Jonathan Roumie talks challenges of portraying Jesus with Russell Brand

Russell Brand talks to 'The Chosen' actor Jonathan Roumie on June 21, 2024.
Russell Brand talks to "The Chosen" actor Jonathan Roumie on June 21, 2024. | Screengrab: Russell Brand Podcast/Locals

"The Chosen" star Jonathan Roumie recently discussed the complexities of portraying Jesus Christ in the hit series, which is loosely based on the Gospels.     

“I’ve been a Christian for a little while now, so I think it’s time to have some Christian friends on the show,” Russell Brand said, welcoming Roumie to his Locals podcast, where he plans to invite more guests on to discuss various topics pertaining to Christianity. 

Roumie said he doesn't want "Chosen" fans to see him as the face of Jesus, but merely as a man who's portraying pivotal moments from Jesus' life as revealed in the New Testament. 

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“One of the things, I think, as humans, that we need, especially if we have a relationship with our Creator, or we desire a relationship with our Creator, it's only human for us to want to put a face to who that is. And so, what do we have?" Roumie posited. "We have the relegations of culture, and paintings and imagery. … People have been trying to depict our Lord and Savior because that gives us an opportunity to reference what it is and who it is that we're putting our belief system into.

“I think we need to have a face (image of Jesus). And in the age of film and television and social media and popular culture ... Robert Powell was that for the two of us. ... Even now, you still see images of Robert Powell's face as Jesus Christ,” said Roumie, referring to the actor cast as Jesus in Franco Zeffirelli's “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“We were promoting season four (of 'The Chosen') in Mexico earlier this year, and I was in a church in rural Mexico, and I went in, and there was a depiction of this scene with a particular religious person, like a priest or someone from the region, or it was a saint, and he's in this painting with Jesus, and the image they used for Jesus' face is Robert Powell. I think it's the more saturated we are with certain kinds of images, whether it be my face, whether it be Jim Caviezel's face, whether it be Robert Powell’s face, inevitably, your mind just naturally wants to go there. Because you’re like, ‘Oh, no, no, He was a person.’” 

Roumie said his sister also had a moment where she struggled with picturing him as Jesus while praying. 

“It actually happened to my sister. My sister said she was praying once in church, and all of a sudden, my face popped into her prayers and she's like, ‘No, no, get out of there,’” Roumie said.

“And for me, obviously, I'm not thinking of myself. But you know, if it's not Robert Powell, I get images of renaissance paintings that come into my head, you know, or something by Carl Bloch will just pop into my head. And he's one of my favorite artists who depicted Christ. And so, I want to have somebody to think of, to imagine, because He’s a real person. Jesus was a real person. He continues to be a real person.” 

Unbeknownst to  some, Brand and Roumie are longtime friends who have previously worked together in the entertainment industry. In a post on Instagram, Brand talked about his bond with Roumie, describing him as “righteous” and “clearly connected to Christian values.” 

“My friend Jonathan [portrayed] our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But [he] was also my body double when I acted in HBO’s show with The Rock, ‘Ballers,'” Brand said on the podcast. “So I’m able to say that Jesus was my body double.”

Roumie joked about his resemblance to Brand and quipped that the British actor is “my brother from another mother.”

“I was Russell’s body double-stand-in where an actor basically stands in for the main actors while the crew gets the shot ready so that the main actor can spend time doing his work prepping for the scene to be filmed,” Roumie said. 

“For two seasons HBO’s ‘Ballers’ was one of my many side-gigs. I hustled to pay my bills,” he added. 

“Russell, you’re an innovator and a truth-teller, but if you ever wanted to return the favor and be Jesus’ body-double, I got you, and it’d make a great story.” 

To promote their interview, Roumie reposted Brand’s post about it on X and described it as, “The interview I’ve been looking forward to … since we last worked together.”

Brand has over 11 million followers on X, and thousands of people commented about the interview on X. 

Many of Brand’s fans have continued to support him despite claims of past sexual misconduct, including one report that claims he assaulted a 16-year-old girl (legal age of consent in the U.K.) after pulling her into an "emotionally and sexually abusive" relationship.

Brand has denied the "very serious criminal allegations" and maintained that while he was "very, very promiscuous" in the past, all of his sexual relationships were "always consensual."

In April, Brand announced that he was getting baptized and had converted to Christianity, a revelation that many of his fans celebrated. 

Brand said his journey to Christianity has been about embracing the concept of repentance and acknowledging an internal struggle. 

"Repentance, to repent, means that you have to continually change and acknowledge that 'I am in a battle against myself,' that I need to surrender myself to an ever-present, internal and accessible Jesus, that mercy is something that's given to me, been granted to me, that I live with through love, not something that I can sort of win or achieve by doing good deeds," he said.

The entertainer also shared how his faith has brought "incredible" people and literature into his life, offering him a sense of peace and direction.

"When I'm in doubt, I feel that instruction is there, accessible. I feel like I know what I'm supposed to do. And when I don't do what I'm supposed to do, that's even clearer," he added. "When I feel myself being selfish or inconsiderate or putting myself first or not thinking about how I can be better to other people, it's as if there is an inner illumination available to me now."

Nicole VanDyke is a reporter for The Christian Post. 

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