'The Chosen' star Jonathan Roumie on playing Jesus: It 'made me a better version of myself'

There are few tasks more daunting in Hollywood than playing figures from history.

Jonathan Roumie faces such a task on the set of "The Chosen," playing one of history's most enduring figures: Jesus.

"The Chosen" is the first multiseason show about the life of Jesus, according to the show's Facebook page. The show was also crowdfunded over $10 million from over 15,000 donors.

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Another factor that makes the show stand out among today's plethora of television content is that it can be viewed on an app, which can be downloaded in the app store.

At the center of it all is Roumie, 45 -- a recent Movieguide Award winner -- who spoke with Fox News about taking on the role.

Fox News: What is "The Chosen" about?

Jonathan Roumie: So "The Chosen" is the first multiseason series about the life of Christ, and the idea is to experience Christ through the folks that knew him, the disciples. And if they could be changed from within, then hopefully the viewers, as well, would experience a similar kind of change within themselves or at least a new perspective as to who Christ was and the people that he lived with and shared his experiences with and his time with. I happen to be playing Jesus Christ. It's been a humbling experience and the preeminent honor of not just my career but my life.

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Fox News: How did you come across the role of Jesus?

Roumie: I was cast in a short film by our creator-director Dallas Jenkins about five years ago for a short film that he did for his church's Easter service. After that experience, where we had a great time working together and we really connected with the material and in my playing the character of Christ, he brought me back twice more over the course of two or three years for various other projects, for similar situations. And then about a year and a half after the last project I did with him, he said, "Hey, I'm doing a series. I'd love for you to be a part of it." And I said, "When do we start?" So it was a no-brainer.

"I always say that playing Christ has just made me a better version of myself because I aspire to greater things, to a moral high ground than prior to playing him."

— Jonathan Roumie

Fox News: What's going through your head when you're offered the role of Jesus?

Roumie: Well, for "The Chosen," since it wasn't my first merry-go-round with Dallas, specifically, I was excited to delve even further into the role. During the time I had been working with Dallas and in one project before that, I had also been cast as Christ, so I feel like I've had a good trial run going into the series and I've spent a lot of time with the idea of who Jesus was and what he meant to people. And then just trying to incorporate that into my daily life.

Jonathan Roumie as Jesus Christ in "The Chosen."

Jonathan Roumie as Jesus Christ in "The Chosen." ("The Chosen")

Fox News: What did it mean to you to play Jesus?

Roumie: I always say that playing Christ has just made me a better version of myself because I aspire to greater things, to a moral high ground than prior to playing him. It wasn't as much a part of my consciousness. But it's made me want to be just a better person.

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Fox News: How has your Catholicism influenced your performance?

Roumie: Catholicism has influenced my performance in that it's the oldest branch of Christianity. There's so much history. There's so much to delve into as far as the experiences in the lives of the saints, of martyrs, of how the faith sort of evolved over time. I think it's made me a very open and tolerant person as far as other faiths and other denominations of the faith ... and I think going into this kind of project when not everybody believes the same thing as you do, it just kind of gives you an already open mind to be able to work with people.

"People want to see a high-quality show that reflects their faith, their opinions, their ideas, the characters that they recognize, the characters that they know on such a personally deep spiritual level."

— Jonathan Roumie

Fox News: What does it mean to you that the show is crowdfunded?

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Roumie: I think that just speaks to where we are in culture right now. People want to see a high-quality show that reflects their faith, their opinions, their ideas, the characters that they recognize, the characters that they know on such a personally deep spiritual level. To be able to see these stories sort of come to life and then be done really well with a very high caliber of production value is something that I think once people even just saw that the first trailer that came out, it was like, "Oh, my gosh, this is this has got potential to be really, really good."

Finally -- and not that there hasn't been good stuff before that -- but in terms of a multi-season TV series, it's never been done before. There's so much about this series that's new. Isaiah 43:19 I believe is like, "Behold, I'm doing a new thing." And a lot of what is inherent in "The Chosen" is about something that's never been done before, something that's completely new, completely different breaking the mold and a lot of levels.

