Dallas Jenkins: Behind the Scenes of “The Chosen”

Wed Jul 29 10:00:28 EDT 2020
Episode 90

"The Chosen" explores the life of Christ through the eyes of those who knew Him. The narrative multi-season show has received high praise from viewers and critics alike, earning a 9.8 out of 10 rating on IMDB. But with the praise, it has also attracted skeptics. Some don’t believe evangelical Christians should be working with Latter-day Saints on a show about Jesus or vice versa, and others believe scripture should only be portrayed exactly as it is written without creative liberties. The show’s writer and director, Dallas Jenkins, believes that exploring faith, especially in relation to the Savior, is something that requires trust. On this week’s episode, he shares the triumphs as well as the challenges of depicting the life of the Son of God.

Even though He spoke to crowds, He was always talking personally, and He was always seeking that personal relationship. And that's what He wants from your heart. He wants that more than your accomplishments and He wants that more than any kind of mass movement. He wants the personal.
Dallas Jenkins

The Chosen is the first-ever-multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus. Created outside of the Hollywood system, The Chosen allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who knew him. No matter where you are at in your journey with Jesus Christ, this TV show is for you.

Video: Can you trust The Chosen? - The Chosen Youtube Channel

Watch Episode One: The Chosen: Complete Episode One 

Video: Behind the scenes: The Miracle of the Miracle of the Fish

Book: The Chosen Devotional Book

Video: Season 2 update: “I’m in a tough spot” 2020 Chosen update

Video: Interview with Jonathan Roumie: The immense weight of playing Jesus

Video: Vertical Worship - Faithful Now (Live)

Video: Season 2 Sneak peek: Chosen cast reads a scene from Season 2

Show Notes: 
1:49- The Same Jesus
10:03- The Humanity of Christ
15:08- The Scriptures Coming to Life
18:37- Capturing Humanity
22:51- Compassion for the Pharisees
27:32- The Personal Ministry of Christ, Then and Now
37:26- Casting Christ
41:29- Three Dimensional
43:48- Season Two
45:37- Inspiration?
49:30- What Does It Mean To Be “All In”?


Morgan Jones 0:00
In the past few months, there's a good chance you have heard of or watched the show "The Chosen." You may have heard that several Latter-day Saints have been involved in the show's creation, but you might feel a bit skeptical about a show that portrays the life of Christ and, rather than simply sticking strictly to scripture, explores cultural dynamics surrounding Jesus and possible backstories of the disciples He loved. The show's writer and director, Dallas Jenkins, understands these hesitations but wants people to know that his motivations are twofold: one, to introduce people to Jesus of Nazareth, and two, to get them into scripture. In Dallas's own words, "None of this matters if it doesn't compel you back to scripture. Not only so you can experience Jesus the way his followers did, but also so you can change and grow the way they did."
Dallas Jenkins, son of celebrated "Left Behind" author, Jerry Jenkins, first produced the independent feature "Hometown Legend" at the age of 25 and shepherded it to distribution by Warner Brothers. In the nearly 20 years since then, he has directed and produced over a dozen feature and short films for companies such as Universal, Lionsgate, Pure Flix, Hallmark Channel, and Amazon. His latest project, "The Chosen," is the first-ever multi-season show about Jesus Christ.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones and I am so excited to have Dallas Jenkins on the line with me today. Dallas, welcome.

Dallas Jenkins 1:47
Thank you so much for having me, I appreciate it.

Morgan Jones  1:49
Well, I am so excited about this. I am honestly such a big fan of "The Chosen," so this is a treat for me. And I'll be honest with you, I introduced a good number of people to your show because I love it so much, and I asked several of those people for their thoughts on questions that would be good to ask you. So this is really like a group effort in coming up with these questions for you. But first of all, I just want to establish right off the bat, Dallas, you are not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which the majority of our audience are members of the Church. I have been told that you are a fierce defender of the Latter-day Saint belief in Jesus Christ, and that is something that honestly, on behalf of all of us, I just want to say thank you for that. But why is it that you are a defender of our belief in Jesus Christ?

Dallas Jenkins  2:48
Great, so you're starting off right out of the gate with that one. Well, it's a tough question. I am happy to answer that and I just say that because I recently have gotten a little bit in trouble in certain circles because I was on another LDS podcast, and I said that LDS and evangelicals love the same Jesus. I got some heat from people who suddenly didn't want to watch the show anymore because of that. Apparently it's a controversial statement, which I guess I would have known that a few years ago, but now that I've been working with my LDS brothers and sisters over the last couple of years and gotten to know them so well, I've learned quite a bit.
I come from a strong evangelical background, and I want to say this, and I've said this in a few conversations with LDS people, that there are reasons why I'm an evangelical and not LDS. I do have things theologically that I disagree with or things that even just in kind of practice that aren't quite my speed in the LDS faith. However, one thing that is unabashedly true and unarguably true is that in getting to know some of my LDS friends here on this, especially through "The Chosen," you're passionate about Jesus Christ, and it's Jesus of Nazareth. When I hear people say, "it's a different Jesus"—and I've heard that, by the way, from both... I don't know what term, I know you guys don't use the term Mormon anymore, but it's too long for me to try to say...

