LISTEN TO EP.91
Producer of “The Chosen” TV Series Reveals Season 3 Teasers, and the Surprising Way it’s Reaching the Next Generation
As the highest crowd-funded project of all time, “The Chosen” has become a global phenomenon with episodes watched more than 407 million times. Katherine Warnock, one of the producers, joins guest co-host Crissy Cochran and superfan, to discuss the popularity of the series and the unexpected way it has captivated Gen Z. Warnock admits that while the goal of the show is to help viewers meet Jesus, they do so in playful, intimate, authentic, and disruptive ways. The series helps us see Jesus from the perspectives of those who met him and how those encounters could have played out. Willing to tackle difficult conversations the series challenges and encourages us to do a better job of addressing issues. If you love “The Chosen” as much as we do, this episode is for you.
Welcome to the Influencers Podcast. I am your host for today, Crissy Cochran. I am the comms gal for CityServe and The Influencers Podcast. And you know what? I’ve kicked out the guys for today. I booted Dave and Scott. So I can just take over myself now. I’m just kidding. They’re on vacation. They’ll be back, but I don’t mind because today I have our guests for today, all to myself, you guys, we are in for such a treat. Oh my goodness. And we get to talk to the producer of the multi episode television drama based on the life of Jesus, created and directed, and co-written by Director, Dallas Jenkins. Yes, I am talking about The Chosen; and it is dramatic and funny and inspiring and brings Jesus and his times to life for the eyes of those who have met him.
For those who know me personally they know that I am not just a fan, but I am seriously a super fan. I am such a super fan that I have merch. I seriously have merch. And for those who are just listening, I have on my “Come and See” hat because when I saw that there was merch available… Yep. I love it so much. I had to buy and promote it. So, oh my goodness. I love it. It’s had such an incredible impact on my walk with Jesus and my family and my young children. And I’m so happy to have the producer, Katherine Warnock with us today, and we’re going to get a chance to talk to her about this global phenomenon of The Chosen. Now it’s the first ever multi-season show about Jesus, the number one highest crowdfunded project of all time at $10 million from over 19,000 people. That’s wow. That’s incredible. And as a marketeer, I’m fascinated by innovative ways to spread the word, spread the message and raise money for it.
I think that’s just incredible – episodes have been watched over 150 million times. Probably a few of those million times are from me and my family, and translated into over 50 languages as well. It’s available online on apps and it’s completely free and just being completely free too is another phenomenon. I think that’s incredible. Season one was released in April, 2019 season two in 2021, and now we are patiently awaiting for season three to come out this year. So I’m going to bring on producer, Katherine and you guys are going to love her. It sounds like from her bio she’s very dynamic.
She is an executive strategist and innovator. Katherine holds a background in content marketing and branding based leadership, spanning from film, television, editorial, fashion, and social enterprise. Wow. It’s a lot. Previously head of Faith and Family Content at MGM Studios, Producer for international brands like Warner Brothers, Gillette, Ford and more, and the General Manager of Darling Magazine. Oh, I love that magazine. Katherine is currently the Producer for The Chosen. She is also a mother of three toddlers, something that I know a little bit about and is a dual resident of America and the UK with an unwavering passion for positively affecting culture through purposeful, anchored, mission-driven media. So Katherine, welcome to the Influencers Podcast.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited and I love hearing your passion for the show. Thank you, Crissy.
Why The Chosen?
Oh, well thank you for joining us. And I do, I have so many questions and I know like if we were just sitting in person having a cup of coffee, I could probably talk to you for hours and ask all the questions about The Chosen. But to start, I want to know Katherine, what drew you to this project? Why did you choose to get involved with The Chosen?
It was actually a fun story. It was several years ago, long before anyone had ever heard of The Chosen, it was just a pilot episode at the time known as The Shepherd. And I came across it and on my desk at MGM when I was heading up Faith and Family Content there, and in this industry, you’ll watch something for five seconds, know exactly what you have and almost always, you stop watching. I noticed that I was still watching 20 seconds in, I was laughing three minutes in, I was crying 10 minutes in. I watched the entire thing and by the end I was weeping., I was like, “What did I just watch?” I’ve never done that before my entire career. And I knew in that moment, this is going to be a global phenomenon. I just knew it.
