Season 2 Incoming: Producer of Bible-Based TV Series The Chosen Shares On-Set Update
When the show filmed a scene with more than 2,000 people — under COVID restrictions — TMZ Live got the scoop. Now writer-producer Dallas Jenkins gives more details.
The Chosen impressed even a celebrity gossip site. “This is a remarkable — even divine — undertaking,” said TMZ Live host Charles Latibeaudiere.
Season two of popular Bible-based TV series The Chosen has nearly completed filming. Days ago, Latibeaudiere and TMZ founder Harvey Levin gave viewers a look behind-the-scenes of the hit VidAngel-distributed series. They chatted with showrunner Dallas Jenkins, currently still on-set completing final scenes for the second season.
"The Chosen" director Dallas Jenkins joined us on @TMZLive to chat about how he managed to shoot an epic sermon scene with 2000+ extras … and in the middle of a pandemic! Check your local listings for showtimes: pic.twitter.com/28fsRSQgNH
— TMZ (@TMZ) February 13, 2021
Filming During Covid
The co-hosts queried Jenkins about an arduous sequence filmed on February 14. Producers invited more than 2,000 people to participate as Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
Making that happen during a pandemic presented challenges. “We’ve been filming season two for about four months within the pandemic,” said Jenkins. “Hundreds of cast, crew and extras [have] all followed COVID protocols. We’ve had fewer than ten positive cases, all of them isolated.”
Everyone on-set had to be tested twice for COVID-19. A few were turned away, including a police officer who tested positive. All present used masks when possible, put away when filming began. “What you pulled off was almost a military operation,” said Latibeaudiere.
Frigid winds hit their central Texas location, only days before the statewide deep freeze. Cast and extras dressed in first-century period clothing found it demanding. “I think hypothermia was a bigger threat than COVID,” said Jenkins.
In a follow-up interview, he praised how TMZ operates “a little outside the system” of mainstream media. “I think they were intrigued by what our team did. We got over 2,000 people together during a pandemic and did it safely.”
TMZ hosts scrutinized a particular production decision. Between testing and all the protocols they put into place, the crowd scene cost several hundred thousand dollars. Why not cut down costs by digitally multiplying the extras?
Expanding his on-air answer, the writer-director said they took great care in depicting “the most famous sermon in history.”
“There’s something organic, passionate and authentic about having real people there. You can’t replicate that with CGI. Maybe the average viewer won’t notice the difference on the surface. But I believe they’ll feel it, as did our actors.”
The Chosen has thrived due to its passionate core supporters. Over $22 million in crowdfunding (thus far) has enabled the series to be produced and distributed in innovative ways.
People in 248 countries have watched the show via free mobile apps. Episodes have racked up over 100 million online views in two years. Recently stocked by Walmart nationwide, nearly one million copies of The Chosen Season One DVDs and Blu-rays have been sold.
As with season one, top backers hoped to appear in a pivotal scene. Considering many lived within driving distance of the central Texas set, Jenkins could hardly pass up the opportunity.
“Our show is as much about our relationship with our viewers as it is about the content itself,” said Jenkins. “They allow us to exist, so we take any chance we have to involve them in our process.”
The show’s viewership has multiplied during the pandemic — and so has social buzz. In their Facebook fan group, Jenkins and stars of The Chosen regularly interact with members.
Even With Grander Scale, Focus Remains On One
Production of season two is ongoing, delayed by at least a week due to the deep freeze. “This pushes [back] our schedule and makes it more difficult to get editing done on time,” said a February 16 e-mail update to supporters. An Easter premiere had been targeted.
Whenever it drops, fans are excited that season two will play out on a larger stage. The first few weeks of production, set in Jerusalem, occurred at a massive new location.
Built in 2011, an 800-acre movie set in Goshen, Utah, recreates parts of first-century Jerusalem. For the first time, faith leaders who own the space welcomed an evangelical production to lease it. Weeks later, the team returned to central Texas for scenes set in other Mideast locales.
While Jenkins relishes that they have a “grander backdrop” for season two, he offers a caveat. “The Chosen is always about the intimate and the personal. Regardless of the miracle or size of the crowd or scope of the setting, I always want to zero in on the relationship between Jesus and one person. Ultimately, I believe viewers are impacted by Jesus, not how ‘epic’ it looks.”
VidAngel has not announced an official release date for Season 2 of The Chosen. Sources close to the production indicate the first episodes of season two are likely to premiere in late spring.
A graduate of the University of Colorado, Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith, and public policy issues for media outlets including The Stream and The Federalist. Find him on Twitter and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.