Morgan Jones  4:21
Go ahead, you're fine.

Dallas Jenkins  4:22
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And so I'll just say LDS, or "LDS-er"—but I've heard it from both sides. I mean, I've gotten criticism from the LDS Church people who are uncomfortable with a show done by an evangelical, I've gotten criticism for evangelicals for working with people in the LDS community. So it has gone both ways. But I describe it like this: if I'm talking to you about our friend Derral—you've actually met Derral, you know Derral a little bit—and I say, "Do you know Derral Eves? He's my partner on the show."
"Yeah, he's the one who's married to Carolyn."
"The one with six kids."
"The one who lives in Hurricane, Utah."
"Yeah, that's him."
"The one who's a YouTube influencer, and he does his social media brands for a living?"
"And he wears black shirts all the time?"
If I said, "Oh yeah, he's the one who's 6'3"." And you went, "No, no, no, Derral's not 6'3", he's probably 5'10" or so." I said, "No, no, he's 6'3"." You wouldn't say, "Oh, I guess we're talking about two different Derrals. I guess that's not Derral Eves, I guess you're thinking of a different Derral Eve's. He lives in Hurricane and has six kids and a wife Carolyn," and you would say, "I think you're wrong about Derral being 6'3". In fact, I'm sure that you're wrong about Derral being 6'3"." We could even go that far and say maybe there are things on which we disagree that we're actually quite certain about. And that's fair, but it doesn't mean we're talking about a different person.
So "The Chosen" has been, for me, a desperate attempt, and an obsessive attempt, to introduce people to the authentic Jesus of Nazareth. And in whatever way I'm doing that through the show, by using some of the people around him and telling their stories, through our devotional book, all of these, my wife and I are obsessed with "The Chosen" being a vehicle for people to be introduced to the authentic Jesus. And my LDS brothers and sisters who disagree with me on many things theologically, most of which—almost all of which—took place after Jesus was here, they have the same passion that I do for this show. In fact, members of the LDS faith are as responsible or more for getting this show out into people in every country of the world as anyone else. So even if you are listening to this right now as an evangelical and are horrified to hear me say some of these things, consider that even if you disagree, even if you think that, "No, it's two different Jesus's, and they worship two different Saviors, and what you're saying is wrong." Fine, believe what you will. I'm not gonna have these arguments with you. However, consider that if you love the show, and you believe the show is an accurate representation of Jesus of Nazareth, and you believe the show is an accurate representation of your Savior, and is having a positive influence all over the world, be assured that everyone who's working on this show who happens to be LDS feels the exact same way, and is also obsessed with getting this show out to everyone in the world. So I'm not sure quite why that would be controversial. The arguments that we can have about theology can still be had, and we've had that.
The Harmons, who own VidAngel, and I have had plenty of discussions and explored each other's experiences and faith, and it's been a wonderful experience. I've learned a lot that I didn't know before, and I've also had affirmed some things that I did know before and thought, "Yeah, that's why we disagree." But we are both sleeping on the floor, oftentimes on our knees, for this show and for the portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth, and on that we agree. So I'm going to die on the hill of defending my LDS friends from those who say—I mean, I don't mind being attacked myself and I can get attacked every day for this show for the fact that we don't always use scripture in the show or whatever, but I don't like it when my friends get attacked. So that's why I tend to be pretty defensive of my friends, even if not always defensive of the theology on which we sometimes disagree. So that's a very long answer to your question, but the reason I'm giving it is because I know that nuance is required in these matters, because it's so easy to take things out of context, and we live in a in a "cancel culture" right now, but the good news is, I don't really care because I can't be cancelled unless I cancel myself. So I'm totally fine with it. But I'm happy to say, "Yeah, we disagree on some things, but I'm going to die on the hill of, we love the same Jesus, and we want the same Jesus known to the world."

Morgan Jones 9:05
Yeah. I love that so much. I've had the chance the past few years to volunteer with a nonprofit organization that is Christians and Latter-day Saints studying the Bible together. It has been such a rewarding experience for me to learn from my Christian sisters, and I just think we miss out on so much when we disregard the common ground that we do have and kind of throw the baby out with the bathwater, when it's like, there are beautiful things that we do agree on, the most beautiful of which is Jesus Christ. So thank you so much for sharing that Dallas. You touched on a few things that I want to talk a little bit more about. First of all, I find it fascinating what you mentioned about people being critical of the show for not always sticking line-by-line to scripture, and for taking some artistic liberties in telling the story of Jesus Christ. But the thing that I personally love about the show is that it helps the scriptures come alive. I've told several people that I feel like for the first time ever, when I see Jesus sitting in a room with the disciples, I will watch and I'll think, "I could see myself in that room," whereas before, I've thought, "I don't know that I would feel worthy to be in the same room as Jesus." And so I love that the show kind of focuses on the humanity of Jesus Christ. Why did you choose to do that? Why did you choose to focus on the human aspect of the Savior of the world?