So I immediately emailed Mark Burnett, Roma, Downey, and just said, “Hey, you guys have to acquire this. This is going to be a global phenomenon”. And they’re obviously very passionate about faith content from the Bible series, Son of God, et cetera. They immediately tried to acquire it. But Dallas and Darrell were already in distribution partnership with Angel Studios, which was a bit angel at the time. Yeah. So at MGM, we lost out on it, but it started this really beautiful story of where a few years later I found myself on the team as one of the many producers with The Chosen. And I oversee all original content now, which is pretty amazing.
Ah, that’s so cool. So you really got impacted like the typical viewer, right? Like we start watching it, like I’ve I had heard about it. I had friends in my sphere of life that were like, you have to watch this. And then I watched a little bit and I’m like, oh, this is good. Oh my goodness, this is good. And then like you said, I’m so intrigued and I’m laughing and I’m crying and I’m like, okay, this is something different. This is definitely something different than we’ve seen before. And especially through, you know eighties, nineties, early two thousands, I’ve watched a lot of different Christian films and have had some really cool effects on me. They’re all, they’re really great, but this is different. And I think that’s why it has gotten so much attention. It’s a little disruptive to the Christian movie space. Non-Believers are on staff. And it’s the focus on is on top quality production where we don’t know details about the lives of the disciples and other followers that there’s a creative license to go in there and, and fill in those details of what their life would be like and their personalities. And I think that is really cool. How has that had a positive impact on the creation of this show where just being a Christian and being a strong believer is not a mandatory pre-req to be cast. How has that impacted it?
Disruptive and Real
Well, the creators of the show have such a strong conviction and vision of what they feel God has asked them. Therefore all of us on the executive team steward this vision, that is The Chosen, and that the goal is to introduce the world to the authentic Jesus. The goal is to show the theme of The Chosen is to show continually this authentic Jesus matched with humanity. And what does that relationship look like? What does those that knew him best and did life with him, but were very real people deeply and profoundly in process, like that is the authentic Jesus that meets people where they are. And the creators of the show, Dallas, Ryan and Tyler who write the show that is the core conviction. We as a brand and a mission are just, we’re going to be playful. We’re going to be intimate. We’re going to be authentic and we’re going to be disruptive. Those are our four core values because we know that that’s what the show does. And that is why the show is so captivating. But in terms of being cast in the show, or perhaps working behind the scenes production of it, we are just firm believers of just, “Hey, anybody, no matter their belief system can bring their loaves and fish and God can use it and wants to use it. And we have seen that time and time again. So on set, everyone feels welcome. It’s not a church service. It’s truly everyone understands why they’re there. Everyone understands. Yes. We want to introduce the world to the authentic Jesus. We’re also making an extraordinary show that is challenging the status quo of typical Christian content. Not to say even mainstream content. So we’re thrilled about it. And we firmly believe you can’t do that unless you have a spirit of unity going forth where truly everyone’s welcome at the table. So that’s how we move forward.
Dallas Jenkins’ Inspiration
That’s, that’s pretty incredible. I did hear before how you know, it’s not, it’s not mandatory to be a believer. And there’s many who aren’t yet, right? I heard Dallas say yet because you know what, it’s just what the Holy Spirit does is that he will be working in his own way and the lives of everyone who is involved with The Chosen. And I love to come back at season seven and season eight and see how many lives have been impacted for those working on casting crew. Or they’ve said, wow, this has planted a lot of seeds. And I have then come to fully devote my, my life to Christ. And that’s part about being influential and wherever God has placed you and whatever talent he has given you. So I will say though, as far as Dallas, what do you know about his inspiration for making this TV series about the life of Jesus? What can you tell us there?
The moment you meet Dallas, he’s authentic as they come, and he is very nuanced in particular about, “This is what God has asked me to do”. God has asked me to, to reveal the human side of Jesus and how the king side of Jesus interacts with humanity. And that’s how Dallas does his everyday life. I remember once God telling me, “Katherine you want to be a witness for me, if you want to really introduce people to me, they can’t feel an ounce of judgment off you.” That’s where it starts. They just can’t. So what does that actually look like? And I was really challenged as a young Christian at the time to be a bridge. What does that mean to be a bridge to where we fully hold on to our truths and our understanding and our worship of Jesus as king and Lord, but how do we also go to anyone, “You can sit at our table, you have value, right where you are right in the midst of processing”. We trust God to, to bring the full journey about in his perfect way and perfect timing and Dallas lives by that. And he wanted to create a show that truly just showed that authentic Jesus -the Jesus that we all feel we know when we read scripture that Jesus that meets the woman at the well, and he wanted to insert and dream up in a historical context: what could be the backstory? Let’s creatively dream with the Spirit and just go, “What creatively, what could be the backstory to the woman at the well, what could be the backstory to Mary Magdalene?” And that’s what makes The Chosen so powerful. Is it dives into Scripture goes in between the lines in historical context and dreams up, what could have been and in many ways could seriously be a high likelihood. And I think that’s what makes it come so alive to people today. Because it’s the same struggles. We’re separated by over 2000 years, but it’s the same struggles. And then we’ve got season three coming, which we’re shooting now we’re filming now. We’re so excited, but the storylines are going to knock our socks off because there are so many storylines that we we each struggle with at some point or another. And we don’t shy away from them. We’re going to go for it. And I think that’s what makes it so unique is that we’re willing to have the hard conversations that life is messy. Life is hard. Jesus wants to meet us in that exact place. And yeah, that that’s so much of the inspiration behind The Chosen.
