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Actors Roumie, Tabish on Amazing and Lasting Impact of The Chosen

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

These are exciting days for the The Chosen television series.  Having just completed Season Two in July to much buzz and fanfare, the highest crowd-funded series of all time is well on its way to being fully funded for Season Three, set to begin filming this fall.

In the interim, the series directed by Dallas Jenkins and starring Jonathan Roumie as Jesus, recently met Pope Francis in Vatican City during his weekly Wednesday audience.  The meetup lends further proof that the series is growing quickly and is reaching people of different faith traditions.  Said Jenkins in a recent press release, “…When we focus on Jesus, walls break down, cultural and religious.”

To better understand this phenomenon and the growing success of the series, I recently spoke with actors Roumie and Elizabeth Tabish about their greatest challenges portraying Jesus and Mary Magdalene, whether they approach their roles any differently because of the subject matter, and their greatest hope for the series as it transitions to Season Three.

From your perspective, what explains the amazing and lasting popularity of The Chosen. Did you expect that it would receive the following and support that it has had to date?

Jonathan Roumie: When you take the subject matter and the way he’s (Director Dallas Jenkins) treated it, everybody that's been involved with it, and the cast, (the experience) has just been fantastic. If all goes the way it seems like it should, this should do pretty well. That’s because of Dallas’ heart for the story. And I think when you're being authentic in your storytelling, no matter what story you're telling, people will see that and respond to that, even if it's on a subconscious level. They'll engage and they'll react to it. And in our case with The Chosen, it's had a massive word of mouth campaign to spread the program far and wide.

Elizabeth Tabish: I wasn’t really sure how it was going to go. It was going to be filmed in Texas. It was going to be super low budget in comparison to other shows in that genre. But I'm a filmmaker and I realize you can cheat certain scenes to make it seem like you're in a bigger space. I was expecting it to be that to be in every episode. But every episode and every season keeps sort of topping itself. It's beautiful.

As actors, what has been your greatest challenge thus far in shooting The Chosen? Is there something where you felt this is going to be a really tough hurdle to get over?

Elizabeth Tabish: I struggled with anxiety. I used to have stage fright whenever I did theater. And so whatever version for film that this is called, I usually have that. I was expecting to have that a lot on this show, and it surprised me that for whatever reason, the environment of the show has reduced that almost completely. With these actors, we are really sort of reacting off of each other as characters. Sometimes we can't tell which is which while we're filming. That has almost been overcome without me realizing that I was overcoming it. I don't think I was overcoming it. I think that the experience of this show has helped me overcome it.

Jonathan Roumie: For me, I think it was coming to terms with the material. As a believer and somebody who practices the faith, it's been at times intimidating to try to put myself into the mind, or at least the sandals of Christ, and to try to bring some sort of spiritual authenticity or some semblance of an authenticity that people recognize as, yes, that makes sense for the character of Christ in this TV show. And to have people respond the way that they've been responding, I'm always sort of checking myself and just remain rather humble about having the opportunity to do this at all. Also, I’m not trying to get too far into my head. If I do, it starts taking me into another territory where I don’t think God wants from me in this role. I need to stay focused, keep trusting, and know that I'm meant to be here. As Liz is meant to be and all the other characters that have been cast in this project are meant to be a part of this project.

That’s a good point you make. Due to the nature of the subject, I'm sure that you approach your roles a little differently than other productions. Do you go about preparing for your roles for The Chosen any differently than you would for a more traditional project?

Jonathan Roumie: I do. That starts to get into detail about my own spiritual life. I think I can bring that from a technical standpoint. To sort of rewind from a spiritual standpoint, it's just more material that I have at my disposal as far as research goes. And then, from a purely craft and tool perspective, you approach it the same. In that as an actor, you're always trying to strive for authenticity and truth for a character. In other words, a person gets there through a myriad of approaches as far as acting technique goes to. But I think because of my own spiritual background, it sort of lends itself into that preparation process.

Final question for you for you both, after people have seen The Chosen as a series or even just a few episodes, what would you like your audiences to get out of the viewing experience? What's your greatest hope for the series?

Elizabeth Tabish: I think for me, the ability to connect with a character and identify with these characters that are struggling with really human problems, to help people work through their own problems sort of in real time as they're watching. I have received some really beautiful letters from people who have shared their own trauma or PTSD experiences. They have mentioned that watching Mary (Magdalene) struggle or relapse has made them feel sort of seen, proving that this does happen (to the best of people). And then to see Mary forgiven by Jesus, they felt like they were also forgiven in that moment. So, I think there's something in the show that sort of helps people navigate their very human feelings, troubles, and pain. I hope this show helps and brings healing.

To Learn More About The Chosen: 

Jonathan Roumie: I want this series to get people that maybe would never watch Christian media, an opportunity to invest in characters that maybe they had thought weren’t for them, or the story wasn't for them. I think the opportunity to get people interested in this story that never have been is what I'm most interested in because it ends up becoming transformative for them, whether or not they wanted to or realized it.

And as Liz said, helping them work through stuff is ultimately what this story and what Jesus came to do. He came to offer Himself for mankind and be a place of refuge for people. I think that people can somehow on an unconscious level start to recognize that and gravitate towards the series. And even if they're not sure why, I think that will be a good thing, going outside of the Christian audience. For me, this is a personal goal because ultimately everybody can identify and relate to these stories and these characters.

Watch a Scene from The Chosen: Mary Remembers Jesus' Birth:

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