Being One of The Chosen – An Extra Day
remember the day in September of ’21 that we received an email with the subject line, “How to be in Season 3.” The email outlined how fans of The Chosen television series could participate by paying it forward in support of the show.
If you don’t know what The Chosen is, it is a historical drama based on the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It is the “first multi-season series about the life of Jesus, and season one was the top crowd-funded TV series or film project of all time. The series’ creators stated that they had hoped to distinguish the new series from previous portrayals of Jesus by crafting a multi-season, episode-based story. The series portrays Jesus “through the eyes of those who met him.” (Source: Wikipedia)
This show has been somewhat of a phenomenon since its inception. It caught on and was so appealing to masses of people around the world that they began sharing it with others using hashtags like #BingeJesus and #GetUsedToDifferent and #ComeAndSee. Check out this trailer of The Chosen, Season 1 to get a sense of what the show is like and listen to a piece of the engaging musical score.
Upon viewing Season 1, Episode 1, we were hooked. With each episode, I fell in love with Jesus all over again. Our crowd-funding support was a natural outpouring of our gratitude to the show’s creators for their beautiful portrayal of the biblical message we love so dearly. We knew it would be a cherished experience to participate in some small way in the filming. And it was just that.
We made our contribution and “paid it forward.” The purpose of paying it forward is so others around the world can view the show for free. It was a way we could share this magnetic retelling of the biblical story with others.
In early March our daughter texted, “Did you get email with the dates for The Chosen’s “Feeding of the 5,ooo”?!! Let’s start planning!” We made hotel reservations, borrowed first century costumes from our local congregation for our six family members who were participating , and began marking the days off the calendar to June 7th. June 7th, when the temperature in Midlothian, Texas (where The Chosen is filming Season 3) was to be 101 degrees!
The Chosen extras (of which we were now a part!) had a Facebook group that shared tips and answered questions. One of the most exciting things about being in the group was the map that the admins shared just prior to the event. The map shows all of the locations from which the feeding of the 5,000 participants were coming from. From coast-to-coast across the United States, plus Canada, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and an unnamed island near Hawaii. Just the sight of the map was a faith-builder, knowing how many believers across the country would be coming together to support the show and participate in the experience.
One of the things the extras were instructed to do prior to participation in the taping of the show was to make sure we were in compliance with the regulations of the Screen Actors Guild. That meant bringing evidence of a negative COVID test prior to the event and getting tested again the morning we arrived. The extras were told to sign up for a time slot for being tested. Our family dilly-dallied in making our testing appointment so we got the last time slot available – between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. (Yawn.) However, taping was scheduled to begin between 1 and 1:30 p.m. Fortunately, The Chosen team had planned to help us pass the time as we waited to go to the set by providing entertainment by various Christian artists.
Shortly after 4:00 on the morning of the 7th, we made our way from the hotel to the parking lot of the Midlothian High School football stadium. There we were instructed to wait with our family in our cars to be tested. If we were all negative, we would be allowed to hop on the bus that would drive us to the set.
We passed the test!
They marked our windshield as those who had been deemed “clean” and handed us our official #F5K Extra badges. On the badges were colored stickers that indicated the group we were in. We were in green 500.
Arrival on Location
The bus left the high school stadium and made its way several miles down a windy, tree-lined road. We turned a corner and there was a big open field with a dozen or so buildings, several large party tents, and a huge stage. It was just about sunrise as we stepped off the bus. The weather at this early hour was so nice and there was a pleasant breeze blowing. We could see several props for photos scattered across the field. In huge letters, “Chosen” stood tall. And you could not help but smile at the 6-foot-tall “Trouble” (a nod to one of the most popular songs, entitled “Trouble,” from the Season 1 sound track). There was gift shop so we could bring back some mementos of the event. The excitement level grew just a bit as we looked over all the festive surroundings. We were eager to take advantage of the photo-ops.
And, as more than one of us remarked, the most magnificent part of all we saw before us, was the sunrise itself.
As we began our long wait for the morning to pass until our time to actually serve as extras, announcers came on the performance stage and said there has been a change of plans. The Chosen team was concerned that the weather forecast for the day would take its toll on all those involved, so they were moving up the schedule. The first group would go to the set for the taping a little after 9:00 a.m.! What a delight. The hosts were doing all they could to make the most of the time we had together. Backing up the schedule four hours would allow the taping to start while the morning was still cool.