Dallas Jenkins 10:47
Yeah, great question. I think the reason is, to be quite simple because it's happened so rarely. It's been done so rarely. In fact, this is one thing we're all, if I'm speaking frankly, about the LDS Church, that some of the LDS art of Jesus has, at times, to me been personally—not offensive or anything like that—it's just been like, "That's not a Jesus that I can connect with." And this is true of not just LDS art, I mean, it's been true throughout history in many different faith traditions. But they're so concerned about making sure they don't detract from the deity of Christ, and there's such a reverence—which is good, it's good to have a reverence for Christ, of course—but that it dehumanizes Christ. And we believe, and I think you agree with this, that Christ was both fully God and fully man. And when we take away the fully man part, that can be as damaging, at times, as when we take away the fully God part. So in "The Chosen," we don't take away from the deity of Christ. He does miracles. He has authority. He is the Messiah, He identifies himself as such, and the people around Him identify Him as such. And I, as the creator of the show, identify him as such. But by focusing on the humanity of it, it has done exactly what you described. It has reminded people of why He was so loved and followed by so many people 2000 years ago. Because, when you read the scriptures, you don't get the emotional connection, backstory, you don't get the historical and cultural context quite as much, and you don't get the human context. The Gospels were essentially kind of a "greatest hits" of Jesus's life so that they could prove that He was the son of God. And that oftentimes happens when you see portrayals of Jesus that are verse-by-verse, miracle-by-miracle accounts. They're basically just reenactments of what you've already read. So you watch it from a purely [observant] perspective going, "Oh, that's interesting. I remember that when I read that. Oh yeah, that's a good portrayal of it, of that moment in scripture that I know about." It's not at all like what happens when you watch normal art, or movies or television shows, where you're truly loving the characters and you're watching things through not only a[n] [observant] perspective, but from a visceral perspective, and even at times from a vicarious perspective. That allows you to really feel what they may have felt and to see what they may have seen. And when that happens, and when you've kind of taken out all of the religiosity of it and focus on the human connection and the emotional connection that people had, that actually enhances the spiritual connection as well. Now, if you're someone who hasn't watched the show, and you're listening to what I'm saying, and you're saying, "I'm just too concerned about that. I don't trust that. I don't trust this notion of showing things beyond just what was in scripture." I can't convince you otherwise, other than to say that if you look at how people have reacted, we hear every day from literally thousands of people around the world who say, "I'm reading my Bible more than I ever have before. I feel closer to Jesus than I ever have before from watching this show, and it's causing me to want to dig in more in my prayer life and in my Bible reading." And I don't see how that can be a bad thing. Now, you could say, "Well, it's a false Jesus, or it's a watered-down Jesus." I don't think you can say that if you watch the show because we don't actually change anything that's from scripture, we just add backstory to what we know. But people are being drawn to their Bibles, so that is the reason why I did it the way that I've done it. There's no need for yet another reenactment of the scriptures. That's been done many times, and it's been done well. It's a fresh perspective on the same stories that we've heard before, which has, seemingly, objectively so, caused people to kind of have what they describe as kind of a reawakening in their relationship with Christ. And that was the goal all along.

Morgan Jones 15:09
So cool. I want to touch on one more thing in regard to this idea of the scriptures coming alive. When I watch the show, Dallas, I'm just like, "How did he come up with this stuff?" So, for you, how have the scriptures come alive to you? And what suggestions would you have for other people, as we're reading the scriptures, to experience them in that way?

Dallas Jenkins  15:43
Yeah. In the show and in my life and in my wife's life—my wife has a lot to do with the show, she co-wrote the devotional book that goes along with the show that's become a bestseller, she's currently developing the curriculum that we're going to be introducing with the show, and she, of course, just has a lot to say about what I'm writing and what we're doing—and she and I both are just obsessed with really trying to understand the humanity of the people around Jesus. We find that when you do that, when you can see Jesus through the eyes of those who actually met him, you can be changed and impacted in the same way that they were. I think that what the show is doing by giving you backstory and giving you historical and cultural context of who these people were, when you can identify with their struggles and with their problems, and see yourself as them—not all of them, because we can't relate to every single character. But some of you can relate to Simon Peter more than others, some of you can relate to Mary Magdalene more than others, some of you can relate to Matthew or Nicodemus more than others. Then if you can identify with the struggle, if you can identify with the question that they are faced within their life, then hopefully you can identify with the answer, and the solution, and that's what I think has been happening for a lot of people, is they've identified with those around Jesus, and then Jesus comes along and provides the solution. And it's like, "Huh, maybe that can work for me as well." I think that's something that we don't often do when we're solely reading the scriptures. You should read the scriptures, 100 percent, no question about it. But when that's all you do, sometimes you can miss out on the perspective of the cultural and historical surroundings of who Jesus was and what He was doing. And then you kind of miss out on the identification with those who knew Him. You can't fully identify with Jesus, we try to, but we're obviously not going to be perfect this side of heaven, so we find ourselves striving so hard to be perfect because He's the main character of the story that we're reading or watching. And it sometimes can result, not always, but it can result, in a feeling of just desperation, of like, "I can't do this." But when you can identify with Simon Peter and go, "Oh my goodness, that guy who's just as bad as I am, was saved and loved and cared for and poured into and shepherded by the Savior of mankind. Wow, maybe I can be loved and poured into and shepherded by the Savior of mankind." That, I think, is a very powerful superpower to have in your walk with Christ.

