that video on February 29.
But there’s no embargo any more on the spoilers for Episodes 1-3, so a couple of the videos below do get into those (and let the record show: I used vague phrases like “major plot twists”, and it was the interviewees who spelled out the specifics!). I will note which videos “go there” in the table of contents for each video.
And with that, on to the videos:
Dallas Jenkins, the show’s co-writer and director (we were interrupted by an alarm, but I kept that bit because it was kind of funny):
To what degree does Season 4 reflect the filmmakers’ experiences? (0:20)
Is Dallas still “excited”? (3:16)
The disciples put on a skit. (3:40)
Humanizing Jesus with emotions and dream sequences. (5:51)
EPISODE 1-3 SPOILERS: What did Jesus and Dallas know, and when did they know it? (8:33)
I previously interviewed Jenkins over the phone in December 2019 (re: Season 1) and May 2021 (re: Season 2), and via e-mail in April 2022 (re: the controversial “The Chosen Is Not Good” vandalized-billboard marketing campaign).
Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus:
Getting so close to the humanity of Jesus we can even see his dreams. (0:10)
A Jesus who experiences loss, sadness, and pain. (2:34)
Abe Bueno-Jallad, who plays Big James, and Vanessa Benavente, who plays Mother Mary:
How Mary humanizes Jesus in scenes that go beyond the gospels. (0:10)
Death, previously seen only in flash-forwards, is becoming more real. (3:11)
The sons of Zebedee ask for special status. (4:35)
Does Mary feel like she’s competing for status with the disciples? (5:34)
I previously interviewed Benavente via Zoom in November 2022 (re: Season 3). She is the only actor I spoke to on this junket that I had interviewed before.
Yasmine Al-Bustami, who plays Ramah, and Brandon Potter, who plays Quintus:
Is it more “freeing” to play fictitious characters in a biblical story? (0:10)
EPISODE 1-3 SPOILERS: Not knowing where their characters were going to go. (3:05)
Something Ramah and Quintus have in common. (4:07)
I also spoke to a few people on the teal carpet, just before the world premiere. I didn’t have a camera for these interviews, so I simply recorded them on my phone.
I have to save a few of those soundbites for later, when future episodes come out, but here are a few that I can post now, with a few bits transcribed:
Reza Diako, who took over the part of Philip this season (he’s the one in the headband in the photo below; the character was played by Yoshi Barrigas in Seasons 2 and 3):
Sample quotes, starting with one at the 0:15 mark:
PTC: What was it like, stepping into that role?
RD: It was incredible, because I was a huge fan from Season 1, and I’ve been watching it diligently with my parents and family and friends, so it meant a lot to get to be on the other side of it, and actually offer my service as an actor to the show. It was very unique, because I tend to work quite kind of open, from a place of unconscious on characters, and in this case it was kind of different, because I also, as a fan of the previous Philip and the show, I felt quite responsible to have to draw a throughline, and so that involved a lot of picking and, what do we say, observing his mannerisms and trying to integrate them into the character, as much as I brought my own stamp to the story, because I felt that it deserved that, and the old Philip was one of my favorite characters as well.
Then, at the 1:28 mark:
PTC: Is the cast increasingly turning into, like, a fan-based cast?
RD: I guess I was the only newbie that I knew of this year—I mean, maybe there’s others—but is it becoming that? I think so, because obviously the fandom is growing astronomically; now we have, what is it, 200 million or more people watching the show, it’s insane. And so, like, beautiful at the same time. I think that at least from my end, yeah, it’s impossible not to be a fan of the show. It has so much to offer, and it’s something quite different.
And then, at the 2:06 mark:
PTC: You joined the show just as it was getting serious! Do you feel like you missed the fun?
RD: I feel like that too, but I also, like, I’m a weird guy, I like to tend to lean towards darkness and complexity, so it felt quite exciting to come this season, where it’s all about the weird kind of seesaw paradoxical dance between light and dark. It has a lot more, as an actor and as an artist, to play with, because you’re dealing with complex humanity, or complex struggles of humanity on a daily basis, and you’re being hit with loss, with ego, with complex human emotion, and, you know, trying to decide how are you going to deal with that, and are you going to have the courage, are you going to dare to look up, or are you going to crumble and fall.
Alaa Safi, who plays Simon the Zealot:
Sample quotes, starting with one at the 0:34 mark:
AS: Obviously, it’s better for an actor to have material to use, and to be able to dive in and research. I wasn’t able to do that, because there was nothing there, so I had to rely on the script, fully. Also because the liberties that the writers and Dallas take with the show, always great. It’s always— It makes it even more powerful, and it just connects the dots. So I just trusted them, completely. And even to this day, I’m just totally— I feel like a pilot that’s flying a plane on automatic, but with a controller that’s telling me exactly what to do, and I don’t have a visual on what I’m doing, and it’s scene by scene really. So there’s also the freedom— We don’t have that sense of feeling like we’re imposters by not respecting what really happened, but this character, we can more or less navigate freely and safely without upsetting anyone. So that’s the beauty of it, too. For example, when I came up with some moves for Simon Z, that’s something that is totally our choice, and I’m glad we were able to put that in, because it made it special. But yeah, things like that allowed us to be creative with it.
Then, at the 2:44 mark:
PTC: In this season, there is that scene [after the other Simon is re-named Peter] where your character says, “Can I have my name back?”
AS: Yeah, we make it a thing. We use it, and certainly back then, it could have been, like, a subject to laugh about or something. But we try to use all those little details to make it interesting and to humanize those moments and those elements. Yeah, that’s a good one.
Elijah Alexander, who plays Atticus:
The more-or-less full quote:
PTC: You’re one of the few people on the show who’s already done a Bible movie.
PTC: Hosea, Amazing Love.
EA: Yes. Yes!
PTC: So you were the good guy there, but you’re kind of the bad guy now.
PTC: How is that? What do you make of that?
EA: It’s all part of the same.
PTC: It’s all part of the same?
EA: Yes. Within us, each of us, lies a prophet and someone who is conflicted or complex, who is serving, a servant— Atticus is a servant of something different. It all lies within the human realm of experience, right? So as an actor, to be able to do that spectrum is a great privilege. That’s why I became an actor in the first place. But I bring myself to everything. And I think that’s why people respond the way they do to Hosea, and they respond the way they do to Atticus. And that’s why people respond the way they do to everyone in this show, is because everyone’s a complicated, fully fleshed human being.
And I spoke to Dallas Jenkins on the teal carpet, briefly, about the news that emerged that day—after our one-on-one interview—that he may or may not be involved in a new series about David for Amazon Prime. I wrote about that here.
And, that about does it for Episodes 1-3 interview coverage. More later.
The Chosen interviews:
Season 1: Dallas Jenkins, co-writer/director (Dec 2019)
Season 2: Dallas Jenkins, co-writer/director (May 2021) | Derral Eves, producer, on Christmas with The Chosen: The Messengers (Nov 2021) | Dallas Jenkins on the ‘The Chosen Is Not Good’ marketing campaign (Apr 2022)
The Chosen recaps:
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