DALLAS (RNS) — Over 3,500 fans attended The Chosen Insiders Conference in Dallas over the weekend to celebrate “The Chosen,” the popular film series about the life of Jesus and his followers in first-century Israel under Roman oppression.
“ChosenCon,” a two-day conference, gathered fans from around the world, some as far as Australia and South Korea, to meet with the cast and crew, including actor Jonathan Roumie, who stars as Jesus.
“It was overwhelming and beautiful to see over three thousand people in one room cheering and laughing and celebrating our show. But even better were the countless stories of impact viewers were able to tell us personally,” Dallas Jenkins, the show’s creator, told Religion News Service in a statement after the conference.
Thomas Mathew Rodre, 72, from Brick, New Jersey, said he came to the conference because he had a spiritual conversion after he watched the first episode eight months ago.
“This scene, where Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus, redeemed Mary Magdalene, had such a spiritual impact on me. I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior right then and there and became born again,” Rodre said.
Rodre gives credit to Jenkins for following God in choosing to make “The Chosen.”
“Jesus is using ‘The Chosen’ as an instrument through Dallas Jenkins — and his acceptance of the role and responsibility — to reach millions of people to bring the good news to millions of people worldwide. And it’s having that effect,” Rodre said.
Sunday night (Oct. 15), Jenkins announced to attendees that the show’s fourth season will be released exclusively in theaters, starting in February. After the full-season run in theaters concludes, the show will debut across streaming platforms.
“The Chosen,” which has 10 million followers across social media platforms, previously first released its episodes on a free streaming app, adding some special showings in theaters as it grew in popularity. In November 2022, the show released the first two episodes of Season 3 in theaters and grossed $8.75 million in sales on opening weekend, debuting at No. 3 in the box office.
Season 4 has been challenging, Jenkins told fans at ChosenCon, attributing the difficulty to spiritual attacks.
“This whole season was a slog from Day 1. I don’t know why,” Jenkins said Saturday night. “I think we’ve noticed that as the show has grown, so has the difficulty in the challenged attacks from the enemy. And so during Season 4 it seemed like we just couldn’t ever escape.”
A theme throughout the conference was the show’s choice to humanize Jesus and his followers, particularly the women in his life.
“Naming women that were there and in the Bible, but honoring their stories and giving them names, they are real people too, that Jesus honored. I don’t know, I just think it’s special,” said Susan Reeves, 51, a conference volunteer from Dallas who has played a background extra for the show.
The convention organized a live podcast taping Saturday night in which female actors from “The Chosen” discussed their roles. The discussion was moderated by Annie F. Downs, a podcast host and New York Times bestselling author, and Amanda Jenkins, creator of the show’s ancillary content and Dallas Jenkins’ wife.
During the taping, Downs thanked the creators of the show for giving names to the women in Jesus’ life.
“I just think it is one of the gifts they’ve given us — giving me all the characters’ names — making her Fatima and not just the woman at the well has done something for me,” Downs told attendees.
The actresses — Vanessa Benavente, who plays Mother Mary; Yasmine Al-Bustami, who plays Ramah; Amber Shana Williams, who plays Tamar; and Vanessa DeSilvio, who plays Photina — discussed how they were each chosen for their roles, most crediting Amanda Jenkins, and what it was like preparing to play the biblical characters.
ChosenCon featured a number of well-known Christian musicians, including nine-time Grammy-nominated songwriter Matt Maher, Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay and Ruby Amanfu.
Other mainstage speakers included Christian pastors and academics such as Levi Lusko, lead pastor at Fresh Life Church, and Douglas S. Huffman, the official biblical consultant for the show. Breakout sessions featured Christian YouTubers and TikTok influencers, including Ally Yost and Jacob Peterson.
The show plans to release the previous three seasons of the series in more than 50 languages by the end of 2023, with an ultimate goal of 600 languages, according to show officials, which would make it the most translated film series in the world.