Morgan Jones 18:37
Yeah, I have been so interested in and fascinated by the way that you chose to portray some of these people that we've read about in the scriptures. You mentioned Simon Peter, and I kind of love that Simon Peter is portrayed as a little bit of a hothead, because I feel like sometimes I'm a little bit of a hothead. So I love that he's so passionate, and it's kind of like, "I don't know what I'm doing here, but I'm here for it." And then I love how you portray Matthew, and many people have speculated if Matthew is being portrayed as someone that is possibly on the spectrum because he takes everything very literally. And I wondered how you came to portray these different characters that we read about in scripture, or that we read their books and scripture in that way?

Dallas Jenkins  19:35
When my co-writers and I first gathered to plot out the show and break the story and figure out who we were going to choose as our main characters, we're going through scripture, and we first started with some pretty surface-level things like, okay, it's really interesting to Nicodemus, for example, believes in Jesus, but seems to be private about it. Why would that be? He met Jesus undercover at night, that's really interesting. He's probably a bit of a double agent. He has one foot in his belief of Jesus and the other foot in the world of the Pharisees. Matthew is an interesting story, he wrote a book. It's also interesting that Jesus walked by his booth and said, "Follow me," and Matthew just dropped everything and followed Him. That'll be interesting to explore. Simon Peter, same thing. He's an obvious choice. And Mary Magdalene, of course, first time we meet her, she was possessed by seven demons, as we're told. So that's obviously interesting to explore. So that presents some interesting characters for a TV show. So obviously, our goal, ultimately, the endgame is discipleship and people being drawn closer to an authentic Jesus. But when we're writing, we really have to focus on making a great show and following the rules of good storytelling. For the Gospel writers, that wasn't their aim. And so what we're doing is, we take these people and—I'm going to use Matthew as an example because you asked about him—we put up a whiteboard and we start writing the characteristics of Matthew that we can glean from scripture. And I'll just stop right there and explore that.
So we look at, he was a tax collector, which means he chose a profession that made him an outcast. He was hated by the Jews, disrespected by the Romans. So that's interesting. He's a numbers guy. By being a tax collector, he's focused on numbers and money, so that's interesting. Motivated by money, perhaps. Motivated by title, perhaps. He's a facts guy, the first chapter of his book is nothing but a genealogy divided perfectly into three sections of 14 apiece. As I'm as I'm writing these things out, I'm like, oh, gosh, you know, I have a daughter who's autistic, and I have a little bit of Asperger's myself, so I'm very familiar with the special needs community because I've done a lot of work in it. And I go, "Boy, he could be on the autism spectrum. Well, that's interesting. We've never seen that before in a Bible show. Wouldn't that be helpful and really, connecting to the humanity of these people is by a character like this." So that's kind of a natural outpouring of what happens when you explore any of these people. Same thing with Mary Magdalene. Okay, we find what we can find about her, or Simon Peter. We start working our way backwards to the historical and cultural context that would have led her or him to be where they were, and what would have caused them to be so dramatically changed by Jesus. So all of those things go into it when you're trying to make a good show. And then ultimately, as we're writing, it draws us closer to the scriptures anyway. And so I think what the audience is experiencing right now is a little bit of what we've experienced. Is this just an obsession with accurately capturing the humanity of who these people were?

Morgan Jones 22:51
I think that is so cool. It's so cool to hear you say that you have experience in recognizing some of those things in Matthew that allowed you to pull that out. Another thing that I wondered about, and you mentioned Nicodemus. I love the way that you portray Nicodemus, and the scene where Jesus just holds him is one of my very favorites. But one thing that I wondered is, as you were working on this show, and you kind of see that struggle that the Pharisees have—and specifically that Nicodemus has—did you find yourself feeling compassion toward them?

