In January 2022, the Nichols family of Anniston, Alabama, were living an ordinary life — but that was about to change.
Rachel, Byron and their two daughters, Isabelle, 12, and Lillian, 10, headed to Dallas in June to be extras on an episode of the television series The Chosen.
“We had recently moved to Anniston from Gainesville, Fla.,” Rachel recalls. “And [the COVID-19 pandemic] kept us from being with others. School would be canceled for the girls in the summer [and we] heard about this crowdfunding TV show where people contribute – a pay-it-forward adventure. And I was like, ‘Let’s do something different this summer!’”
When they learned that 10,000 volunteer extras were needed, they contacted the production company and were accepted.
The family, members of Parker Memorial Baptist Church in Anniston, were given six months to create costumes that were to be either Greek, Roman or Jewish. Rachel scoured thrift stores for linen garments that could be cut up and made into costumes, since the cotton plant was not native to the series setting and accuracy was important to the producers.
Filming took place near Midlothian, Texas, which has terrain similar to the Jordan region.
An international cast
“Since we were on a sloping hill, we were able to sit at the front of the crowd and interact with the actors,” Rachel recalled. “We were close enough to get fish and bread when it was distributed. As a souvenir, the producers gave us sugar fish as a memento of the experience.”
It was hot, not unusual for a Texas summer, and the area was barren, there were no trees for shade, and a hot, dry wind seemed to be blowing incessantly, she recalled. Some extras, unaccustomed to the heat, fainted, so an ambulance was on call.
Rachel said she and Byron were overwhelmed not only by the sheer number of extras, but also by the thousands of Christians in one place.
“People represented a lot of countries that had heard about pay-it-forward and wanted to come to America to be part of the cast,” she noted. “At least 20 different languages were heard.”
Rachel recalled people from Washington and Utah talking about how being a part of The Chosen had impacted their lives.
“Just being surrounded by 5,000 people helped visualize this large number,” she said. “The actors said it helped them become better actors because they were performing in front of a live audience.
“It was exciting to see Jonathan Roumie, the man who played Jesus, especially when he was preaching. As we got on the buses, Dallas Jenkins, the producer [and director]She went to every bus and shook hands with everyone.
“It was an adventure the girls will never forget,” Rachel said.
“‘The Elect’ shows how the biblical story can be related to the gospel and how the disciples interacted with Jesus,” she noted. “You look at the story and you see yourself. You see with your own eyes how the disciples related to Jesus.”
The series is available for free on The Chosen app or on Angel.com.