‘The Chosen’ Is Faith-Enriching for Denver Family of Extras

The McAdams appear in the award-winning series, Season 3 of which debuts in theaters Nov. 18; streaming starts in December.

Actors Jonathan Roumie (who plays Jesus) and Alaa Safi (Simon the Zealot) walk among extras during the ‘Feeding of the 5,000’ episode of ‘The Chosen.’
Actors Jonathan Roumie (who plays Jesus) and Alaa Safi (Simon the Zealot) walk among extras during the ‘Feeding of the 5,000’ episode of ‘The Chosen.’ (photo: Courtesy of Angel Studios)

DENVER — Loyal enthusiasts of the international hit TV series The Chosen, a Denver-area family jumped at the chance to play extras in an episode of the eagerly awaited third season, which launches this week. 

Depicting Jesus’ life and ministry through the eyes of the people who knew him, the acclaimed show by creator-director Dallas Jenkins is the No. 1 crowdfunded TV series of all time. Highlands Ranch, Colorado, residents Claudia Cangilla McAdam, a writer, and her husband Gary McAdam, a business consultant, were among those who collectively contributed more than $40 million to produce the series thus far, making it possible to be watched for free via The Chosen app or website. A total of seven seasons are planned. The Chosen is also available on streaming services. 

Last month, The Chosen won the top non-music prize at the 2022 Gospel Music Association Dove Awards for “Inspirational Film/Series of the Year.”

“We have watched both seasons multiple times — it is that good,” Claudia McAdam told the Register about the drama, which is based on the Gospels with fictionalized backstories added. “It’s a beautiful depiction of the life of Jesus. The backstories are plausible and rich and help you fall in love with the people who knew Jesus in the flesh and who gave us our faith, our Church.”

For a limited time, donors at a certain level could qualify to serve as extras in the episode portraying the “Feeding of the 5,000,” which is the only miracle, outside Jesus’ resurrection, mentioned in all four Gospels. The McAdams saw the filming as the next best thing to having been there in person. They invited the two eldest of their nine grandchildren to accompany them in the adventure.

“I thought, ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for us to evangelize our grandchildren by letting them experience in a small degree what it might have been like to be part of that crowd,’” Claudia said.

Some 12,000 people from all 50 states and 36 countries were likewise intrigued and showed up over the course of four days in June to film the scene, enduring high humidity and 90-degree heat in a grassy field in Midlothian, Texas. (The movie set is located on a 900-acre campsite leased from the Salvation Army.) Extras were responsible for their own transportation, accommodations and first-century costumes. Additionally, every extra had to test negative for COVID-19.

“We could pick one day to be part of the filming because so many people wanted to participate,” she said, explaining that the extras were divided into groups. “Our group filmed from 2:30 in the afternoon to 8pm. Television and movie production is ‘hurry up and wait.’ Then it’s ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot, cut. Stop. Reset.’”

Sitting next to the McAdam family during the filming was a Canadian couple with their six children who had driven from Toronto to participate. Seeing them and countless other families affirmed for the McAdams the importance of seizing opportunities to evangelize one’s own domestic church. 

“We can expose them to Jesus by watching The Chosen and talking about it,” Claudia said. “It’s a great venue for sharing the faith.”

The Chosen staff took excellent care of the extras, she said. A short walk from the filming location was an outdoor staging area, with tents, water, food, restrooms and live musical entertainment by contemporary Christian artists, where cast and crew could take a break. Medics were also on hand. 

“It was a deeply faith-enhancing experience,” she recalled. “The faith part was … to imagine yourself being there at the ‘Feeding of the 5,000.’ The evangelization part was … we were surrounded by thousands of people who were sharing their faith. They had a hunger for Jesus and for this beautiful story that we were telling.”

For those involved, the series isn’t just a job, it’s a mission.

“Many of the actors are religious people,” Gary McAdam said. “They are not just playing a role they get in character for; it’s what they believe in. They do this as a calling.”

Jonathan Roumie, the 48-year-old native New Yorker who portrays Jesus, is a devout Catholic. After filming ended one evening, he provided a special moment of prayer by reciting the Our Father in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, for those present.

“He was so personable with the crowd between takes,” McAdam said. “He spoke to us about how he was at a really low point professionally and personally and getting that role was a miracle — and how all of us can have miracles in our lives, too. It was very uplifting.”

Even though the series isn’t a Catholic production — Jenkins is an evangelical Christian — The Chosen aims to support “the truth and intention of the Scriptures” and has an evangelical New Testament professor, a Messianic rabbi and a Catholic priest as consultants. The priest, Holy Cross Father David Guffey, has described the series as “an Ignatian meditation on the Gospels,” as previously reported by the Register

The McAdams’ grandchildren, Christopher McAdam, 14, and his sister Eleanor McAdam, 11, were already fans of The Chosen when they were invited by their grandparents to serve as extras in the “Feeding of the 5,000” episode.

“I really love the show,” home-schooler Eleanor said, describing why she wanted to participate in the filming. “I thought it would be a cool experience.”

High-school freshman Christopher concurred, calling the opportunity “a once in a lifetime” event.

The two weren’t disappointed.

“I liked being able to see a few of the actors,” Eleanor said, listing several by referring to them by their biblical names, starting with “Peter (Shahar Isaac) and Jesus (Roumie).”

Her biggest takeaway from the experience: “It’s always a lot easier to understand something when you’re looking at it.”

 “It felt realistic,” Christopher said. “It was blazing hot. It was not the most comfortable ground to sit on. It was not easy to hear everything. All of that made you feel like you were actually there.”

“By bringing our two grandchildren with us, we had a chance to deepen our relationship with them and, hopefully, to bring them closer to Jesus, as well,” Claudia explained. “I think that’s what happened.”

Scenes from the “Feeding of the 5,000” appear in the trailer for Season 3 of The Chosen. The first two episodes debut back-to-back on Nov. 18 in movie theaters. The season’s episodes will launch weekly for streaming in December. (See TheChosen.TV/3 for more information.)

“The ‘Feeding of the 5,000’ will be the last two episodes of Season 3,” Claudia said. “We expect our episode will probably stream in January or February.” 

The McAdams have seen the season’s trailer with clips from their scene.

“Good luck,” Claudia said, “trying to find yourself in that crowd!” 

José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915

On Suffering and Hope and Forever

‘In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.’ (CCC 1368)

José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915

On Suffering and Hope and Forever

‘In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.’ (CCC 1368)