The family of Jim Walker of Boise participated as extras in the cast for a shooting of The Chosen segment titled, “The Feeding of the 5,000.” Family members shown on the set include, from left to right, grandson Jacob (standing); grandson Elijah (sitting); granddaughter Emerson (seated); Jim’s wife Renee (seated next to Emerson); and grandson Benjamin (standing at right). Other family members also participated as extras as part of a gift Jim gave to Renee for her birthday. (Courtesy photo)
By Gaye Bunderson
How do you say happy birthday to someone you love in a way that’s truly special? Well, you could fly that person to Texas to be a background actor in a popular movie production, and you could also arrange for her to receive a video message from one of her favorite actors.
That’s what Jim Walker did for his wife Renee’s 78th birthday last year. He paid for her to fly to the Lone Star State to appear as an extra on the set of The Chosen. She took other family members with her, including grandchildren Elijah, Jacob, Benjamin, and Emerson; son Jon and his wife Sarah; and daughter Jamie. It was a cross-generational experience, and everyone got to be an extra in a scene for “The Feeding of the 5,000.”
The Chosen is a crowd-funded series about the life of Christ and His disciples. In order to watch the series, viewers download a free app on their smart phone and then set it up to watch on their smart TV – or watch it right on the phone. The unique production draws millions of viewers from all over the globe.
“It’s free and will always be free,” Renee Walker said. “You can currently live stream Season 3.”
The concept involves ‘paying it forward.’ Though no one is charged for watching, many choose to donate to the production to keep it cost-free for all.
The show is the creation of Dallas Jenkins, also one of The Chosen’s producers and writers. His vision for a faith-based production involved a biblical perspective as opposed to a Hollywood mentality. He is quoted as saying, “It’s not your job to feed the 5,000; it’s your job to bring the loaves and fishes, and the rest is up to God.”
And that’s what he’s done on the set of the ongoing story for several years now.
Nineteen-year-old Elijah explained, “Dallas approaches the production aspect differently in that he’s trusting God it will work out, and he’s doing his part. It’s really remarkable. It’s the first Christian show tailored to [also appeal to] non-Christian people.”
“It shows Christ and His disciples more relatable,” Renee said.
Elijah agreed, stating, “It’s more entertaining, more digestible, not cheesy to watch. They recruited Generation Z people around the country to watch the entire first season.”
“They had no idea what they were watching – and WOW! – they had never seen Christ depicted this way,” Renee said.
Generation Z is the generation of young people who achieved adulthood in the second decade of the current century. They are perceived as being very internet literate from a young age – a perfect first audience for an app-based production.
The Chosen is Bible-centered even though it’s fiction-based in many ways. In other words, it’s one man’s interpretation of how the characters of the Bible might have looked and acted. It’s not intended to replace the Bible but to inspire people to get into the actual Word of God.
As people watch the series, they occasionally develop favorite characters – perhaps Peter or Mary Magdalene – for the way they are depicted. They were once actual flesh-and-blood people who walked the Earth and witnessed the Lord firsthand but left no record of themselves apart from Scripture. Renee became a fan of the Mary Magdalene character, and her husband arranged for the actress who portrays her, Elizabeth Tabish, to make a video saying hello to Renee and wishing her well.
The actors are an interesting – and sometimes surprising – bunch. They come from all over and are experts in their craft. Renee stated that people’s lives are being changed by the series, and that includes the lives of some of the actors. For instance, she said, the actor playing Peter is an Orthodox Jew, and the man playing Nicodemus is Buddhist, but they are being affected by the series.
“Things like that are happening. Miracles are changing lives every day. It’s like a family, and there’s a lot of love,” she said.
Renee ought to know, as she was literally there on set for four days. “We made our own costumes. We got some at second-hand stores, and we sewed some.”
They fit right in, in their long-ago garb.
Because Renee and her family were set to be part of the crowd of 5,000 that Jesus fed with loaves and fishes, they were allowed to choose which day they’d be on the set, as not everyone was there at the same time. She chose a Wednesday, and they met many other extras all excited to be part of the production. “All the people were believers, and they were all enthusiastic,” she said.
Her daughter Jamie stated, “The producers send you directions to follow. … We got a piece of bread to eat [as part of the feeding of the 5,000].”
During breaks in filming, everyone was fed a full lunch and dinner, and entertainment was provided by Christian musicians. Renee said that it was a very hot summer day on the set. The filming took place in Midlothian, Texas, 25 miles southwest of Dallas, during mid-summer 2022.
The entire three-year production has not been without its on-set trials, but once again Dallas Jenkins’s faith-filled mindset keeps it all going. Renee explained, “He said he’ll think about the Red Sea and about how he’s had ‘Red Sea moments’. Difficulties crop up and he thinks they won’t get through them, but they do. He sees them as miracles just like the parting of the Red Sea.”
Covid hasn’t stopped the production; in fact, it was a bit of a production starter, according to super-fan Renee. “It all started in 2021. There was Covid, and God orchestrated The Chosen to happen,” she said.
Though Jim did not attend the event, he heard all about the great time his family members had. “I know they had a blast,” he said.
Money wisely spent for a 78th birthday.