The Chosen: "The Jesus shown in the series connects with the audience because he is so believable!"

In this choral interview, three of the actors from the hit series The Chosen have shared their experience and their vision of this project, which has become an unquestionable option within the religious-themed film narrative. The Chosen shows the "could have been" story of the Apostles and the holy women with remarkable historical and biblical accuracy, and through a moving drama with no lack of humor.

Maria José Atienza-January 14, 2023-Reading time: 7 minutes
the chosen

Their names are Elizabeth Tabish, Noah James and Amber Shana Williams, but many know them, through the hit series The Chosen as Mary Magdalene, Andrew and Tamar. 

Omnes was with them during the promotion of the third season of this series in Spain. The chapters are published, progressively, on the various platforms on which The Chosen is being aired. This third season gradually delves into some of the "complicated" moments of Christ's life.

The Chosen has been an unexpected success for its creators. The first two seasons and this third one, which has just begun, have accumulated more than 450,000,000 views in more than 140 countries and in 56 languages. 

The project has been made possible thanks to the crowfunding that, since its inception, Angel Studiosthe producer of The ChosenThe crowdfunding campaign, launched to finance this series, has been the largest in the history of audiovisual productions: for the first season, more than 19,000 people donated 11 million dollars, and for the second and third seasons, more than 40 million dollars have been raised. 

The project comprises 7 seasons, with more than 50 episodes. The success of its first and second seasons through its mobile application led the production company to broadcast the first two seasons in different movie theaters on the occasion of the premiere of the third installment of the series. 

Its director, Dallas Jenkins, is an evangelical Christian, married since 1998 to writer and teacher Amanda Jenkins, and the father of four children, the last of whom was adopted. 

Among the actors of The Chosen we meet people from all walks of life and from many different cultures. The actor who plays Jesus, Jonathan Roumie, is the son of an Egyptian father and an Irish mother. He was baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church, but converted to Catholicism. In the cast there are actors of Orthodox tradition and Christians of various denominations, from Jewish families or even agnostics. However, everyone points out that The Chosen has changed the way they look at Jesus and, especially, how they see him in their own lives. 

"The most meaningful experience", "one of my biggest personal challenges"...., this is how the actors who embody these "chosen" men and women define the experience of being part of the cast of The Chosen. The chat with Elizabeth Tabish, Noah James and Amber Shana Williams is pleasant, funny and simple. Three actors who have been surprised and encouraged by the success of a religious-themed series in their professional lives. 

What was your experience of giving voice and face to the Apostles and women saints? What struck you most? 

[E. Tabish] Since I cast the role, I felt very identified with the figure of Mary Magdalene. In the first episode, she is in a desperate situation, with no future, depressed. I myself have gone through those experiences, so making it real in the character was easy, you could almost say it was a catharsis, because, later on, Mary Magdalene lives that encounter with Jesus and begins to follow him. In the same way, I myself have personally advanced and I feel more confident in the project, in the character itself.

-[N. James] In my case, whenever I play a role or do a job, I try to bring something of my own personality to the character, to the project I'm doing. I think that, deep down, we all have something of Andrew or Mary Magdalene or Tamar... or Romeo or Juliet... It's a matter of looking at oneself and saying, "I've always had something of my own: "Ah, this part of me is chained to this trait or that trait of the character."and so on in different circumstances and situations. In my life, I always try to be as cheerful as Andrés, and it is also true that I am as stressed as Andrés himself. I put something of myself to make the character believable, real. 

-[A.S. Williams] The reality is that we have realized, also on the set itself, that we are often very similar to our characters, and we even comment on it among ourselves: "You're just as stressed as Andrew!" o "You're as impulsive as Peter!"

Professionally, when you are an actor, the last thing you want is for your acting to look fake. Our goal, as actors, is to bring what you are to the character, all the traits you can offer to the character, because everyone is everyone. Our goal, then, is to be part of these characters, of these stories. To become part of it to be as authentic as they are, honest, believable. We have the task of finding those points that you have more in common with your character, with your role. And, with those things, even if there are small differences, find the way to transmit it and, at the same time, that the character itself inspires us. A relationship is created between the actor and the character. You always have to have a special respect for the character; it's not about judging the character but about respecting him and being honest with him and with the story. 

Regardless of whether you are believers or not, has this series changed your conception of Jesus Christ? 

-[A.S. Williams] Mine did, completely. My father was a minister in our community, in charge of the hymns. I grew up with an image of Jesus associated with statues or paintings on the walls. A very "heavenly" Jesus, inaccessible. Sometimes I wondered if I could really talk to him. I think, at times, the experience was almost dramatic. 

When I met with The Chosen this changed. The Jesus that shows The Chosen connects with the audience - not only with believers, but also with those who are far from the faith or are not believers - because he is such a credible Jesus! A Jesus who dances, who laughs, who brushes his teeth, who speaks with authority, like a king, but doesn't give a cold command. It is very refreshing. 

