On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 30, 2022:

The Chosen is described on its website as “a fan-supported, seven-season episodic television series that creates an authentic and intimate picture of Jesus’ life and ministry, seen through the eyes of the people who knew Him.” It is also described as the #1 highest crowd-funded entertainment project of all-time, raising $10 million for Season 1 and over $40 million for Seasons 2 and 3. A press release says The Chosen has garnered praise from critics and fans alike for its historical and biblical accuracy, playful spirit, stirring drama, genuine humor, and disruptive impact.

The Chosen is offered free of charge on mobile and smart TV apps. Some income is generated for future episodes through the sale of series merchandise, but the majority of the funds comes from viewers who “pay it forward” by donating at certain levels based on the number of episodes that will be viewed for free because of their gift. Since they believed strongly in the project, local couple Kent and Stella Larson decided to support the series.

The Larsons faithfully followed website updates and newletters, and when a casting call for extras in Season 3 went out to funding partners early this year, their interest was piqued. Donors and immediate family members were eligible to participate and singles could bring one friend. The Larsons signed up and were accepted for the feeding of the 5,000 scene. Around the first of March Kent began to let his beard and hair grow, and they began to work on their costumes. Participants were given a choice of who they wanted to be – Jews, Greeks, Romans – and they were given a color palate based on that choice. Because of their Scandanavian and Northern European heritage, the Larsons opted to dress as merchants from the north.

Stella found Kent’s main costume online – an almost ankle length tunic of unbleached linen. Neighbor Denise Elliston added wide bands of burlap decorated with two lines of green threads at the wrists and made a matching belt to tie around his waist. For her costume, Stella found a sage green sheet which Denise turned into dress trimmed at the edges of the neck and sleeves with double rows of small metal coin-like disks. Kent wore a burnt orange scarf-like headdress that hung loose around his shoulders and was held in place by a twisted piece of wheat-colored cloth tied around his head. Stella’s head covering was a muted multi-colored scarf that covered her hair and draped down in front of one shoulder. She wore a stone perfume bottle suspended on a cord around her neck and a bracelet of small stones around her wrist. Both of them wore sandals.

During filming, the crowd had to remove anything “modern” – glasses, jewelry, socks. Kent even had to remove the metal buckles from his sandals, punch an extra hole, and tie them with a leather thong. They were allowed to carry a 1st century-looking draw-string bag to hold their modern conveniences during filming. Those who didn’t have one of their own were given a burlap bag. The set for this sequence was an open meadow, and because there was no shade, most people carried umbrellas which were stowed in the bags during filming. Water, Gatorade, and snacks were readily available between takes; restrooms were plentiful; and medical assistance was available for anyone who needed it. There were also two circus tents where extras could get out of the sun, and there were a few air-conditioned areas – but seating was hard to come by.

Filming was done on the 900-acre Salvation Army Camp Hoblitzelle site around seven miles south of Midlothian. The Camp, which saw bookings drop to zero during COVID, has leased the area to The Chosen for five years. Construction to date has included a 30,000-square-foot soundstage and a historically accurate recreation of the town of Capernaum. Other areas allow creation of scenes like Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 which was filmed June 13-16. Approximately 12,000 extras were expected to be involved over four days made up of fans from 36 countries and all 50 states ranging in age from 7 weeks to 91 years.

Production of the sequence began on Monday the 13th with scenes involving the regular cast. The next two days were devoted to crowd scenes using 5,000 extras on Tuesday and a different 5,000 on Wednesday. Around 1,000 extras were brought back on Thursday. The Larsons were scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday.

Participants were required to get a PCR COVID test prior to filming, and they were also given a rapid COVID test on arrival at the site. The Larsons passed both tests and received lanyards with colored dots indicating when they were to be on the set. Once they received their lanyards, they boarded forty-passenger buses which took them from the parking area to the filming area. They said that even though a huge number of people were being moved, the process was handled efficiently.

The Larsons were scheduled for the 2:30-5:30 slot. Around 6:00 pm after their session was completed, all the extras were brought back together. The Larsons were able to stay where they were which was fairly close to a camera, so we may be able to see them in the final film. At the end of the day, they waited ninety minutes to get on a bus, and their group sang hymns while they waited. When they arrived back at the parking area, Dallas Jenkins was there to meet every bus.

Tuesday was a real event day with testimonies, entertainment, music, food, and so forth, but Thursday was more of a work day. With fewer extras to deal with, though, it was better coordinated. During their time on the set, they saw the actors who played the disciples and Roman soldiers on horseback, but they didn’t see any of the women cast members. They met other extras from Wills Point via California, Waco, Virginia, and more. They also ran into friends they had met online who had requested prayer for their unborn baby. One of the most unusual events happened while they were sitting in an open tent waiting to go on set. Someone came running in asking for a minister. A couple whose wedding plans had been disrupted by the pandemic wanted to get married right then. Not only was a minister located, but a harpist and several other musicians came forward, and they had a wedding on the spot.

Dallas Jenkins, the creator, director and co-writer of the series, has a degree in Biblical Studies. In creating the show, he put together a panel of expert consultants to ensure biblical and historical accuracy in the script. Jenkins wants to help people know Jesus better and love Scripture more by taking gospel accounts and adding plausible details about the lives of the biblical figures found there. He does this by adding back story and fleshing out characters who are only mentioned in passing in the Scripture. Another of his goals is to reach a billion people with the story of Jesus at no cost to them. According to an article on ChristianHeadlines.com dated May 26 of this year, the series surpassed 400 million views sometime in early May.

The Larsons’ film career may not be over. There may be more calls for extras in the near future, so for now Kent has trimmed the hair that is covered with the orange headpiece, but he’s keeping the beard. And Stella has her dress hanging neatly in the closet, just in case. But even if the call never comes, they have already stepped out of their comfort zone and become part of something bigger than themselves – a good example for us all.



Find more information at https://watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen

Comments on: "Local Couple in The Chosen | by Linda Brendle" (2)

  1. Gloria Moore said:

    I want to thank Kent and Stella for their commitment and willingness to support this project. I have enjoyed watching it so much but I really like the actor who plays Matthew.

    • Thank you for the comment, Gloria. I will pass it on. Some people don’t like the way Matthew is portrayed, but I love that Jenkins is portraying them as really human and no super human.

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