GOSHEN, Utah — An independent, online series about the life of Jesus has a devoted and growing following, and now, "The Chosen" has come to Utah.
The Evangelical production began filming Season 2 on the Jerusalem set belonging to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Goshen, Utah.
"The Chosen" is the first ever multi-season series about the life of Jesus Christ.
KSL TV was given access to the set during the first week of filming. On that day, the scene was in Samaria and new disciples, Simon and Andrew, were moving quickly through the market.
"Scene 105, mark A, action!"
"Have you seen the teacher from Galilee? The man who arrived here yesterday?"
Dallas Jenkins, the series creator, director and co-writer, described how he felt when he arrived.
"I actually felt a spiritual connection here," he said. "I've been to Israel and you can't actually get this in Israel."
Season 1 was shot in Texas.
For season 2, producers needed a set that looked like Jerusalem. They learned of the Latter-day Saint motion picture studio in Goshen, Utah.
"It's really a game-changer for the show, I believe," Jenkins said. "We're going to be able to use this place and use the work and the blood and the sweat and the tears that went into this, and use it to spread the message of Christ all over the world."
Built in 2011 for the The Church of Jesus Christ's Bible videos, KSL TV had unprecedented access as scriptures from the New Testament came to life in scenes from the life of Jesus Christ.
"You prayed and this is what happened!"
When the pandemic halted production of "The Chosen" earlier this year, Dallas Jenkins pleaded for prayers on YouTube, and then the Church literally opened the doors to the Jerusalem set with a lease agreement.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has approved a lease agreement for the use of the Jerusalem set at Goshen for the filming of episodes for Season 2 of 'The Chosen.' The lease agreement is not an endorsement from the Church, and 'The Chosen' is not a Church production, but we are pleased to see this setting used for quality, faith-based productions that are designed to build faith in Jesus Christ, His divine mission, and the miraculous events surrounding His life," said Irene Caso, a media relations manager in the communications department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
VidAngel Productions hopes "The Chosen" will bring people of different Christian denominations together. Dallas Jenkins said it already has.
"It's no secret that Evangelicals and people of the LDS faith aren't always in the same camp," he said. "There has obviously been tension over the years. Presenting Jesus of Nazareth in the most authentic way we can has provided, in many ways, an opportunity for people to talk about some of these things that we don't normally talk about."
Utah actor Eli Ghaeini plays a shepherd in season 2. He said he was amazed when he arrived on set for the first day of filming.
"It's surreal. You kind of forget you're in Utah," he said. "The more I look around, the more I see, the more I believe and understand and wonder why I never knew more about this set and the motion picture studio set here in Goshen."
In a scene from Season 1, Episode 4, Jesus says to Simon, "Put that down for a catch a little farther out," and what follows is the miracle of the fish.
Jonathan Roumie portrays Jesus. He played the role for Dallas Jenkins in several films before Jenkins approached him about "The Chosen."
"'I think we're going to be doing a series, would you want to put the sandals back on again?' I said, 'Absolutely, sign me up!'" said Roumie.
"When we started 'The Chosen,' I knew immediately we should be here to film because here's Jerusalem, right here," said Derral Eves, executive producer of "The Chosen" and a Latter-day Saint. "Having a really good script about Jesus Christ and the lives that he impacted, and then having a really amazing medium — which is the internet — we can get it out to so many people now."
"The Chosen" did not debut on traditional networks or streaming services, rather, the team created its own app to distribute the series.
The response from around the world has been remarkable — making "The Chosen" the number one crowd-funded media project of all time.
Roumie said, "It's unprecedented for me, as an actor, to see something that I've done have such an enormous impact on people's personal lives and their spiritual lives."
They hope the series will continue for seven seasons, but their desire is simply to spread the "good news."
In the words of the man who plays Jesus, "If just one person found God from this show, it's all worth it, even just one."
All eight episodes of "The Chosen" season 1 are also now airing on BYUtv.