I like that. It’s so relatable. Right now I’m going through season two again and then just recently man, I think it was just the other night. It was that part where Mary had left and then she had come back and she was just so ashamed of how she’d left. She said, “Hey, you’ve redeemed me and I’ve thrown it away”. And Jesus is like, “It’s not much of redemption if it could be lost in one day”. As I’m getting teary, I’m thinking, yeah, that’s all of us. And I’ll tell you mother to mother. And I know you have young kids, I have a 11 year old boy and I have twin girls who just turned nine and we all watch it each other.
I have a twin mama too. I’ve got four year old.
You are! Yes. I love it. I love twins. So my twin girls were watching it with me last night and as I am getting teary eyed and just thinking about my own life of like how relatable Mary’s life is to where we strive to be Holy and closer to him, but then we mess up and he looks right at Mary and says, “Did you think you would never sin again? My daughter, did you think that you were going to be perfect?” And I had this incredible opportunity with my little girls, on my bed and they were getting, they were getting emotional. I have one in particular, which funny enough, her name is Faith. My twin girls are Faith and Grace. And my girl Faith is extra, super spiritual and she’s just like, mommy, I just, I love Jesus. I love Jesus. And it comes to life for her. And we’re able to have these conversations right there in our home. Being able to see it played out on the screen, is just something so relatable and then talk about it as her faith is becoming her own. It’s not just something borrowed from me and my husband – it’s becoming her own. And I absolutely love it. How relatable each story is each of the disciples, each of the characters. So I can’t say enough about that, what it means as a mother, I mean, I feel like my first mission here on this earth, right? I mean, obviously to glorify the Lord, but I want to raise up little missionaries and maybe they won’t be out in the bushes of Africa. Maybe they’ll be having an influence for Christ in an office base or as an engineer or whatever. But I want that to be real and intimate for them.
Real Influence Creates Real Change
So have you seen that a lot with viewers and people responding in feedback about what it’s meant in the lives of their children?
Oh my goodness. Yes. Even just seeing the children themselves talk about it is so powerful. From two year olds to 95 year olds, it’s a piece of art that God is so on that it just unifies all these different age groups. And we even have rolling out a documentary soon that explores. Why has Gen Z responded so powerfully to The Chosen? That’s one age demographic we didn’t expect to really resonate with The Chosen and yet it profoundly is. And we dive into it’s our unfiltered “Gen Z reacts to The Chosen documentary” that we’re rolling out soon and we can’t wait for you to see it, but it’s exploring that very phenomenon of just no matter what your world view is, what your faith background is, what you think of Jesus, this authentic portrayal of Jesus profoundly impacts a life and we’ve seen it in all ages. So yeah, it’s, it’s amazing. Wow. I mean, it’s the greatest privilege of my life. I’m so I’m so thrilled.
I like that you say that about Gen Z. Cause I think a lot of like maybe older generations be like, ‘Hey, what’s happening to our young people today?” Right? But you take a really deep look and maybe they’re more of remnants as we get closer in the times and we’re all waiting for Jesus to come back. We can see what is happening to this world, but there’s still plenty of Gen Zers that are on fire for Jesus. And this is part of their media really to be able to have really top quality movies made that relates to them. I’ll tell you, I remember when I was younger and my mother showed me the old movie “A Thief in the Night”, it was super old. I think it was like made in the sixties or seventies, but it had a really cool impact on me to where I could even remember things as an adult of how I felt then, and just getting really anxious for the return of Christ. And now I think about how even this series, The Chosen, will impact the younger generation even more, even more than the films before. I could talk about that all day long, I guess. I didn’t really have a question with that. Katherine, just, I’m just talking and sharing. But I will move on to another question about the crowd funding and the marketing of the series. Now you’re a marketeer…
Highest Crowdfunded Project of It’s Time
I don’t do marketing for The Chosen. No, that’s just part of my background, the share party background. Yes. Part of your background, but it’s pretty innovative. I mean, it goes against traditional Hollywood marketing and I’m pretty fascinated by it cause it has done so well. Did this come to a surprise to the team and the marketing team at The Chosen?
