Entertainment and Arts

Autism Celebrated, Those Struggling with Alcohol and Addiction Embraced in ‘The Chosen’

By: Laura Bennett

While a lot of Christian movies and series seek to be aspirational or inspiring, it’s rare to find one that’s been as truly ground-breaking as The Chosen – the first multi-series dramatisation of Jesus’ life and that of his disciples.

When its creator Dallas Jenkins (son of Left Behind author Jerry B. Jenkins) first conceived of the idea, he had just come off the back of a “Hollywood failure”.

A feature film he and his backers thought would be a commercial success with a multi-film deal attached bombed at the theatres, and suddenly Dallas went from making it in Hollywood and having “a bright future” to being a could-have-been with “no future” and dwindling self belief.

Dallas and his wife began to pray, and he said,”God met us there in a powerful way”.

Source: Supplied / The Chosen director Dallas Jenkins

“I realised that part of me that was narcissistic and [wanting fame],” Dallas said.

“And I decided I didn’t want to have that anymore, I didn’t care about it anymore. I wanted to only do what God wanted me to do.”

“It was when I got to the place that I really didn’t care anymore about success or the response of the audience that God gave me The Chosen.”

Since then, The Chosen has become the most successful crowd-funded entertainment project of all time, eclipsing Veronica Mars (US$5.7 million) and Super Troopers 2 (US$4.5 million) to raise US$10 million to launch its first season.

The Chosen has become the most successful crowd-funded entertainment project of all time.

As of March this year, season one has been watched over 100 million times in 180 countries and translated into multiple languages. To put that into perspective, the Friends season finale was watched by 52.5 million people.

The numbers aren’t what Dallas pays attention to though, remembering his job “is to provide the loaves and fishes”, and that it’s up to God “to multiply them and feed the five thousand”.

As of March this year, season one has been watched over 100 million times in 180 countries and translated into multiple languages.

What Dallas does get a kick out of is seeing the impact the series is having on people’s lives, notably the character of Matthew the tax collector.

As he and his team read the scriptures and began to flesh out the possible back stories of their lead characters, Dallas noted Matthew’s penchant for detail, his fascination with numbers and his existence on the social periphery, and drew parallels between them and someone on the autism spectrum.

“I have a lot of experience in the autism world,” Dallas said.

“[With several] family members who have autism, and I’ve done a lot of work in special needs communities.

“I thought, ‘Well this is interesting, [Matthew’s] got some Asperger’s traits, some autism traits, what if we decided to make him on the spectrum? That’s never been done before.’

“Other than Jesus, I think Matthew’s been the most responded to character in the show.”

The Chosen’s boldness in broadening out its characters lives beyond what we seen in scripture – while keeping to Biblical intention – is one of the things that’s made it so powerful and compels viewers to follow the stories of these very human people.

“The title The Chosen is about three different things,” Dallas said.

“It’s about Jesus as ‘the chosen One’, the Jews as God’s chosen people and then the people that Jesus chose to follow Him.

“We introduce them to you right off the bat with all their mess – we want the show to be authentic and we want the stories to be portrayed [realistically].

“I think Christians have a tendency to present themselves to the world as ‘completed’, as ‘being saved’ and ‘now we’re better, we’re good now’.

“In [The Chosen] we try to portray that ‘being saved’ doesn’t make you good, it makes you saved, and we’re hearing from people all the time that, ‘Oh, if Jesus can choose someone on the spectrum, someone who’s a tax collector, someone who struggles with alcohol or gambling or whatever, then He can choose me as well.”

The first season of The Chosen is available on DVD now, with both seasons streaming for free on The Chosen app or via watch.angelstudios.com.

film still from the chosen

film still from the chosen - jesus speaks to a crowd

behind the scenes of the chosen, director dallas jenkins speaking with the actor playing jesus

Article supplied with thanks to Hope Media.

About the Author: Laura is a media professional, broadcaster and writer from Sydney, Australia.

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