The popular television multi-season series The Chosen (on the life of Christ as seen through the eyes of his “chosen” disciples) is currently filming season three at its home base in Midlothian, Texas (just south of Dallas). The season will climax with the “Feeding of the Five Thousand” so creator and director Dallas Jenkins decided to have five thousand extras on set for the episode. No small ambition, but Dallas Jenkins knows only how to think big! To qualify, one had to contribute a certain amount by December 31 of last year (The Chosen is entirely privately funded). After qualifying (a birthday gift from my wife!), I went with my two youngest daughters.
Filming for the feeding of the five thousand (informally titled F5K) occurred on June 7 and 8, and it was an amazing experience for all three of us—indeed, for all five thousand of us! Preparation included creating our own first-century costumes (for me this included growing a beard). But this was nothing compared to the preparation required by the staff and crew to film an episode with five thousand extras! What they pulled off in terms of organization and planning was nothing short of miraculous.
A cast of thousands
Among the extras were people of all ages (we saw families with young children, even babies, as well as the elderly, including some with notable physical limitations) and from all over the country, and all braving the brutal Texan heat (temperatures in the mid-90s and high humidity). Yes, Dallas Jenkins directed the day’s filming, the cast acted in it, and the five thousand extras participated in it, but the crew pulled off the Herculean task of serving and suffering the heat, and all with smiles and kind words. They jumped into action whenever there was a break in the filming, providing water, electrolytes, or any attention needed for those wilting from the heat.
Though entertainment, photo ops, and food and drinks aplenty were provided throughout the day’s filming (there was even a couple among the extras who got married during a break!), the highlight for all of us was to participate in the actual filming itself—which didn’t end until dusk. To witness stage direction, sound testing, camera placement, pre-filming rehearsal, multiple filming cuts, and the actors whom we’ve come to know and love “do their thing” was as captivating as it was exciting.
Inside the show
Our most memorable experience was to behold the cast’s humorous antics between filming cuts. Interacting with (and showing their appreciation for) the crowd, they took out their smart phones on one occasion (yes, they carry their smartphones beneath their costumes) to do video selfies with the extras (this included Jonathan Roumie, who plays Jesus), and to whip up parts of the crowd in cheering (the actor who plays Matthew was the first to do this). Humorous personal side note: as “luck” would have it for the actual feeding itself, which was assisted by the apostles (who were spread throughout to distribute the bread and fish), the three of us received our bread from—wait for it—Judas!
As “luck” would have it for the actual feeding itself, which was assisted by the apostles (who were spread throughout to distribute the bread and fish), the three of us received our bread from—wait for it—Judas!
The love of Christ was on display throughout the entire day: from the crew, cast, and all the extras. To witness the thoughtfulness, the kindness, the friendliness, the patience, the orderly cooperation, the bearing of the oppressive heat with grace, and the charity was truly spectacular. To be an extra in The Chosen was an experience that we shall never forget, and we look forward not only to seeing the episode, but also—hopefully—to the t-shirt “I survived the feeding of the 5000,” with the hashtags #feedingthefriedthousand, #charredchosen, #heatingofthe5000.