Interview: Vanessa Benavente on playing Jesus’ mother in The Chosen

Interview: Vanessa Benavente on playing Jesus’ mother in The Chosen November 15, 2022

Re-posted from my Substack.

This is the second of three interviews that I have done with actors from The Chosen, the life-of-Jesus series that is about to launch its third season in theatres this Friday. I posted my interview with Jordan Walker Ross, who plays Little James, last week.

It started as a one-episode guest spot, but it quickly grew into something much, much bigger than that.

Vanessa Benavente first played Mary the mother of Jesus in an early episode of The Chosen, in which she basically nudged Jesus into performing his first public miracle at the wedding in Cana. That could have been the extent of Benavente’s role, given that the Mary of the gospels doesn’t do much else during Jesus’ ministry, but her performance was so good that the producers brought her back for most of Season 2, in which Mary joined the disciples on their journeys and became an integral part of their community. A few scenes even peered into the future and showed Mary living with the followers of Jesus many years after the events of the gospels.

Now we’re going to see even more of her in Season 3—the first two episodes of which are coming to theatres this Friday, before they start streaming next month. It’s too early to say exactly how the relationship between Jesus and Mary will be explored this time ’round, but the trailer and the source material both suggest that Jesus will be returning to his hometown Nazareth for the first time since the series began, and that the experience may be a deeply emotional one for mother and son.

I had a chance to talk to Benavente about her work on The Chosen, and you can watch our interview above; paid subscribers can also see a transcript of it below. (I thought we’d have only 15 minutes to chat, hence my concern about time limits, but luckily we got another ten minutes or so.) Some of the main points we cover include:

  • The humour of the role (01:32).
  • Playing Mary over a 40-year timespan, and playing a Mary who is accessible to viewers with very different ideas about Mary (09:38).
  • Mary being a mother to the disciples, and being in some sense the first disciple, who gives the other disciples the benefit of her experience (13:23).
  • Being an authority figure to your children’s friends (17:30).
  • The feedback Benavente gets from mothers who watch the show (23:52).

You can also click on the links below to see some interviews I did with the makers of The Chosen during earlier seasons, as well as detailed analyses of each episode.

The Chosen interviews:

Dallas Jenkins on Season 1 (December 2019) | Dallas Jenkins on Season 2 (May 2021) | Derral Eves on Christmas with The Chosen: The Messengers (November 2021) | Dallas Jenkins on the ‘The Chosen Is Not Good’ marketing campaign (April 2022)

The Chosen recaps:

Season 1: review | scripture index
Episode recaps: The Shepherd | one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight

Season 2: The Messengers review | scripture index
Episode recaps: one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | The Messengers

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