Premiering Monday, March 25 on the History Channel“Jesus: His Life,” brings viewers into this dramatic world to reveal the greatest story ever told. HISTORY’s eight-part event explores the story of Jesus Christ through a unique lens: the people in his life who were closest to him. Each of the eight chapters is told from the perspective of different biblical figures, all of whom played a pivotal role in Jesus’ life including Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, Mary Magdalene and Peter. We recently caught up with Joshua DuBois Best selling Author and CEO, of Values Partnerships, and Head of White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Obama— as well as one of the show’s most distinguished contributors to chat about the making of the mini-series.
Judith Manigault: How did you get involved with the project?
Joshua DuBois: Well, I worked for President Obama for a number of years leading his faith-based initiative and then left and started a social impact organization called Values Partnership. One of the things we do, is advise productions on issues related to faith. We actually started working with the History Channel a number of years ago on a series called ‘The Bible,’ which went very well back then. Over time, we’ve helped them in a number of different ways to connect to faith leaders which kind of helped shape that series, and so when they decided to explore the subject matter again, and do a biblically faithful interpretation of the life of Jesus through different lenses, they called us, because we had worked together before.
JM: Obviously there was some creative licensing in the way each story is retold. So my question is, How was the narrative for each of the characters developed. Being that each episode is retold through the eyes of a specific character. What was the process like?
JD: Well, It was equal parts Information and inspiration. Meaning, the production team, the folks at Nutopia History and its advisors said, “We’ve got to get the theology, the facts and the history right, but we also have to bring these characters to life.” And so in doing so they brought the energy, the excitement and the power behind these moments to the screen in a range of ways. First and foremost, they consulted with some of the best theologians, scholars and experts in the country and around the world, and this includes folks likes of Rev. Otis Moss, III, and Nyasha Junior, Mirece Slivolt, the preeminent New Testament Scholar Scot McKnight, and a range of others figures like Joel Olsteen and more. And so they brought in the right people to shape the project— went on location to Morocco to find spaces that look like the places where Jesus walked—and scouted for a cast that really evoke, the times. This is not some glazed over look at the gospel, but rather, it’s meant to really bring to life what things where like at that time. So that was the kind of work, first with the advisors, getting the right scripts together and then shooting it on location.
JM: Now let’s look at the other side of things. As the series employs a bit of imagination to bring some of the missing nuisances of the story of Jesus to life, do you really think audiences will readly receive the production?
JD: I think the audience is more than ready. What this production does is bring the gospel’s life, flesh and blood to the modern age. The series brings the words that are on the page, in a biblically faithful way that’s important. This is not a critique of the gospel, this is not second guessing, but rather it takes the word of God as truth and amplifies it giving it a look and feel, by bringing blood and flesh to the word. And so I think audiences are very much ready for it. There is certainly imagination here, but it’s imagination that is inspired and rooted in the gospel.
JM: From beginning to end how long did it take to bring this project to life?
JD: Well, you can kind of fact check me here, but it was at least a year. I initially started speaking with folks; it must have been the Fall of 2015. So, it’s been well over a year in the making.
JM: What do you hope the audiences come away with?
JD: I hope audiences come away with a deeper look and more knowledgeable insight of who Jesus is at the intersection of his humanity and his godliness. We all know the big picture, we know the big themes, but sometimes we forget he was a very real person who walked this earth and dealt with other very real people. And so I hope they come away with a deeper and more nuance knowledge of who Jesus is and I hope they come away excited, because this is a riveting series. There’s so much drama, there is intrigue, and big questions that are asked and answered. In short, I hope they come away informed and excited.
‘Jesus: His Life’ begins airing Monday, March 25 at 8/7c on the History Channel.