Are you referring to the pay it forward model?
Yes, yes. And the app and everything.
Yeah. So for those that don’t know, and aren’t familiar the, the first season was crowdfunded, which was the at the time, the highest crowdfunding project of all time. And then each subsequent season has been has been paid for in a pay it forward model by the viewers themselves. So they pay it forward so that others around the world can watch it for free. And because of them, we’ve had, it streamed over 450 million at times, which is just crazy – every country of the world. And it’s a model that because it’s on an app and it’s not tied to a specific network, it immediately had global reach. So, especially during COVID, it just exploded. Lockdowns. People were desperate for hope. There was this app where they could just binge and watch anytime they wanted for complete free, just completely free.
And the testimonies began to roll in. We simply couldn’t have afforded a monthly subscription anywhere to watch this. Thank you so much for making it free. And the fun fact is only probably about 5% of our audience actually pays it forward so that the remaining 95% can watch it for free. That to me is the Gospel. That to me is just those that have means like, how do we, as a community, just come together with our loafs and fish so that we all can just partake of this authentic expression of Jesus via television and medium. So it’s really exciting. It’s completely new. It’s redefining the way Hollywood is done. You know, we’re definitely have friendships throughout Hollywood, whether it be Lionsgate or Paramount or MGM to where we have friends at all of these studios to where we’re just having conversations about it truly is a new day in media.
And The Chosen is on the forefront of that. And what does that mean for secular content as well as faith based content? What does that mean? What is for using a Christian phrase? What is this new wine skin that God is kind of bringing upon our modern day culture? So we’re so excited to get, to be a part of it. We’re so excited to like, have people kind of doing a double take from TMZ to New York Times to all these amazing outlets, just going, “What is happening over here?” That can only be God in my opinion. Just it’s just Jesus. That’s what it is.
A Monumental Moment
Yeah, that’s right. That’s the only explanation. I have to ask you because I want to share too, but what is your, what is true of like your favorite scene? Do you have like a favorite? Do you have like a really impactful, favorite?
It’s a surprising one. So it’s episode three and season two, which is ironically the one Dallas wrote by himself. Fun fact, Dallas writes one episode strictly by himself, each
So it was episode three in season two. And I did know it was Dallas only that I wrote this. So this is all, and it is a beautiful cinematic opening shot of 14 minutes. It broke records. It’s like one single 14 minute shot. They did it in one take, the sun was starting to set. It was just a total miracle moment. So that opens the whole episode. And then the whole episode, the disciples are sitting around a campfire bickering and just talking and Jesus, we know he’s over in a field somewhere, just healing people all day long, healing, healing people all day long. And we don’t think twice about it. It’s Jesus, he’s super human. Go Jesus. Then all of a sudden tensions rise with the disciples. They’re fighting. They’re about to go to blows over this campfire late at night. And we see Jesus limp in barely able to stand because he has literally poured himself out to the point of utter exhaustion, meeting people where they’re at, bringing transformation, bringing healing, bringing love, bringing light while they just sat around a campfire bickering.
And that moment wrecked me to my core. Just absolutely wrecked me to my core. Cause it taught me in a new way. What does it mean to abide? What does it really truly mean to live like Jesus, to let him transform us from glory to glory? Because that moment showed me what it’s supposed to look like. Not hubris, not humanism, not intellect, not all these emails; every ounce of the day it’s to what degree am I willing to meet people, right where they’re at and bring the transformative power of the Gospel, transformative power of the Kingdom. That is Jesus. So that their lives will be forever changed. So that marked me, that episode marked me.
Okay, Katherine, that’s my favorite part. I’ve never met anyone else that said that’s
Their favorite part as well.
