New Documentary ‘The Chosen’ Engages Gen Z Audiences With Jesus

MIDLOTHIAN, Texas — That’s how Katherine Warnock remembers the idea was born.

Derral Eves, executive producer of faith-based series “The Chosen,” approached Warnock and said something like, “I’m really into Gen Z. I just want to collect a bunch of them, experiment blindly, and make them. watch ‘The Chosen’ in a day.

Katherine Warnock, head of original content for ‘The Chosen,’ speaks with the media at Salvation Army Camp Hoblitzelle in Midlothian, Texas, Monday, August 15, 2022.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

“And then he’s gone,” said Warnock, the show’s original content manager.

Warnock said she sought divine direction and guidance for the project, did her best to recruit the right people, and “we went.”

What they did was bring together nine young adults from diverse backgrounds, cultures and locations – many of whom do not identify with any particular faith or religion – and asked them to watch a program about the life of Jesus Christ. – Season 1 of “The Chosen.”

The result was a documentary, “Unfiltered: Gen Z Reacts to ‘The Chosen'”, which features young adults reacting to the show while recounting their own raw and vulnerable life experiences. The documentary was broadcast live worldwide on July 17.

“The Chosen” executives discussed the documentary with the Deseret News during a media event at Camp Hoblitzelle, a camp south of Dallas where the cast and crew are filming Season 3.

Reaction from Gen Z participants

Many attendees seemed impressed with the show.

  • They seemed to relate well to certain characters and scenes depicting situations of sanity, alienation, rejection and how Jesus in turn showed compassion, love and acceptance.
  • They praised the show’s diversity.
  • Several have discussed their negative experiences with religion in the past and said they were drawn to the genuine, gentle, friendly, and kind Jesus portrayed in the series.

“This experience was what I needed right now,” said Emma, ​​one of the nine participants, with tears in her eyes.

A highlight of the documentary came when the nine participants sat down for a chat with Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus.

“God is calling you,” Roumie said to a young man. “He wants to know you on a deeper level. So that tug you feel? It’s Christ trying to know you. It is what it is. You have nothing to lose exploring. And as you get closer and closer, you’ll know what’s true. But I think he’s calling you. And I just felt like I had to share that with you.

Reaction from ‘The Chosen’

Perhaps the biggest lesson “The Chosen” took from the documentary is that given a chance, the story of Jesus can appeal to a wide and diverse audience, said Brad Pelo, president and executive producer of “The Chosen”.

“What we experienced and what we certainly saw when we were shooting the documentary with the Gen Z kids is that this show is entertaining, insightful, impactful, you love the characters,” Pelo said. “It gave us the confidence to boldly say to distributors and platforms … we have something that really appeals to mainstream audiences.”

Nine young adults discuss a scene of

Nine young adults discuss a scene from “The Chosen” in a documentary, “Unfiltered: Gen Z Reacts to ‘The Chosen'”.

Screenshot from The Chosen video

Actor Noah James, who plays Apostle Andrew in ‘The Chosen,’ sat down to dinner with the Gen Z cast and watched the documentary with them. He was tired of filming all day and had originally planned a polite early release, but was so enthralled with the documentary that he stayed until the end and even asked if he could keep in touch with the young adults. .

“I was delighted…I’m not exaggerating. It really goes into some pretty amazing and moving territory. They’re so kind to themselves and so open… I literally couldn’t talk to them because I was really, really emotional,” James said in a video interview with show creator Dallas Jenkins. “Besides being an actor, it was honestly one of the proudest times I’ve had being part of ‘The Chosen’ family.”

Warnock, who served as executive producer on the project, used job boards to find the nine – people who weren’t professional actors, but were comfortable in front of the camera. They wanted people who could be genuine and provide honest feedback for the show. They also ensured that the subjects had never watched “The Chosen”. Thousands of submitted applications and casting drills were used to narrow the field down to nine people, she said.

Nine young adults discuss a scene of

Nine young adults discuss a scene from “The Chosen” in a documentary, “Unfiltered: Gen Z Reacts to ‘The Chosen'”.

Screenshot from The Chosen video

What did Warnock learn from this experience?

“To what extent are people willing to have a sincere conversation about Christianity, both positive and negative interpretations of their experiences with Christians and Christianity, and to talk and dialogue with Jesus?” said Warnock. “If you provide a safe, non-judgmental environment, you will learn deep things, which surprised me. I thought we had to work a lot harder to create this, but it was beautiful to see. This generation, more than any I’ve ever met, is willing to have tough conversations. They don’t need you to agree as long as they genuinely feel that you really are for them and they want to hear what they have to say.

Warnock added that Christians need to do more to understand the rising generation.

“The rising generation is rooted in more trauma than I realize, and Jesus really is the only answer,” she said. “So how can we build this bridge and this track for him instead of us and our rules? It was the heartbeat of it.

Watch the full documentary, “Unfiltered: Gen Z Reacts to ‘The Chosen'” on The documentary also starts at 27:20 of this YouTube video. He cautions that some of the topics covered in the film may be mature for young children and parents may consider watching first.

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