Dallas Jenkins 23:34
Yeah, towards some of them. But I think compassion is a prerequisite for any Christ-follower towards, really, anyone. Think about it. I mean, is there really anyone we shouldn't be feeling compassion for in some way? Even the worst of humans, if you're looking at things on a scale, was likely impacted by something in their childhood that started to steer them in a certain way. So, yeah, compassion is, I think, a prerequisite in general, and I think as a writer you for sure have to have compassion for, or at least understanding of, every character that you write. But to your question, I think it goes to a larger issue which is what has been happening with the show, which is what we discussed the first question that you asked me. I would rather disagree on something that's clear and truthful than agree on something that is ignorant.
For example, when we talked about my LDS friends, even though we still disagree on some things, I have way more clarity than I had before. And that clarity always precedes knowledge and, even occasionally, agreement. So when it comes to the Pharisees, I've learned that, okay, we oftentimes demonize them and we paint them as with a broad brush, and we put them all into one category. The Pharisees at that time were actually quite obsessed with non-hypocrisy. I mean, they were the ones that the people respected the most, because they were the true Bible believers, whereas the Sadducees only believed in the first five books. So when Jesus came and actually said that the majority of the Pharisees were hypocritical and talked about how they had taken some of their religiosity and used it as a weapon, that actually was a surprise to a lot of people. But the more we looked into it, we just thought, okay, there were some exceptions to the rules that we assumed we knew about the Pharisees. So that's why we portray in the show that there are some Pharisees, like Shmuel, who by the end of season one has kind of broken bad a little bit, but you see why. You see how he was obsessed with Nicodemus and was following in his footsteps, and then Nicodemus has this crisis of faith that turns into a pursuit of Jesus. And in episode six, there's a scene between Nicodemus and Shmuel that, in fact, many LDS people have said is kind of a commercial for the LDS church, which was certainly unintentional, but they point to this dispute that Nicodemus and Shmuel are having, and you see where Shmuel is coming from. The points that he is making about the Old Testament and about who the Messiah must be are actually very valid points. Nicodemus is the one who's saying, "Yes, those things are true. But what if there's more? I mean, if God had something new to say, and it contradicted what you believed, and you knew it was God saying it, would you question what you believed, or would you just assume that God is now saying something wrong?" He's exploring and he's seeking truth, and Shmuel is making some valid points, but is getting stuck in the rigidity of his religious tradition. So I wanted to show how that process happened because I think, for a lot of people, they like Shmuel early on, and I want that to continue. I want us to be able to identify with some of Shmuel's choices and beliefs, and recognizing that "There but for the grace of God, go I," that we are capable of these same things.

Morgan Jones 27:32
Yeah, that's so interesting. Dallas, I wondered for you personally, what you feel like you've learned as you've worked on this show about the character of Jesus Christ. Obviously, I'm sure you came into this with all kinds of thoughts and experience. I love that when we talked before, you mentioned that your dad wrote the "Left Behind" books, which I'm sure many Latter-day Saints are familiar with. So you come from a faithful family, faith has always been an important part of your life. But what have you learned in working on "The Chosen" about the character of Christ?

Dallas Jenkins  28:11
I think that the thing that has really stood out to me as we've been working on the show is how personal He was. And that's become even more crystal clear, even just in the last couple months. When, during the social unrest, and people talking about oppression, they're talking about governmental oppression, they're talking about systemic oppression, systemic racism, inequality, all of those things. And when I look at the example of Jesus, who was alive during it—I mean, He's alive now of course—but He was on the earth during a time where there was brutal, observable, almost clinical oppression and slavery and inequality that was mandated by law by the Romans. How did Jesus respond to that? Did he lead a revolution? Did he start a protest? Now we live in a free country and I'm a libertarian politically, I'm all about free speech and protests, but I'm talking specifically about this notion of, the best way to overthrow any kind of inequality or oppression is to gather together and fight. That is not what Jesus did.
You can make an argument that He was doing that, what He was dealing with was different, and I'm fine with that, I'm not here to make some political statement about protests or anything like that. I'm merely saying that the example of Jesus was always one of the personal. He wanted your heart. He was not trying to overthrow a kingdom and replace it with a new earthly kingdom. He was trying to replace your heart and the trappings of your own flesh with a kingdom that was not of this world. And that's a key thing that has really informed me as we write scenes with Jesus, is He was always shrinking things down to the personal. And that's why, when you see the miracles even that we show in season one, we're always breaking it down to one-on-one or one-on-two, Jesus is alone with Thomas before the miracle of the water to wine. He's alone with his mother before he's even alone with Thomas. When he's talking to the paralytic in episode six, and he's healing the paralytic in front of, you know, 100 people, He has moments where He's looking directly at the paralytic's friend and having a very personal interaction. With the miracle of the fish, big deal. But it comes down to him and Simon and He gets down at his level, He gets down on one knee and looks at him right in the eye. And that's a metaphor, I think, for all of the miracles we do, and I think it's a metaphor for Jesus's ministry. Because even though he spoke to crowds, He was always talking personally, and he was always seeking that personal relationship. And that's what he wants from your heart. He wants that more than your accomplishments, and he wants that more than any kind of mass movement. He wants the personal. And that's what I think the show was about, and that's what I think I've learned most as I've pursued it.