Then, the announcer said that those who were last to sign up for the COVID test at the stadium – yes, that was our family – would be first to go to the set for the shoot. The green sticker would be the first 500 people to go! The last actually were first at the feeding of the 5,000!
They called us to make our way across the road and down the path towards the set.
As we walked, we were leaving behind the 21st century and stepping into a first century feeling world. We followed the robe-clothed crowd toward the rolling hillside as the way curved to the right. I wondered what would have been on my mind if, two thousand years ago, I had been one of those people who had heard of the teacher from Nazareth. What would I expect to hear and see when I got there? Would He heal someone? Would He do a miracle? Would His speaking be as amazing as what I had been told?
As we made the bend, there were Roman soldiers on horseback. Some were watching us closely. Others were not. I figured this would have been a familiar sight to those who traveled a similar road.
We passed the camp where many of the scenes in Season 2 of The Chosen were shot. It was exciting to see them up close – to see the tent where Mary and Ramah studied, and the tent where Jesus rested.
Around another bend in the road and we were coming up on the set for the day. The crews were working busily just beyond the tent camp. The closer we got, the more we could see the cameras on long extension booms, and light reflectors, and sound equipment. So many people working so hard to produce this powerful show.
Then, we passed an actor on horseback talking with a Roman soldier outside of the tent camp while an on-looker listened in. For just a moment it was as if we left the busy-ness of making a TV show and were engulfed in a world that existed two thousand years ago. The contrast was stark.
Just beyond the actors and the camp and the crew sprawled a beautiful grassy hillside where they told us to stop and spread out. They orchestrated us into groups of individuals and clustered various others together into small groups. They motioned some closer to the stage area. They brought in more extras and told us to expand the group out wider. Some of the crew walked through the group and instructed us how to sit and how not to sit. As well as how to act and not act during the scene.
Looking around in all directions, one could see that there were so many people there. In some ways it felt so real – like we had really come to hear Jesus speak to this crowd.
Couples. Families. Young men and old. All gathered together to see and to hear.
Appreciating the Moment
And the sky above us was radiant.
The gentle breeze was still blowing.
And all the people were gladdened in heart.
Shooting the Scenes
Dallas Jenkins stepped out to address the crowd. As he began, he thanked us profusely for our support. Then he reminded us of a most important perspective. We were reenacting a real event that actually took place two thousand years ago.
That was a sobering reminder.
Then he explained the process. He said to keep all things 21st century out of sight and to remain silent during the taping. And, of course, no cell phones or photography while the scenes were being shot. He pointed out that there were cameras all around and drones overhead. So, our role was to help it look authentic.
Between takes, we could see the actors – Jonathan Roumie who plays Jesus was on the stage behind Dallas. At one point you can see him holding his script.
After another take, several of the actors who play the apostles can be seen along with Dallas, Jonathan, and several members of the crew.
Walking Back Through The Camp
About three hours later, following many takes of multiple scenes, our initial time on the set was complete. They allowed us to walk back through the camp as the next group of extras came to shoot the next scenes.
We passed four different types of tent/shelters. We saw cooking utensils and accessories hanging on the tents, and walked passed their water well.
You could almost place yourself in a scene from the show where the actors sat around the camp. During the scene they discuss what they, as disciples, chosen by Jesus, expected life to be like as they followed Him.
Thus was our experience with The Chosen. It was exciting and thought-provoking and faith-inspiring. We are grateful for the opportunity to be one of The Chosen extras.
But our gratitude is far greater and more meaningful to be among the chosen of God.
In concluding the marvelous day, our thoughts turn to scripture, where Peter (Simon Peter) wrote to disciples in the first century. He addressed his letter to “those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.” This is the message Peter wanted them to realize and remember and reflect to the world.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” 1 Peter 2:2-11
Peter wrote again, in a second letter, to encourage the disciples to diligently strive to remain faithful unto maturity in Christ. In 2 Peter 1:2-11, he gives this message to all the chosen:
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in yourself-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
On June 12, Dallas Jenkins did a live stream with an update from the Feeding of the 5,000 event, answered questions about Season 3, and shared some new products that were available on The Chosen Gift Shop. While we were waiting for the live stream to begin, we were pleasantly surprised to see four of our family photos from the event were incorporated into the intro on YouTube. These were the among the pics we live-tweeted while we were waiting to be called to the set. What a delight!
Watch the live stream on YouTube.
Visit The Chosen gift shop and “pay it forward” so others can watch the show for free.