MIDLOTHIAN, Texas — The producers of the hit streaming series “The Chosen” are casting a wide net for viewers as production on the fourth season continues here. Think global.
Having relied on crowdfunding and word-of-mouth promotion among evangelical Christians in the show’s early seasons, series executives say they now want to reach potential viewers who have never thought about Jesus or don’t realize the Jewish roots of Jesus’ teachings.
The producers plan to translate the series about the life of Jesus into 100 languages and create subtitles to bring the show to another 500 languages.
Executive producer Brad Pelo told reporters visiting the set that “The Chosen” is not aimed exclusively at an audience of believers.
“We don’t consider ourselves a ‘Christian’ show,” Mr. Pelo said. “We consider ourselves a historical fiction show, where Jesus is a character in that show, for sure, [but also] sort of centers around people’s experience with him.”
“Our own ambition is to introduce the world to what we call a ‘more authentic’ Jesus. To us, that’s not a religious thing,” he said.
At the same time the show emphasizes the first-century Jewish roots of Jesus, as opposed to the “blue-eyed, Scandinavian” portrayals in other productions, Mr. Pelo said.
“I believe that they have an affinity actually to the fact that, man, this is the Jesus I love. This is not the Jesus I was taught about in Sunday school, but it’s the one that I wished I had been taught about in Sunday school. So, I think that that’ll be the audience will hang on tight,” he said.
Although the show offers a multidimensional view of Christ and the disciples, Mr. Pelo said “The Chosen” will remain true to the basic narrative.
“The story stands on its own,” he said. “Nothing will change just because we desire a broader audience to enjoy [it]. We won’t change anything in the story. We won’t adapt, there won’t be … characters that represent a more, fill-in-the-blank common cultural issue.”
“The focus is not Jesus saying, ‘You’re in trouble. You’ve been sinning.’ The focus is that we are seeing the real lives of all these people,” the executive producer said. “And [Jesus] happens to be a catalyst to say, ‘There’s hope. Let’s continue this journey together.’”
This isn’t your grandmother’s version of “the greatest story ever told,” with Jesus’ life and ministry condensed into a two-hour motion picture.
In “The Chosen,” Jesus does not appear in the first episode of the first season until the last few minutes. What’s more, the disciples don’t sport halos and beatific smiles, but are shown in very human situations — disputes with parents, business struggles and marital difficulties.
And Jesus tells the disciples, “Get used to different” — sounding more like the late Steve Jobs of Apple, whose ad campaign tagline was “Think Different.”
Globally, audiences are responding, the producers say. More than 110 million viewers in 175 countries have seen the series, numbers that have attracted the attention of one of Hollywood’s leading production and distribution firms.
Lionsgate acquired worldwide distribution rights to all seasons of the show in May, which brings a “tremendous distribution team” to the goal of expanded global reach, series creator and executive producer Dallas Jenkins said.
Mark Sourian, a former executive for the film companies DreamWorks and Universal, joined the series as president of production about two years ago. He said Mr. Jenkins’ vision for presenting a “relatable” Christ is compelling and will grab viewers.
“It’s a Christ that’s not so God-like that he’s completely removed and distant and unapproachable,” Mr. Sourian said. “I suspect, just anecdotally from Dallas, that’s the kind of Christ that got him excited … that he’s interested in depicting. And I think, just by virtue of that being interesting to him, there’s a core audience that’s interested in that depiction.”
In a separate interview, Mr. Jenkins said he is not worried about losing the core viewers whose crowdfunding made the early seasons possible.
“This show has always been for everybody from the beginning,” Mr. Jenkins said. “The story is for everybody. … I’m just trying to tell the story authentically. The audience will respond accordingly.”
And Mr. Sourian said the show’s success could lead to spinoffs after completing the seven seasons.
“I think there’s absolutely potential for there to be a widening of ‘The Chosen’s’ universe for other storylines that … have been suggested or established by the characters we’ve introduced within the seven seasons,” he said.
“What they’ll be, that’s up to Dallas to decide, but wherever he wants to go, I’m ready to follow,” Mr. Sourian said.