Audrey is a passionate writer who covers a wide array of topics, including film/tv reviews, opinion-based pieces, and relationship advice.
Over Christmas, I was gifted the DVD of Season 1 of VidAngel’s crowd-funded series, The Chosen. To say it is like nothing you have ever watched is to put it simply. I don’t only mean that the format is different from regular shows (the length of the episodes, the climaxes of the episodes, the plots), but I also mean that this program stands out from all other faith-based entertainment in a dramatic way. I hope to point out below some of The Chosen’s strong and unique points from its first season, both on screen and behind the scenes.
In case you are unfamiliar with VidAngel, it is a media company that essentially flags any sort of potentially offensive, violent, or vulgar scenes in films and allows you the option to mute or skip them as you watch your content. They have been sued before for questions of censorship, but they keep making their way back around. I really like this concept of service, because I have a five-year-old and nothing is worse than when mommy is watching “her show”, and it cuts to a scene I would have liked to have been warned about. I digress.
Director and creator Dallas Jenkins, son of the author of an amazingly popular fiction series based on Bible prophecy, had created other films before this one and even co-created an entertainment company with his father over 20 years ago. Jenkins made a short film called The Shepherd (included on DVD 1 of season 1) for his church’s Christmas program, and he got linked in with VidAngel to start this series, although I’m not sure who contacted whom.
A New Way of Doing Things
The Chosen has been made in a completely innovative way. The series was completely crowdfunded. Season 1 is completed and they are filming season 2, and still raising money for season 3, with hopes of raising all the way to season 8 (I hope all the cast sticks around that long! I love them so much--more on that later). According to a pamphlet that came with the DVD with a note from Jenkins, The Chosen is the #1 highest crowdfunded media project of all time. That means regular people paying because they want something to be made--unheard of! Not only that, but the main way this program is watched is through a free app. You just download The Chosen app on your iphone, roku, firestick, etc. and you get to watch all eight episodes for free. I doubted it was that easy so I checked it out. It’s real and it’s that easy.
Compared to Other Faith-Based Entertainment
As a person of faith, I am drawn to faith-based entertainment and stories that hinge on spirituality and religions. So, I have seen my fair share of spiritually-inspired entertainment or media geared toward a Christian audience. I have watched the Kendrick brothers grow, learn, and become exponentially less corny as the years have gone on, to the point that they produce multi-million dollar films that nourish the soul. I have also seen far too many cheesy, poorly-acted, faith-based films to count. Sometimes I laugh through them, to my husband’s chagrin. The tear-less crying (and too much dry sniffing); the horrible accents; the talking like monotone robots reading a sheet of paper. It’s all hilarious to me. I admit I’m a snob in this sense.
This is Different
This is so different.
The acting is stellar. I would say Oscar-worthy, but what does that even mean anymore? The sets and the scenery seem real (Except that darn stone wall in Episode 3, c’mon); you feel like you are traveling back in time. It is detail-oriented to the max. It is diverse and inclusive; people of all races and people with disabilities and on the spectrum are represented. The backstories of the characters humanize them in a way that you hadn’t thought possible. When you read the story of Nicodemus, you may learn facts about what happened. But when you see it played out (with admittedly fabricated backstories and other elements), you understand in a much deeper way. The Chosen is one-of-a-kind.
My Favorite Bits
I have to be romantic here, lots of the characters remind me of my husband who hails from Spain. The olive skin, the black curly hair, the shorter stature. So of course the disciples are “my type,” and I feel so wrong and dirty saying that. It’s true--they’re very easy on the eyes. Shahar Isaac plays Simon Peter, with a larger-than-life personality. His gravelly voice is perfect for the role, and from what I can tell, Shahar Isaac is from Israel in real life (Shahar is an extremely popular name in Israel), though I can’t find any information on it online. He is most likely an ethnic Jew with a real accent when he speaks, which is why his delivery is so flawless and believable. Some of my favorite moments are when he has really messed up and he has to go tell Eden, his wife and when he gets mad at God in his boat. I also enjoy his relationship with his brothers-in-law.
His younger brother, Andrew, is played by Noah James, an American actor from Los Angeles. He has this great black curly hair and he is so obedient and sweet, with wonder in his eyes like a child whenever Jesus talks. He offers comedic relief many times during the show--including not knowing how to hold his lunch bag, and asking Jesus who got him food when Jesus says he has already eaten (he meant spiritually). Andrew’s adorable innocence is seen when he runs to tell Simon his brother about meeting the Messiah. His hope is tangible, even though Simon shoots him down and basically calls him crazy. Keep your ears open for a comment about “creepy John” in this scene. If you know your Bible, this will make you laugh.
It’s so hard to pick who is the better actor in this show. They are all so very relatable and lovable. But so far the one I am most impressed with is Paras Patel, an Indian-American actor, who plays Matthew. You really have to watch it to know what I’m talking about, but his portrayal is so real. He is despised by the others, even his own family, but respected by Rome for his extraordinary abilities with numbers. The sincerity of his question, “Do you believe impossible things can happen?” gave me instant chills. There’s not much I can say without giving away the plot, so download the App and get watching. You’ll be captivated by him from the beginning like I was.
Then of course there is the great Erick Avari as Nicodemus (wonderfully developed character) and lovely Liz Tabish as Mary of Magdala (lovable, relatable, wonderful), and the portrayal of Jesus by Jonathan Roumie is warm, believable, humorous at times, reverent, and not corny or off-putting at all. His manner draws you in; you feel safe with his character, even when he is alone with women or children. Roumie does an excellent job portraying Jesus’ purity and heart. The filmmakers were also very careful to not make Jesus too attractive physically. Jonathan Roumie is an attractive man in real life, but the hairstyle and clothing choices have made him non-sexual in the show, which is a very good thing for a story about the life of Christ. We don’t need any glistening muscles like Simon Peter’s, or perfect hair and smile like Andrew’s in our lord’s depiction.
All-in-all, The Chosen was very carefully done and it is a treat to watch. I’m glad that the purchase of the DVD went to funding season 2. They will keep funding for years to come until the project is completed. To learn more download the App or follow The Chosen on social media.
© 2021 Audrey Lancho