Photo by Jon Avery

‘The Chosen’ honors The Salvation Army

by Warren L. Maye

November 15, 2022—Makers of “The Chosen,” an intimate and authentic TV drama about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, paid tribute to The Salvation Army during the show’s star–studded Season 3 premiere in Atlanta, Ga., which was also dubbed a fundraising event for the Army.

When “The Chosen” became the world’s most successful crowdfunding project in 2017, more than 19,000 people helped raise $10 million to launch Season 1. Today, Seasons 1 and 2 are available online and Season 3 will be released on November 18 internationally in more than 2,000 theaters. The episodes can be downloaded and streamed on apps in more than 142 countries and are completely free.

“We couldn’t do it without The Salvation Army,” said Darrell Eaves, executive producer of “The Chosen,” which is being filmed on a Salvation Army campground in Texas. He spoke to an audience of more than 4,000 people seated in Atlanta’s historic Fox Theatre. “One of the biggest things that I want to tell you is that, personally, I want to thank The Salvation Army,” said Eaves.

Photo by Jon Avery

“When we were looking for a place to film Season 3, we knew we needed to have a set, and they rolled out the red carpet for us. It was amazing. I really want to personally thank them from this stage. Let’s give them a warm welcome and a thank you!” Eaves invited a delegation of Salvation Army officers and employees to stand and receive a thunderous applause from the packed crowd.

Before seeing two episodes that evening from Season 3, fans also watched a short documentary on Camp Hoblitzelle where the season was filmed. Against a scenic backdrop of rolling hills and a beautiful sun-kissed lake, officers, youth, and camp workers gave testimony of the ministry being conducted there.

A partnership begins

In 2020, a production team searched for suitable locations to film “The Chosen” in and around the Dallas Fort Worth area. During a visit to the camp, creator Dallas Jenkins met Casey Bilbrey, director of operations for Camp Hoblitzelle. Jenkins, also a producer and writer for the show, was excited about the site because the camp landscape and facilities were perfect for their needs.

“The Chosen,” which will be a 7-season show, acquired a five-year lease for 900 acres of Salvation Army campground to use for the production.

“The Salvation Army has a very key word in its name—Salvation,” said Jenkins in an exclusive interview with SACONNECTS. “’The Chosen’ is all about the kind of salvation that Jesus Christ always brings. It doesn’t always look the way that we expect it to look. Season 3, especially, goes through some of the challenges that come when you follow Jesus.”

“To those who haven’t watched to show yet, I would just say, ‘I’m not going to demand that you watch it, obviously. But I do think it will provide you with something you can identify with. I do believe that, if you can see Jesus through the eyes of those who met Him, including those who resisted Him, you can be changed and impacted in the same way they were.’ ”

Life-changing impact

A distinguishing feature of the premiere was its teal-colored carpet where journalist stood at designated locations along the way and interviewed cast members and others associated with the show as they paraded slowly under the spotlights.

“I was so overwhelmed by two things,” said Noah James, an actor who plays the Disciple Andrew. “One, was seeing everyone’s amazing work on screen. They brought these stories to life in such an incredible way.”

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Noah, whose siblings also have biblical names (Adam, David, and Rebecca), continued. “The other thing was seeing the episodes with thousands of people in the audience and hearing them laugh at the same time, and gasp at the same time. It was a communal, incredible experience. I’m still buzzing from it.”

At poignant moments, some viewers could also be heard sobbing, and at other times, cheering. The theme of Season 3, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest,” comes into clear focus as the cost of following the Savior becomes apparent to the disciples.

Noah echoed the sentiments of many actors interviewed on the carpet that evening when he said, “being a part of this show has totally changed my life. Every day, I’m surprised and grateful at the exact same time.”

Noah, who speaks with great enthusiasm and lights the room with his radiant smile, is also amazed by the impact the show is having around the globe. “It’s been world-changing in a lot of ways. Some of us met people in Europe who told us how the show has inspired them and affected their lives, and that inspires me.”

Noah says he also feels inspired when he reads letters from fans who find the show both entertaining and spiritually uplifting. “People will send us messages all the time, saying that they were in quite dark places where they were going through something with their family or sickness. So, just knowing that someone could be at one of the lowest parts of their life, and that this show is, in some small way, helping to lift them up, that’s all we can ask for.  It’s so humbling to know we’re a part of something like that. I just pinch myself every day.”

Crossing paths with the cast

Adults and children at Camp Hoblitzelle are surprised and amazed at times to realize they share common ground with “The Chosen.”  Noah recalls, “On Memorial Day weekend, some of us from the cast and crew did a feat of endurance—100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and ran a few miles. While we were doing it, we also ran through The Salvation Army camp.

“As the kids saw us, they were probably thinking, “What is going on? Is this the cast of The Chosen running and sweating their way through the weekend?” It was fun to see some of those kids and the staff members’ reactions. Quite honestly, the camp is a very welcoming and loving place.”