Morgan Jones  31:19
Yeah. I've loved, Dallas, watching some of the videos that you've done, and you really put yourself out there for the show. I think having done that myself with different things, I know that sometimes putting yourself out there to be the face of something can be a scary thing, but it's clear when someone does that how much they believe in the thing that they're working on. So I think it's been neat for people to have that chance to connect with you and to see how much you believe in what you're doing. And I've loved—I'm gonna just link to these because we don't have time to cover them—but I want to link to some of those videos where you've talked about how you've seen the hand of God in your life and seen Jesus's concern for you in creating this show. Is there anything that you would say to that, how you've seen that God cares about you personally, and that Jesus Christ has ministered directly to you?

Dallas Jenkins  32:19
Oh, man, you're asking that question at a very personal time, and a very perfect time, actually. I did a video a couple weeks ago where I went to the farm where I filmed "The Shepherd," which was the original pilot episode about the birth of Christ that launched this entire thing. Just a little thing I did for my Church that ended up launching this global movement, it seems. And right now, in the last couple weeks, we've gotten to a place where it was almost as though, what we described as, we got to the edge of the Red Sea. And then we just had to kind of stand there and go, "Well, we don't have a boat, so we can't get across the Red Sea, and the army seems to be closing in, and we just don't know what's going to happen." I just was starting to get—I don't know if frustrated is the right word—but I was confused, and I just didn't know what this year was gonna look like, I didn't know what steps to take next. So I went to that farm and I just talked into the camera about that. And I did like an eight-minute video where I just talked to the camera. I cried, I recorded song lyrics, I quoted some scripture, and I just kind of was like, "To be honest, I don't know what the future holds. But I do know that God has been faithful because I can look at this little farm and see what He's done with it. And He's been faithful then, He's going to be faithful now," which is the song that I quoted. Great, amazing song called Faithful Now, I encourage you to look it up, from Vertical Worship. And that video has actually been, probably other than our trailer, our most engaged-with video. It's gotten over 500,000 views just in a week and a half or so. I think it's because I was just vulnerable and willing to just say, "I'm here to listen to God. And I don't know what the future holds, but I'm willing to be in that place."
And in the last week and a half since that video, I don't even have time on an entire podcast episode to tell you what God has been doing in the last week and a half, including in my life. Just a couple of days ago, I experienced the sunrise in Goshen, Utah, where the beautiful Jerusalem set is located. I just went there and watched the sunrise and prayed with a couple of my friends, my brothers and sisters from VidAngel. And God has shown up. I mean, He has been answering prayers and making things clear and releasing doors to be opened, so fast that I can't even believe it. Miracles have taken place just in the last week and a half. And at the end of the day, it's not about the miracles of the show that is moving me so much, it's just what He keeps teaching me over and over on a personal level. So many different lessons. As I've talked about publicly before, it's not your job to feed the 5000, it's only to provide the loaves and fish.
Another lesson that was learned just two days ago, I was standing there, staring at the horizon, waiting for the sunrise. And that's why we had gone out to this place that was just out in the middle of nowhere, just to watch the sunrise. I'm standing there staring at the horizon, and I don't stand still for anything. I had my phone in my hand, actually, because I was going to take some pictures. And we sped out there because we started to see the light emerge, like, "Oh, we're gonna miss it." We get out there and we stood there, and for like, 30 minutes, the sun just wouldn't come up over the mountains. It was ridiculous. I'm thinking, "What am I doing? I'm just standing here, staring at the horizon." And at one point I actually started to walk away, because I'm like, "I have to leave soon." I was gonna go do kind of a walk around the area that we were in, and I was gonna look at some things. I just felt this "No, no, stay here. Just be quiet for just a minute. Just be quiet and be still, and just look at the horizon and rest and abide and don't do anything else. Don't look at your phone or anything else." So I did. And eventually the sun came over the mountains way after the app had said it would. One of the women that we were with when we gathered together to pray, because we'd kind of split up to watch the sunrise, she started sharing what God taught her during that moment and she said, "You know, where I'm from the originally, the sun rises immediately. I was sitting there, just waiting for the sun to come up." And I'm like, "Me too!" I was just like, what is happening? She's said it was taking so long, and God just knocked her out and said, "This is about my timing. My timing and my will is what I want you to submit to." It was like He was just clearly teaching all of us that same lesson in that moment. And that has been the lesson of this show, is we are not on our own timing. We are on God's plan, and I am happy to submit that. It's what my wife calls "the manna program," where God gave manna to the Israelites, just enough for that day. He even said, "If you try to store up more than I'm giving you, I'm going to make it rot." He wanted them to be hands outstretched to God every day for their daily manna, and not any more than that. And that's what he's been teaching us every single day on the show. It's been a beautiful lesson for me to learn, and my life has changed because of it.

Morgan Jones 37:26
Thank you so much for sharing that. The story of the manna is one of my very favorites from scripture, and with that idea of the sunrise, I think we know that the sun is going to rise, but many times in our different life situations, it's like, "Okay, but when does morning come?" Thank you so much for for sharing that experience. I want to really quickly before we get to the end here, I want to talk a little bit about casting. I absolutely love Jonathan Roumie and his portrayal of Jesus, and my mom said today she wants to have a painting of him done in her house. So if you're looking for merchandise ideas, there's one. But you had worked before with Jonathan, and I just wondered, he tried out, right? For a different part in something that you were working on. And you were like, "Actually, this guy should be Jesus." What made you feel like he made a great Jesus?

