When 'The Chosen' Jesus met giant serpent Satan: Jonathan … – USA TODAY

Jonathan Roumie knew that portraying Jesus in the “The Chosen” faith-based streaming series would lead to an inevitable intense confrontation with Satan.
Roumie had no idea, however, that Satan would be portrayed in serpent form by a gigantic – and real – 16-foot python named Penelope.
Despite a healthy fear of snakes, Roumie (and Penelope) pulled off the pivotal opening scene for Sunday’s Season 3 episode (streaming now on the ChosenTV and Angel TV apps).
“She was formidable, to say the least, even just to look at her,” Roumie tells USA TODAY. “I held her, and I’ve never even held a snake before. To go right to this gargantuan serpent and feel her musculature as it moved on you: Impressive.”
A computer-generated image reptilian Satan was not going to be an option. “Chosen” series creator and director Dallas Jenkins was intent on using a real snake for the scene, which depicts a dream sequence experienced by Claudia, the wife of Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who ultimately begs her husband not to allow Jesus to be crucified due to her powerful visions. 
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Naturally, there was a snake emergency after producer Chris Juen secured two medium-sized pythons. Days before the shoot, the hired snakes started molting, the natural process of shedding old skin. They were not ready for their close-up.
“When the backup snake started molting, we knew we were really up against it,” says Juen, who scrambled to secure the superstar 16-foot Penelope just in time. “We all gasped when they brought this snake out.”
Roumie joked on Instagram at the time: “I DIDN’T wet myself a little bit when they first brought her out…I don’t know who started that rumor.”
In the verdant garden built inside the new 30,000-square-foot soundstage that was constructed to film “The Chosen” in Midlothian, Texas, Penelope’s TV debut was straightforward.
With snake wrangler Tim Halbert overseeing the action, the production crew lowered the set temperature and allowed the cold-blooded python to slither toward the largest heat source: Roumie. as Jesus, praying in the garden. 
“The best footage came from letting her go on her own just exploring the garden with us following catching the shot,” says Juen. “She started going right up close on Jonathan, and for a moment there we were like ‘Uh oh.'”
Roumie was unaware of the approaching snake but turned after being prompted to face it with a look of alarm for the scene. After the shoot was over, Roumie was eager to make nice and hold Penelope.
“I thought I would be a little more freaked out, but she was an absolute doll, a gentle, even shy python,” says Roumie, who cherishes his cast photos with Penelope. “She was a reptilian teddy bear.”
Mood lighting, smoke and music were added to the garden scene to enhance the foreboding mood, along with moving footage shot from ground level with a special lens to give a “snake-view” perspective. 
Roumie says the scene is crucial in setting the tone for “The Chosen,” which will screen its season 3 finale in 2,000 theaters Feb. 2 and 3. Season 6 will feature Jesus’ crucifixion after Pontius Pilate washes his hands of capital punishment to appease the crowds, despite his wife’s pleas. 
“This garden scene is a good way to start prepping people for what’s going to happen in Season 6,” says Roumie. “Our depiction of the crucifixion and the story that we will build during five seasons is going to affect people on a level they’ve never experienced. It’s going to rock them.”

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