The fact that you can watch this TV show by merely downloading an app that's free and then essentially watching the first few episodes for free, all over the world, simultaneously, that's never been done. So it's a really exciting time for us and for what we're doing and for the people who are fans of the show because they've never been able to have access to this kind of scripture-derived piece of art and media that really speaks to their hearts and moves them in ways that we've never seen before.

Fox News: There have been parallels drawn between "The Chosen" and "The Passion of the Christ." What does it mean to have people compare those two?

Roumie: I think one of the overarching feelings that people have drawn as a parallel was the fact that they were moved in such a way by Jim Caviezel's portrayal of Jesus. Especially, there's that one scene where it's a flashback, where he's building a table and his mother is there watching and she tells him to come in and wash his hands before he comes in after building a table and he splashes her with water.

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For the first time maybe ever on film, we got this glimpse of Christ as being human and playful and not stoic and not having a British accent -- no offense against Brits -- but just something that we hadn't seen before and that felt real. That was, I think, part of the predecessor of what into making "The Chosen," was we get to see a side of Christ that we've never seen before, the human side of him. What were his relationships like? Who were his friends? How did he treat his friends? When he was traveling, first starting his ministry, how did he survive? You get to see him make food, you get to see him camp out, you get to see him just living in the wilderness, as an itinerant preacher more than likely would have had to do.

It's been really, really interesting for me as an actor getting to show those sides of somebody that I've had a personal relationship with my entire life. It's been super, super exciting. And in that way, as far as being different like "Passion of the Christ" was the highest-grossing independent film of all time, we're the highest crowdfunded media project of all time. So I think there's there's a lot of those obvious parallels. But I think the thing that people have responded to the most was the fact that there's this humanity in Christ that's being exposed on film that hadn't been done before.

"God governs my life. So, anything that happens to me is something that God has either allowed or disallowed. So I just continue to trust in whatever happens that he's got my back."

— Jonathan Roumie

Fox News: How has your personal faith impacted your career in Hollywood?

Roumie: You know, the impact for me has been that the more that I do this kind of work and play this particular role, the less other kinds of roles begin to appeal to me. I also do a lot of voiceover work for video games, and it's even affected my gravitation towards certain kinds of projects that might seem gratuitous in certain aspects of the genre, whether it's violence or profanity or something like that.

I now have less of an interest in them, just kind of naturally. It's been this sort of organic shift for me in wanting to partake in a mode of storytelling as an actor, as a player that uplifts people, that uplifts the human spirit, that shows people that Hollywood is not just R-rated films that are filled with profanities and all sorts of stuff that kids can't watch or even teenagers should be exposed to that.

There are really good stories that can be told in a way that makes people feel good at the end of the day, And there's a hunger for it, there's a thirst for it, there's a yearning to see these kinds of stories being told. So it's given me encouragement that this exists and that people want to see it.

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A still from "The Chosen" starring Jonathan Roumie.

A still from "The Chosen" starring Jonathan Roumie. ("The Chosen")

Fox News: Do you ever face backlash either for your faith or for playing Jesus?

Roumie: I haven't yet. But, you know, this is the first series I've ever been a lead in, so who's to say. But that's not something I can even really worry about. I don't believe that my destiny is who is in the hands of men, whether they control the industry or not. That's not who governs my life. God governs my life. So, anything that happens to me is something that God has either allowed or disallowed. So I just continue to trust in whatever happens that he's got my back.

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Fox News: Do you get tired of people making Jesus-themed jokes?

Roumie: No, I don't. I have a pretty sturdy sense of humor. Even when we're on set because a lot of these scenes can be very emotional and very heavy, there's a shorthand between myself and my director where we sort of step outside of the realm of what we normally are used to hearing, the things Jesus saying like, well, "What if Jesus overslept one morning" or something like that. There is a thing that that because you're filming stuff that's very serious, a lot of the time there has to be a lightness to it. I think the humor that inevitably comes from doing a role like this, as long as it's in good taste, is always welcomed.

"The Chosen" is available to stream now at www.thechosen.tv or on The Chosen app.