INTERVIEW: George H Xanthis




First airing, appropriately enough, on Christmas Eve 2017, TV series The Chosen has become a major hit worldwide, winning over viewers of all faiths and none. Telling the story of Jesus Christ from a very biblical point of view, the producers have aimed for accuracy and authenticity in every detail; they have consistently hit the target. 

The show has become a cultural phenomenon, with an impressive performance across streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Peacock, and top ratings weekly in the US on The CW Freeview channel. The show is now about to enter its fourth season, after a dramatic ending to Season 3, which saw Jesus walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee – much to the amazement of his disciples, his chosen ones.

Australian actor George H Xanthis has a key role in this series, playing John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples. His love of acting goes back a long way.

Thomas (Joey Vahedi) and John

 “I’ve been wanting to act since I was at school,” he recalls, going on to relate how at school one day he was taken by one teacher into another classroom and asked to ”Do an impression of Mr Reed in front of the whole class! He then went on to get me to rattle off impressions of all the teachers in the school. That helped me to see that I had a knack for comedy, and that led me into the industry.”

From school and college, George went on to work in theatre for six years before getting a paid job in TV. He became a comedy scriptwriter for various TV shows, where he also performed impressions. “It’s an interesting avenue for getting into a dramatic series like The Chosen. I do think that the most dramatic form of acting is in comedy; whenever you see a comedic actor you will see him expressing every form of emotion, so it was pretty simple to come back to do dramatic action if you are a comic.”  

George was able to work “consistently enough to travel to the United States, which is where I landed the role as John.” He worked on some massive productions with major stars before landing his part in The Chosen, a show that started life as a web series. “We as actors in The Chosen have become like a family,” he explains, going on to say, “As actors, we still don’t really realise how big the show has become.” 

George was staying with a friend in the US, whom he had met through a Liverpool FC supporters’ group, when he auditioned for The Chosen, originally trying for the role of Simon Peter. “It was a special audition for me as I was trying to establish myself in the States.” There was a big difference between trying for a role in America, to that in Australia. “In the States, you can go in with pages in your hand and read from a script; in Australia they expect you to come in and read off the hook.” 

He was called back to try for a part of one of the leading Romans but ended up playing John – thanks to the wife of Chosen creator, Dallas Jenkins, who persuaded her husband to cast him. “Amanda to her husband: ‘George just feels like a John’ – so thanks Amanda!

“It kind of makes sense because Quintus, the Roman I was asked to play, was funny and very jovial, whereas Peter is very stoic and serious, so John falls somewhere in the middle, so I was perfect for the role.

“John as we know, ends up being dubbed ‘the beloved disciple’, but we haven’t seen a lot of evidence for that yet, as we are very early in his journey.” 

One important aspect of such a role, however, is that, “We know where he ends up and I know where he starts, and it’s an incredible journey to be on.”

Jesus (Jonathan Roumie)sends out his apostles

When asked how much he knew about the character – and the Bible – before getting the role, George explains that he went to a Greek Orthodox school as a child and actually thought he was playing, not John the disciple, but John the Baptist. 

“I was not very well versed in the Bible, but I quickly discovered that John was a very important disciple.” 

George used John’s Gospel in the New Testament as a guideline for developing the character. “I’ve read John’s book and it’s beautiful. Maybe I am biased, but it’s the best written of all the gospels,” he quips, “But I learned more about John on the job. We have just finished filming Season 4, and I want to get people excited about that.” 

He goes on to tell me – spoiler alert – he had a lot of fun filming the scene where John’s mother tells her two sons to go and ask Jesus, “If  ‘they can sit at his right and left hand when his kingdom comes’. That was a lot of fun to film.” 

 The writing team have access to “theological historians and Jewish rabbis, who help ensure the accuracy of the show”. George is grateful for this, as it not only helps with his character, but also with the integrity of the show. In addition, the writers are very open to the actors chipping in with their own ideas and changing lines of dialogue here and there. “I usually play each scene in two ways – one in which John is young and bratty, the other in which he is earnest and serious. We shoot both and then pick which take looks the best.”

John with Simon Peter (Shahar Isaac)

When asked if he is surprised at the growth and success of the series, George is philosophical. “It’s hard to visualise now where this was when it started, but I knew from the start that we were getting the Jesus story from a completely different perspective than it’s ever been shown before.” He also points out that the story is told from the Jewish perspective, rather than Jesus’ point of view. “And that’s why it’s called The Chosen!” With a wry smile, he says, “It’s kind of like an Avengers origin story.”

When asked what effect playing John has had on him personally, George explains that he is “not a religious person – but I am definitely a spiritual person and you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the words that this man, Jesus, said.” He adds, “We get this profound privilege as actors of listening to these great parables of Jesus again and again, and I have learnt so much.”

Finally, when asked why he supports Liverpool, he simply says, “Well my name is George Harrison, and I have been supporting the team for 20 years.”

Season 4 of The Chosen premieres in February, and spending time talking to George was a genuine pleasure. We wish him, the cast, and crew of the show every success. Do watch it. To paraphrase the words of that other George Harrison, “Here comes the Son”.  

To find out more, visit

Images courtesy of The Chosen

Andy Godfrey

Andy Godfrey is a speaker with Outreach UK and has been in full-time Christian work for many years. He is a founding member of the Mark Kermode Appreciation Society and has a collection of nearly 3,000 movies. He’s also an ardent Bristol City fan.

You may also like

Sorted Magazine

Sorted discusses the big issues of the day – focusing on subjects as diverse as culture, sport, cars, health, faith, gadgets, humour and relationships. We aim to be positive and wholesome in all we do. And we have been achieving this since 2007.

Every printed issue of Sorted is read by more than 100,000 men in 21 different countries – while digitally, the number of people reading our online content (free and via subscription) continues to soar.




Follow Us



Visit our shop for great gift ideas