Dallas Jenkins  38:32
Slight difference in the story there. But it's okay, you're very close. I was doing a short film about the crucifixion from the perspective of the two thieves, and this was the first time that I was doing what "The Chosen" turned into, which is, you know, the stories of Christ but from different perspectives. So I did a short film, and Jesus doesn't even show up in the short film until the last five or six minutes. And so the two main characters of the short film are the thieves on the cross, so Jonathan auditioned for one of the thieves. And he did great, a couple other people did great as well. But I didn't have a Jesus, the people who audition for Jesus were just not great. And I thought, "I need a Jesus." And I thought, "Well, this Jonathan Roumie guy had this kind of sensitivity in his audition that I really connected with, and in this scene on the cross, Jesus has a sensitivity that I like. So let's see Jonathan audition for Jesus." And like, 10 seconds into the audition, I'm like, "Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness, this, in 10 seconds, is one of the best portrayals of Jesus I've ever seen." I couldn't explain it. I just thought, "He's gentle and kind, but masculine at the same time." So when I cast him, and then when I shot the short film, I was like, "I've seen all the Jesus movies and miniseries, and this is the best portrayal of Jesus I've ever seen." And we were right in lockstep. I mean, my vision for the role, his vision for the role, his submission to God's will for the role, his kind of emptying of himself. We talk about this, if you go on "The Chosen" app and on YouTube, I believe, there's a conversation between me and Jonathan where we talk in-depth about his portrayal of the role, and we give the history of his portrayal, and just how God has taught both of us to really empty ourselves of ourselves so that we can, as much as possible, be open vessels for him. I think, at heart, Jonathan is just a truly great actor, and I think he there's a lot of roles he could play. But it is clear, it is crystal clear, that he was born to play this role. And I think that the show has benefited greatly obviously because of his efforts. I think also because we had a chance to practice for a few years before we did the show. We did several short films and vignettes, some of which you'll end up kind of seeing carried out in the show when we get to those moments.

Morgan Jones  41:01
I loved in that interview that you did with him when you talked about his portrayal of Jesus, how he said, "Dallas, am I gonna be in more than just the last few minutes this time?" I thought that was so funny.

Dallas Jenkins 41:14
When he read episode one of the show, when I told him we're gonna do a show about Jesus, he's all excited. And then he reads episode one, and it's like, he's on page 50, and there's still no Jesus. He's like, "Man, what's going on here?"

Morgan Jones 41:29
I think that's amazing. The show paints, Dallas, a really interesting picture of the growth that the apostles have. I was talking to a friend about this and she said, "For the first time, I understand a little bit, the idea that they just thought they'd go back to fishing, like, that they didn't know what to do after Christ was killed." So what have you learned about discipleship from this project and from coming to know the apostles better through your personal study?

Dallas Jenkins  42:05
Well, it is remarkable when you study the Gospels, how often they kept missing what seems to us like obvious signs. I mean, Jesus outright told He was gonna die and resurrect, you know? When we look back on it, it's like, it seems so obvious to us. But when you realize where they were coming from, they clearly were missing it. What I really then explored when noticing that was, I'm like, "Well, they weren't stupid. So what would cause them to miss some of these obvious things?" And that's when we explore the historical and cultural context, and we explore what their expectations were and the relationships that students often had with rabbis. So when you look at it from that angle, and when you look at what their lives were like and what their history was, then it clears things up, and it makes it much more obvious. Then, by definition, it connects to you much more. I mean, you realize, "What they were going through, I'm going through. What their personal issues were, my personal issues are." And that's been fun to do, even when we're portraying things like Simon and his wife in season one. When I'm writing those scenes between Simon and his wife, I am drawing a little bit from my own marriage and from some arguments or conversations or romantic moments we've had. When we realize that their lives were like ours, and then, by definition, our lives are maybe like theirs were, at least from a strictly human perspective, and an intellectual and emotional perspective. It really does connect you to them. And I think that's what the show is doing more than anything else, is it's taking these stories in the Bible and really personalizing them and making them feel more three dimensional.

Morgan Jones  43:48
Yeah. Dallas, people that loved season one of the show are anxiously awaiting season two, is there a scene that you are most excited to shoot for next season?

Dallas Jenkins  44:01
Hmm, good question. Well, there's an episode that I think is going to be really interesting to film and watch. Episode three, all takes place in one spot, in one day. Jesus is healing a whole line of people, and it's all day long, that's what He's doing. But we don't see that. We're "backstage" with the disciples as they are resting in between shifts. You know, they're taking turns going to help him and crowd control and all that. So they're "backstage" and they're taking turns, so we just spend the whole episode back there with them as they work through what it's like to follow Jesus and trying to make sense of all this, and some of the interpersonal conflicts that they're having as their team is building. So when you look at episode five from season one, and you saw that moment where a few of the disciples and Mary Magdalene are sitting around a table and just talking, that's a lot of what episode three is. It may sound boring on the surface, but those who have read the script so far have said that it's one of the most emotional and moving episodes in the whole show so far. So I'm looking forward to that. In fact, on our YouTube channel, we did a reading. We got 10 of the members of the cast members together on Zoom, and we read a scene from that episode, so it's on our YouTube channel, and you can watch kind of a sneak peek of episode three.

