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Christian Living

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Disciple on Set: Killing Jesus Actor Shares His Personal Faith

Killing Jesus Info

PREMIERE DATE:

March 29, 2015, on National Geographic

RATINGS SUCCESS:

Killing Jesus nabbed 3.7 million viewers, a record night for National Geographic.

STARRING:

Haaz Sleiman, Kelsey Grammer, Eoin Macken, Stephen Moyer, John Rhys-Davies, Rufus Sewell, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Tamsin Egerton, Aneurin Barnard, Klara Issova, Joe Doyle, Chris Ryman, Joseph Long, Jason Kavan

SCREENWRITER:

Walon Green

DIRECTOR:

Christopher Menaul

PRODUCTION CO:

Scott Free Productions

ADAPTED FROM:

Killing Jesus by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard

Hannah Goodwyn - Senior Producer

Visiting the Killing Jesus set in Morocco gave me the unique opportunity to watch the filming and chat with some of the cast and producers in between takes. All were passionate about the project, but most didn't share my deep personal conviction that Jesus is the Messiah and humanity's spiritual redemption.

Jason Kavan, the London-based actor/comedian who plays Matthew in the National Geographic TV movie, does. As a "born again" believer, Kavan felt blessed to help share Jesus' story in a production that will air in 171 countries in 45 languages.

Recently, the Hillsong London churchgoer shared exclusively with CBN.com his insight on the Ridley Scott project and how his Savior is portrayed in Killing Jesus.

Hannah Goodwyn: Every believer has a beginning to his or her faith story. What's yours?

Jason Kavan: I was 19. I kept bumping into Christians wherever I went and in the most random and odd places. It got to the point that I was saying to strangers before they spoke, 'Don't tell me... You're a Christian?' It got so relentless that it became hilarious. That's when I first encountered God's sense of humor and I said, 'OK. OK, I get it. I'll check this church thing out.'

Goodwyn: Haaz Sleiman, who plays Jesus, has shared extensively with CBN.com why he admires him. What do you love about Jesus?

Kavan: Unconditional Love. I wouldn't be here without it. That sounds like a commercial for some credit card...ironically.

Goodwyn: What led to you getting the role of the disciple of Matthew in Killing Jesus?

Kavan: That's such a long story, but it had the element of the divine and that twist of God's humor that I knew it was Him in it.

Goodwyn: Past productions offer varying portrayals of Jesus Christ. What were your thoughts after reading over the script for Killing Jesus for the first time?

Kavan: It read well. I guess the film crew in my head helped paint the picture. You never know how these things will turn out after they are edited, but the un-edited version in my head played out well.

Goodwyn: Did you have any reservations about the lack of divinity the film applies to Jesus?

Kavan: I did initially. But when I read the script, I felt that his divinity seemed apparent. You could say I just layered it with my own faith. I remember the C.S Lewis quote, "Either Jesus was who he said he was or he was a lunatic".

Goodwyn: In Killing Jesus, you play Matthew, the reviled tax collector. What does his story mean to you?

Kavan: His story is my story. I am not worthy to offer Jesus my table to eat at and yet he invites himself around...every day.

Goodwyn: How was it being in costume and on the "biblical era" sets?

Kavan: It was very hot. I don't know how they could have worn all those layers. It was too uncomfortable in the heat. I wished they had a "summer collection".

Goodwyn: Being a believer, what was it like telling this faith story from a purely historical perspective?

Kavan: Personally, it helped me see Jesus, the man. It's easy, in hindsight as a Christian, with the Resurrection, all the letters from Paul, John's Revelations and the copious amounts of information out there about Jesus, to lose the man. Maybe it's because we don't want the man, maybe we just want who he is now. But being on the set and experiencing being in the human story and not outside it as an observer or commentator has personally helped me in everyday life to see that I'm still in his story. We all are.

Goodwyn: Did you experience any God moments while filming in Morocco?

Kavan: Yes, for sure. I remember the scene when I'm watching them flog Jesus. The scene requires me to scream at them to stop, as the crowd chants, "Crucify him". But I had this moment. I was confronted with all the things in my own life that I've fallen to my knees about. "I need him to die." It was a pretty dark thought. Then I thought, what if all these people chanting for his death really know he has to die. It got me I have to say.

Jason Kavan as a Roman Soldier in Killing Jesus
During some downtime, Kavan dressed up in a Roman soldier costume. Above is a photo of him on the site where Killing Jesus filmed its crucifxion scene.

Goodwyn: Haaz has said that he hopes this TV movie begins a dialogue between people of faith and the non-religious. Was that evident on set amongst the cast and crew?

Kavan: Yes. You couldn't help to talk on the subject matter you were dealing. Not all the time, but there were pivotal moments. One was at the crucifixion. I had mentioned that it's weird how nice the weather was for a crucifixion filming, as there's normally always a storm. Twenty minutes later, a storm blows in and filming is abandoned. It just sparked interesting conversation about...'why would that happen? Maybe there's something to all this.' I think the mood helped. It was really eerie on that location. The only time I've ever felt that weird eeriness was at Stonehenge. I wasn't in the shoot that day. I just wanted to see it. I didn't want to be the Christian weirdo wanting to watch a crucifixion. I just felt a slight conviction I had to see it. I wanted to support Haaz too. I knew it was a big shoot.

Goodwyn: What are your hopes for this TV movie about Jesus?

Kavan: That people will experience a different Jesus than they have done on screen. I'm not going to say the real Jesus, but hopefully a more three-dimensional Jesus. One of my favorite books is Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge. He talks about a passionate, funny, strong Jesus. This has glimpses of that Jesus.

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