Jesus is in Soho. I have five minutes to interview him … but mustn’t mention faith

Image courtesy of The Chosen

By Catherine Pepinster

It’s not every day you send a message to colleagues, saying “I’m in a hotel in Soho, waiting to meet Jesus.” And I was not the only one.

After sauntering past lap-dancing clubs and massage parlours, I found the hotel where Jesus was holed up, and found plenty of other people had done the same. The waiting room to meet him was packed with expectant writers, all summoned by instructions that included: you must arrive exactly on time.

Yet once we got there, there was plenty of hanging around to meet this particular Jesus — Jonathan Roumie, who plays Christ in The Chosen, the multi-series drama of Jesus’s life.

Roumie and his fellow actors were in town for the premiere of series four of The Chosen — and so was the team behind the considerable public relations machine for the drama.

Once we journalists had arrived for the chat with Jesus, we waited until we were summoned by name as if about to take part in an audition. In the corridor were a series of rooms, containing Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Matthew, Simon Peter and Andrew.

People in headphones and with clipboards ordered you to sit and wait before entering their presence. Once inside a room containing one of the actors playing these biblical figures, there were film cameras and people who reminded you: Just five minutes.

Just five minutes to ask what it’s like to perform miracles, take on the Pharisees, choose your disciples, be arrested, be crucified and rise from the dead! There was no escaping the time edict either: as we spoke, people signalled “two minutes”, then “one minute”. And then, it was a wrap, and Roumie welcomed the next journalist, asking about playing the role of his life.

Interviewing Jesus was no easy task. Not only were there instructions about timing but subject matter either. No questions about Israel, the PR said, as we prepared to ask questions about locations depicting Judea and Galilee, parts of … present-day Israel.

And no questions about faith, we were told. So we couldn’t talk to Jesus about believing in God. A quick Google search shows that Roumie has often spoken about his personal faith — he is a keen Catholic — but apparently this is off-limits now. Might the film-makers be nervous that, just as The Chosen takes off, attracting new audiences of people with different faiths and none, having a leading actor declaring his own beliefs might be a bit of a deterrent to viewers?

That’s a shame, because most people — not only journalists — love a bit of honesty.


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