Jencarlos Canela On Playing Jesus And Those Real Tears on ‘The Passion Live’

Jencarlos Canela delivered an emotional performance as Jesus in Fox’s live musical adaption of The Passion, but if you ask him what his own personal highlight was, it sounds like he was torn. The 27-year-old Telenova star told Billboard that while playing Christ was a big deal, so was singing a Tina Turner hit with Pontius Pilate.

“I don’t know what I’m more excited about: playing Jesus or singing a duet with Seal.”

Jencarlos Canela belted out several songs in Fox’s modern day retelling of The Passion. In addition to his duet of “We Don’t Need Another Hero” with Seal’s Pontius Pilate, Jencarlos sang Creed’s “With Arms Wide Open,” and Train’s “Calling All Angels.” But Canela’s biggest performance came when he stood atop the Westin Hotel in New Orleans to sing Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally” after Jesus’ resurrection.

Many viewers noticed that Jencarlos Canela appeared to be crying during the scene following Jesus’ arrest and trial. Canela told TV Line the tears were intentional.

“I’m crying in some of these scenes where there is dialogue — and then the song kicks in. Or halfway through a song, I have to stop and argue with my father, and then the song picks up again. And you’re going to hear those tears in the music — it’s not going to be perfect. But at the end of the day, we don’t want people to say ‘Oh, what a nice concert!’ We want people to say, ‘I’ll never forget this story told this way.'”

Indeed, Jencarlos Canela was anything but a cliché Christ. Canela drew inspiration from the human elements of Jesus so viewers could connect with his performance.

“We forget that Jesus was human…He was a carpenter. A revolutionary. He spread a word that wasn’t favoring the law of his time. He truly believed in what he was fighting for. When he sees the temple being desecrated, he flips and throws tables. He gets truly upset. Keeping those elements in mind, I feel like maybe we can identify with him even more. When it comes to delivering my lines, I just allowed him to emotionally go to places that the cliché version of Jesus would not. I know the story well and ultimately I see a smile on his face — a symbol of hope and love.”

The Passion Live may have surprised some viewers with its pop music soundtrack, but Jencarlos Canela thinks it was a unique way for the audience to connect with the biblical story. In fact, Jencarlos says there’s a universal disconnect with religion, and he felt it was time for his generation to see the story of Christ’s last days in a new way.

“Whether you’re a believer or not, this story is way more than that. It’s about love, unity, acceptance, forgiveness, facing your fears, and being able to do anything to conquer them so you can be the best person you can…My generation hasn’t been exposed to the story in this way…We need to hear this type of story now more than ever.”

In an interview with People, Jencarlos Canela said “human error” has created a disconnect with God. Canela was raised Catholic, but says he considers himself “more spiritual than religious.”

“We make the mistake of attaching the word God to religion. The word God is way bigger than religion. We can’t allow anyone to tell us how our relationship with God must be. We can choose our own path. And at the end of the day, all that matters is that we are on that path with a supreme being who helps us strive to become better people – a better version of ourselves.”

Jencarlos Canela was joined by a star-studded cast for Fox’s live two-hour production of The Passion. In addition to Seal as Pontius Pilate, music legend Trish Yearwood performed songs as Mary, Chris Daughtry as Judas, and Latin recording star Prince Royce was the disciple Peter. Tyler Perry narrated the production, which culminated with a 20-foot illuminated cross being carried through the streets of New Orleans.

Take a look at the video to see Jencarlos Canela singing “Demons” with Chris Daughtry.

[Photo by Skip Bolen/Getty Images for dcp]