No, and I was trying not to interrupt you. I was trying to let you talk, but oh my gosh. Like you could see my notes because we had watched that last week and as much as I’ve watched, I’m like, man, I think this is my favorite one. The disciples, they were there, like just really raw around the campfire, just talking about really intimate, personal things.. And they’re kind of bonding. This is before they start fighting, but they were sharing about their life as a Jew and kind of confessing and like, “Oh, I tried pork once, you know?” And like the surrealness of like being with the Messiah, like I can’t believe he’s here. We’ve waited forever. I didn’t think I would be alive. I didn’t. And I kind of like, felt like, man, there’s so much to relate to that as a Christian now here in 2022. We are seeing so much in our day to where, my grandmother, when I was little, she thought that Jesus was going to come back in 1990. Like Jesus coming back. And if my Mimi was alive right now, it’d be like, no, we’re getting closer. We’re getting closer. And just to have, so just thinking like, man, if you like came like right now to be like, this is, this is, it’s a really hard time. Yes. To live as a Christian, but it’s a very exciting time. Right. Because we’re able to see God move in incredible ways. And, and there are those disciples sitting there just talking, just like having the surreal moment and yeah. And then they start getting raw and they start bickering. But like you said, Jesus comes and he looks like he’s about to collapse. As they all looked at him and just had this moment of like, man, none of that matters. There’s our savior. He’s doing it for us. They don’t even know what’s to come. You know, they don’t even know what’s to come at the cross. We’re going to be friends because I swear that was what I had noted on my notes. That was my favorite part. I wish we could just talk for like another hour.
Relating to Disciple’s Stories
So I know we have to wrap this up soon, but can I ask you, who’s your favorite disciple?
I mean, my favorite is Matthew.
Paris plays him so perfectly.
He’s written so out of the box he’s my favorite.
I probably feel like I’m probably a smash up of myself personally, a smash up of Simon Peter meets Mary Magdalene. If that can even coexist. That would be me. I’m both like stubborn as and tough as nails, alpha type, driver mixed with like deeply broken childlike desperation after Jesus. That’s like, that’s my blend.
Wow. That’s so good. Yeah. I love Simon Peter too. I like how in each episode, you get to get an up close, look at each one, you know how they like fill in the storylines with each disciple and give ’em so much personality. And it’s like, yeah. As much as growing up Christian, they’d be like, “Hey, think about this disciples had families and they had jobs and they had struggles and then the series really brings it to life.” No, like look at like look at their life that was so much like ours dealing with just human elements, human sin, you know? Man, I love that. It’s really good to hear.
Season Three Teasers
Well you said you guys are shooting season three and is there anything that you can share with us of what to expect, maybe any new disciples that we get up close and personal with or new concepts? Any little teaser you can give us for season three?
Gosh, teaser. Not many. I can definitely say we get to know Eden a lot more. And we get to journey some really hard, some severe hardships with a few of the disciples. And we get to watch as our disciples and their family just wrestle with the very things we wrestle with, with God. Is he a good God? What do I do when I’m angry with God? What do I do when I feel like God isn’t showing up for me, does God heal everybody? Does he want to heal everybody? Like we really dance through a lot and really showcase and dive into a lot of the hard conversations that I think we, as the church, need to need to get better at having, we need to get better at wrestling with God. And I would say that’s one of my favorite themes of the upcoming season of just what, how does God respond in that wrestle? And how does he love us in the midst of that wrestle? And in the midst of this process of being human, but yet wanting so much to be like him. So I can’t wait for you guys to see it. It’s going to be amazing. We’re halfway through filming. We’re really excited. We’re looking to roll out episodes one and two beginning in November of this year. So pray for us that that all goes according to plan.
Yes. Well, that’s a good month to roll that out because that’s my birthday month.
Oh, there you go. Birthday.
I like it. I like it. Yeah.
Where to Watch The Chosen
Well thank you so much. And for everyone listening where can they find out more about the series and watch it?
Oh my goodness. You can just download The Chosen app in your app store on your phones, you can go to The Chosen.tv. We’re on peacock, Roku, Amazon prime, soon to be Netflix. So there’s a lot of amazing places you’ll be able to watch The Chosen and hopefully join us on this amazing journey of introducing the world to the authentic Jesus.
That’s awesome. So you guys are everywhere. There’s no excuse not to watch. And literally our goal is how do we make it free and easy for you and your family to access it?
Thank you so much. We are very excited for the next season and I am so grateful that you took the time and your busy schedule. I know you’re a busy working mom. I know how that goes. Especially if you’re a twin mom. I mean, hello. Right. It’s like doing things with two babies. It’s like, when you, when I just have one baby, I could do anything. I could conquer the world, you know? Cause you’re used to the two, but I really appreciate you taking the time.
It’s my joy. Thank you for having me. And thank you for just being such a vocal fan and supporter of The Chosen. It means the world to us. Thank you. We literally cannot do it without you.