Morgan Jones 45:37
That's awesome. Dallas, before we get to our very last question, I just wondered, as you've worked on this, I feel like watching the show, there's no denying that, while it definitely is man-made, that there has to be inspiration that's going into this. Are there things that specific things that you felt inspired to include?

Dallas Jenkins  46:04
I'm very, very cautious to ever claim, revelation or inspiration because I don't want to imply a spiritual authority that I do not have. So publicly, I don't share much about moments that I felt like there was inspiration, because I don't want to claim, like I just said, a position that I don't have, and I don't want people to think of the show as some sort of spiritual authority either. Ultimately, I want you to consider the scriptures to be your spiritual authority. So, that said, there are moments throughout the show that, when I was writing, they came to me kind of out of the blue. I reacted emotionally to them, because they were so good. Like, "Oh, that's a great line," or "Ooh, that's a great moment." They were always things that were somewhat minor. You know, it didn't seem like it was like a big scene or anything. And I would go to my wife and I would tell her a line or read her a scene that I just wrote that kind of seemed to come from nowhere—or, you know, inspiration—and she would cry or she would have the same reaction. And then that exact moment in the show would cause people to say that they know that it really moved them and changed their life or impacted them significantly, and it was a seemingly minor moment. So do you know things like Jesus winking at Barnaby in episode two; or there's a scene in episode eight when Simon pulls Eden aside and tells her before he heals her mother that he sees her and that he knows that the sacrifices that Simon is making are also her sacrifices. And I remember my wife saying in that time, she's like, "That is going to minister to so many spouses, ministry spouses who sometimes feel like they're missing out on the rewards of ministry." And sure enough, we hear from people responding the same exact way that I responded when I first heard the scene in my head, or it was given to me. So that's what I'm comfortable sharing, is just that there have been so many times where it's just clear that God gave me something to say that has had an impact and brought people closer to scriptures. Then there are other things like, for example, if you go on our YouTube channel, and you just look up "the miracle of the miracle of the fish." (And you can link this here.) It's a YouTube video about the behind the scenes of the miracle of the fish scene. And we get into the clear ways that God provided for us. So yeah, while I am cautious about claiming any kind of inspiration, I think that the proof is in the show that there have been moments that we hear all the time the word "anointed." I mean, just over and over people say, "This show feels anointed." And I'm not going to argue with that.

Morgan Jones  48:59
Yeah. I think that it's super interesting, super cool, when we find ourselves doing what we feel like God intended us to do with our lives, with our talents and gifts, and all of that, and I think absolutely watching you do this and watching the show and hearing you talk about it, it seems like it was definitely something that God intended for you and for your life. So I just want to say thank you from all who have watched it. We absolutely will link all of the YouTube videos that Dallas has mentioned in our show notes, so anybody that's interested in those can check that out. My last question for you, Dallas, is just the question that we asked at the end of every episode of this podcast. And for those listening that may be like, "Well, wait, you said he's not a member of the Church." We intended when we first started this podcast to have a question that people could answer, as long as they believed in Jesus Christ, they can answer the question "what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?" because we all believe in Him. So Dallas, for you, what does it mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Dallas Jenkins  50:13
Yeah, that's a beautiful question. And I think for me, it's a true death to self. I think when you truly die to self, then all of the other lessons that you hear, and the phrases that have resonance, such as "It's not your job to feed the 5000, it's only to provide the loaves and fish," or the phrase that has kind of been a hallmark of our show, Jesus when he says to Simon in episode seven, "Get used to different." Those phrases in and of themselves are nice, but they all have much more resonance and are much more executed and practical when you have made the decision to die to self. We won't take the time to explain all of what "die to self" means, I think it's relatively self-explanatory. But when you are thinking less of me, more of God; less than me, more of Christ, that is going to open you up to all the other truths that will make so much more sense and be so much more applicable once you've truly died to self.

Morgan Jones  51:20
Thank you so much, Dallas. It has been a privilege to talk to you, and I appreciate so much you taking the time to share these things with us.

Dallas Jenkins  51:27
Thanks so much for having me on, we'll have to do it again sometime.

Morgan Jones 51:29
Absolutely. A huge thank you to Dallas Jenkins for joining us on today's episode. You can watch "The Chosen" for free on its mobile app by searching for "The Chosen" on Apple or Android app stores. You can also buy season one of the chosen on DVD now in Desert Book stores or online at deseretbook.com. Thank you to Derek Campbell of Mix at 6 Studios for his help with this episode, and thank you for spending your time with us. Have a wonderful week, everyone.

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