Counting the cost of discipleship with Gaius of 'The Chosen'

Get set for Season 4 …

Well over 100 million people have watched The Chosen, the global phenomenon about the life of Jesus and his disciples. But no one has had a better view of the action than Kirk Woller, who plays the Roman centurion Gaius.

Stationed in Capernaum to guard the tax booth of Matthew, Gaius’ intriguing encounters with the tax-collector-turned-disciple, as well as with Simon Peter and Jesus himself, inspire an internal struggle.

“Gaius seems to be on a journey – from all Rome to very curious about Jesus, through his relationship with Matthew,” Woller explains to Eternity via Zoom.

The pivotal moment comes when Jesus, walking past the tax booth, turns and calls Matthew to follow him. Shocked that Matthew is actually going to leave, Gaius grabs him by the tunic, reminds him of his uniquely beneficial arrangement and asks, “You’re going to throw it all away?”

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“Yes,” Matthew replies simply, igniting a profound inner conflict for Gaius.

“Going into Season 4,” Woller continues, “he’s got a lot of inner conflict – a lot going on with his family, a lot going on in his head about what to believe. There’s a lot at stake.”

Would you follow Jesus with your job, your status, your family and your freedom at stake?

Gaius takes his (sworn) allegiance to Rome seriously, not to mention his status and his family. What would happen to him if he believed in Jesus? Would he be fired? Imprisoned? What would happen to his wife and his children?

One of The Chosen’s great strengths is its intimate treatment of peripheral New Testament characters, portraying the immense cost of their discipleship in new and vivid ways. As much as anyone, Gaius embodies the weight of this decision. Would you follow Jesus with your job, your status, your family and your freedom at stake? Will Gaius?

Kirk Woller as Gaius in The Chosen

Kirk Woller as Gaius in The Chosen The Chosen

Man, not myth or legend

Naturally, Woller’s personality comes through in Gaius’. “It’s my job to bring myself to every role I play,” he explains. “You need to bring your heart and soul to the character because you can’t fake that.” Like Gaius, Woller is both thoughtful and direct – one minute stern-faced, the next cracking a joke.

In fact, Woller says all the characters match the personality of the actors. “Liz [Tabish, who plays Mary Magdalene] is very sweet. Jonathan [Roumie, who plays Jesus] has just got a great soul. He’s a good listener; he’s a genuine person, and that comes across on screen.”

“These people were mythical figures almost, and now you’re seeing Jesus laugh and party and cry and have to make heavy decisions.” – Kirk Woller, who plays Gaius in The Chosen

This gets to the heart of The Chosen’s popularity and impact. As Woller explains, no longer are the disciples portrayed with the cold solemnity of statues and mosaics. Even the gospel accounts themselves can be hard to inhabit imaginatively. But on screen, the characters become more accessible, says Woller: “Suddenly these people are young; they’re flawed; they make mistakes. They’re human. All of us can see ourselves in one or many of the characters.

“It has taken the Bible and made it relatable, understandable. These people were mythical figures almost, and now you’re seeing Jesus laugh and party and cry and have to make heavy decisions. It just makes it real, makes it accessible.”

Jonathan Roumie as Jesus in The Chosen

Jonathan Roumie as Jesus in The Chosen The Chosen

The impact of ‘The Chosen’

Woller says working in The Chosen is both “the privilege of a lifetime” and a significant responsibility. Despite more than 165 film and television credits, before this role Woller says people only half-recognised him, probably wondering if they went to high school with him. “Now I’m being recognised more than ever,” he continues, “and every single person that has ever approached me has been kind and loving and gracious.”

Woller recalls when a couple told him, “Hey, you play Gaius! You and the show saved our marriage.” Countless other stories of The Chosen‘s impact abound, including of seekers and estranged Christians finding new faith, inspired by the show and its depiction of Jesus.

“If I’m in Season 5 I’m going to be just as amped as the audience to find out what happens.” – Kirk Woller

Woller has found it similarly inspiring. “You cannot work on a show like The Chosen,” he explains, “and not get closer to Jesus, to God, to this story. You’re surrounded by it. To be working on a show like this, it’s goodness. It’s a message that I think the world needs at this point.”

How long will Woller be this close to the story? He won’t find out until shortly before we do. But for now, he says, “I’m enjoying the journey. It’s an honour. I hope I’m back in Season 5. I’m certainly there for Season 4. I hope I’m there till the end, God willing. So if I’m in Season 5 and I’m blessed and lucky enough, I’ll get those scripts and I’m going to be just as amped as the audience to find out what happens.”

For now, we, like Woller, just have to enjoy the journey. Will Gaius follow Jesus with his job, his status, his family and his freedom at stake? There’s only one way to find out …

You can find out more about the upcoming release of Season 4 of The Chosen in Australia here.

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