I think it reminds us that Jesus lived as a man, that he had his daily needs, he was not a stranger to what we are. He makes us feel that we belong to his world. Everyone who sees this Jesus can say "I love it, I love this man." Because it is a Jesus who smiles at me, it is a Jesus who tells us that we don't have to be perfect to be in his presence. A Jesus who speaks to us and reminds us that he is here for us, for that redemption and that we can do it, we can follow him. I believe that The Chosen does an excellent job in this human portrait of Christ. 

Is it difficult to bring to life Mary Magdalene or an apostle of whom we may have preconceived ideas? 

[E. Tabish] In my case, playing Mary Magdalene, I know many portraits of her, painted over the years. She is also a figure that, in our film work, has been treated on several occasions. There have been many stories, many speculations about her, about what she was, her profession, or how she is seen in the Gospels.

The reality is that the little we know about Mary Magdalene we know from what appears in the Gospels. 

In my case, I have tried to avoid these other interpretations and focus on what appears of her in the Gospels and, along with this, to study what a woman like her might be like, her customs, the culture of her time... and to put my own emotions into her heart. 

I have had a lot of respect for this character because I love the great love he has for Jesus and how he follows him. 

-[N. James] That's right. Also, in my experience, the first step is to approach the character with as much respect as possible. In the case of The ChosenMoreover, we are making a story that "could have been" and that is a story that, in a certain way, we have seen for hundreds of years in paintings, in stained glass windows.... 

When I have had to prepare the character of the apostle Andrew, what I have always tried to do is to ask myself what it would mean for me to be fishing for hours and not catch anything, or to pay my taxes, over and over again, and see that, in spite of everything, I lose my boat... How would I feel in the face of those realities? It is true that we can see paintings, other people's interpretations but, mainly we have to make our own, create a relationship with that material, create the character in each moment. 

How would you define The Chosen

[E. Tabish] Without a doubt, for me it has been the project with the most personal meaning. It is a rare opportunity for actors to be able to work on a project, to finish the season, to be able to see it, to have feedback and, even more so, to do another season and continue to grow as actors, with each other, inspiring each other. Even in the third season. 

I think it was almost a life purpose for me to be included in something so special. And so it has been. 

-[N. James] I think it has been by far the most rewarding project I have been a part of. The Chosen It has also been the job that has challenged me the most, both as an actor and as a person. It has also been the most challenging project to shoot, especially due to the weather elements. We had to shoot while roasting in the heat, or in the rain, in cold water for hours... Sometimes the most rewarding things are the most challenging. And this has been true for The Chosen. 

-[A.S. Williams] For me it has been a key experience and, above all, a surprise. 

We all had hopes that someday The Chosen would have its success, but we could not have imagined, not even remotely, the global impact the series is having today. It's a blessing to see it grow and, especially, it's shocking to see how the level rises with each season. The first season is fantastic and that improves throughout the project. 

My own character is a surprise, for example. Regarding this role I think that The Chosen takes a lot of risks because, in my case, it's not a character with a well-known name in the Bible. Tamar represents many people. She brings together many people who, in the Gospels, do not have a specific name. The friends of the paralytic who hang him from the ceiling, the women who accompany Jesus in his ministry, etc., we don't know them all by name, but Tamar represents all of them. 

Which scene from the series do you like the most? 

[E. Tabish] Oh, with many. Although I think the scene that I enjoyed recording the most, my favorite, is when, in the second season, Mary Magdalene feels lost again and leaves. She comes back and doesn't feel able to talk to Jesus and then Mary, Jesus' mother brings her to him. It's a beautiful moment when Jesus tells her that she doesn't have to be perfect, that God just wants her heart. That scene moved me because, deep down, he said it to me. It is something I carry with me.

-[N. James] The scene that I think I will never forget is the miracle of the fish in episode four of the first season. It was one of the most difficult scenes to film. We spent 14 or 15 hours in the water, which was very cold... We had to gather the fish in the boat, putting them together, they were like little donkeys that escaped from our hands... not knowing if the visual effects were going to work. In fact, for several days we didn't know if the scene worked, and when you see it, once it's produced, it's great. 

-[A.S. Williams] My favorite scene is also in the second season. It is the one in which the apostles and the women are sitting around the fire and a fight begins about "whether you have the right to be here or not", "if I do things this way or that way". In the background, they are focusing on themselves, on what they deserved or not... At that moment Jesus appears exhausted, worn out after having been listening and healing people all day long, and it is a moment of humiliation for those people. It is a scene that reminds us that we have to stop, and leave our egos, our opinions or disputes because Jesus is giving himself to others. 

I also especially like the scenes of Jesus with his mother, how he looks at her, how they talk to each other, because Jesus has a mother! And all of them are impressive.

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