Scott D. Pierce: ‘The Chosen’ is braving Utah’s weather to shoot Season 5 of series about Jesus

The man behind the series loves filming at the Latter-day Saint studio in Goshen — most of the time.

(The Chosen) Director Dallas Jenkins, left, works with Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus, during taping of a scene of Season 3 of "The Chosen."

The man behind the shockingly successful TV series about the life of Jesus Christ — “The Chosen” — is thrilled that he and his team are back in Utah shooting Season 5.

Well, mostly thrilled. And a little annoyed from time to time.

“We really are feeling good here in Utah,” said writer/director/executive producer Dallas Jenkins. “It’s a great place to film. The people are wonderful, and so far that the footage and the work that we’re doing feels great.”

As has been the case in the past, about a third of the season is being filmed in Utah — at BYU’s Motion Picture Studio South Campus in Goshen. Which is great — a standing set depicting old Jerusalem.

Except when it’s not. Except when they’re “filming in the Utah weather, which can change at any moment,” Jenkins said. “We can never rely on it, whether it’s the heat or the dust or the rain. And it’s just exhausting shooting an entire season within a few months.”

What keeps Jenkins, the actors and the crew going is the feedback they get from fans of “The Chosen,” which exceeds enthusiastic.

“It’s not just engaging them, but it’s literally changing their lives,” he said. “It’s an extraordinary thing to be part of, and it also is the juice in the battery that keeps you going. ... And you meet the people and you realize — OK, this is bigger than we are. This isn’t just entertainment. We’ve got to keep going.”

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Season 2 of "The Chosen" was filmed on the Jerusalem sets at Brigham Young University’s Motion Picture Studio South Campus in Goshen, in Utah County.

Amazing backstory

“The Chosen” grew out of a short film Jenkins made in 2017, “The Shepherd.” Crowd-funding brought in millions to produce the series, and — in the first three seasons — Jenkins partnered with Utah-based Angel Studios (which grew out of the streaming service VidAngel). Because of a legal dispute with Angel Studios, Season 4 episodes — which played in theaters — have not yet been released for streaming. But, Jenkins said, that should happen soon.

To date, the series has been available on “The Chosen” website and app, YouTube, Facebook, Prime Video, BYUtv, The CW, Peacock, Trinity Broadcasting, UpTV andNetflix. Jenkins wasn’t ready to make an announcement about where Season 4 (and, eventually, seasons 5-7) will stream, but, clearly, there’s an announcement coming. “Eventually, we’ll find a more exclusive partner,” Jenkins said. “Because for us to sustain ourselves as a company long term, we do need to start gearing people towards watching in specific places.”

It’s one more obstacle in a rather remarkable journey for “The Chosen.” Maybe the only person who isn’t surprised that Jenkins has made it this far is Jenkins himself.

He said he’s not surprised that his short film has turned into a TV series that has been seen (at least in part) by more than 100 million people on a variety of outlets. “The fact that it’s been so widely distributed hasn’t necessarily generated a lot of money, but it has gotten a lot of eyeballs on it. That’s our goal. We want it to be seen by as many people as possible. …

“Honestly, I don’t think about the future. I really don’t,” Jenkins said. “My whole life changed about six, seven years ago. I gave up focusing on results. I gave up focusing on goals. So this hasn’t totally shocked me, because I believe God can do anything.”

However, he admitted that he “didn’t expect” that “The Chosen” would produce a single season, let alone five — with plans for two more.

“I’m just trying to make sure that each season is good. We’ve got enough to worry about making sure that our show is good — and that God is pleased — to start thinking about what the future might hold and whether or not I’m living up to expectations. ... If I’m sitting in front of a blank computer screen and I start thinking about avoiding criticism, or gaining praise, or trying to hit a goal. or seeing what my future could be, that is too big — adding too much to what I’m already carrying.”

(The Chosen) Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) and Simon the Zealot (Alaa Safi) feed the 5,000 in a scene of Season 3 of "The Chosen."


In the midst of filming Season 5, Jenkins has in the back of his mind that he’s still got Seasons 6 and 7 over the horizon — that he’s got to raise the money to produce them, write the episodes and get his actors back in front of the cameras.

“When people ask me how I’m doing, or if I’m excited, or how I feel about things, I always say, ‘I’ll let you know in 2027 or so, when we’re finally finished with all of this,’” he said.

Jenkins is not just writing, producing and directing “The Chosen” — he’s also the co-founder and chairman of the board of a film company with 65 employees that is “growing faster than we can keep up with. And then I’ve also got to make the show and sell the show. And we have to create things from scratch because we don’t have a studio or a network behind us.”

It has, quite simply, consumed Jenkins’ life. He recalled reading a book that quoted David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the showrunners of “Game of Thrones,” saying “that pretty much for eight years, all they did was that show. ... They just lived and breathed it year-round. And I really identified with that.”

It’s been both “the hardest” time for Jenkins and his family, and the “most rewarding.”

“But, yeah,” he said, “it is an all-consuming thing. ... But it’s tough to complain when it’s having the kind of impact that it’s having.”

(Brandon Thibodeaux | The New York Times) Construction workers build an ancient village set for "The Chosen" in Midlothian, Texas, on June 8, 2022. "The Chosen," a surprise hit television series, is billed as the first multi-season show about the life of Jesus — and one of the biggest crowd-funded media projects ever produced.

Living, breathing human beings

Jenkins theorizes that the reason “The Chosen” has struck a chord with so many people is “the way that we’re doing this portrayal of Jesus and the disciples as living, breathing human beings — as opposed to stained glass windows.” He said he’s received positive feedback from viewers who range in age from 6 to 90.

One of the extras in Goshen told him her 8-year-old is a “huge fan.” Another told him, through tears, that his mother — who died the previous week at the age of 91 — “kept telling me that I needed to tell Dallas when I meet him on the set that he needs to keep going and that the show changed her life. And that she was watching it on her phone in the hospital. And this woman was 91 years old. …

“And so that gives you an indication that generation, culture, language all over the world doesn’t seem to be a barrier.”

It’s going great

Production on Season 5 is “going great,” Jenkins said. “Really, every day has been going very, very well. We’re on time, on budget. The scenes look incredible. I don’t get ahead of myself, I’ll have a better answer for you when the season’s over. But right now, we really are feeling blessed.”

As of mid-May, they’re about a month into production on Season 5. Which Is scheduled to wrap at the end of July.

“And then we’ve got two more seasons after that. This is a seven-season show,” he said. “So we are on the back half. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

And, even though he’d like Utah weather to be a bit nicer — or at least more consistent — he’s not really complaining. And he is thankful that he can use the Latter-day Saint sets.

“They’re so hospitable. It looks beautiful,” Jenkins said. “I mean, obviously, the mountains and the desert — it really does look like first-century Israel. And it’s been an extraordinary backdrop for us.”

Even though “the wind comes and goes on a whim,” which makes filming “challenging. But I think that’s part of it. I think it shows on the screen. I think it makes it feel authentic. It’s hard, yes, but it’s worth it.”