This past week, I had the opportunity to be an extra in The Chosen TV series. The show is currently filming the 4th of 7 seasons and is based on the lives of those who were “chosen” to follow Jesus. Some statistics state that “Season 1 was the largest crowd-funded project of all time raising $10 million from over 19,000 people. After 3 seasons, there have been 110 million unique viewers watching the episodes 520 million times across 175 countries. The whole series will soon be dubbed in 50 languages with plans to subtitle in over 600!”
One word that describes this show and the phenomenon that it’s generated is communion. During this Eucharistic Revival, it’s critical to draw our attention to the one-ness that Jesus desires for His Church:
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” John 17:20-21
Eucharist means “thanksgiving” while Communion means “sharing in common.” Communion is the way we come together to share what we have received from God. A popular motto concerning the show is “it’s not our job to feed the 5,000, it’s only to provide the loaves and fish.” God gives each of us a gift and calls us to the table to share it with others so all can be fed. The world is being fed by diving deeper into the greatest story ever told – Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, raised by two devout Jewish parents, and gathering a unique group of friends one-by-one (if you’ve read the Bible, you know the spoilers that He is crucified, laid in a tomb, and then is seen speaking and eating with his friends once again, but that’s not until Seasons 6 and 7). Creating a show requires an astounding number of people to come together to make the final product. Though the focus is on the main cast on screen, it’s important to have background actors bringing the scene to life, set designers making it look realistic, makeup artists transforming characters, crew supporting the cast in between takes, assistant directors helping the director, writers, producers, editors, etc. We are all needed to tell a good story.
For example, though a priest is able to say Mass on his own, the celebration of the Liturgy includes the congregation and the various ministers that assist him. God made us for community and that’s a big reason why we are obligated to participate in Mass weekly. Uniting together in prayer, song, and fellowship encourages and enlivens us as we continue to bring life to faith and faith to life as we carry our individual crosses each day.
As a TV show, The Chosen has attracted viewers of all backgrounds, cultures, and beliefs. The focus on the historical Jesus unites people because we can all share the experience of being human. In between takes on the hot Utah set, I sat in the air-conditioned tent with hundreds of background volunteers from around the world. Some lived down the street and others flew across oceans to come together for this experience. I met people from all denominations and know that not all were even believers. They were just intrigued by the community that has formed around the show.
During the last day of filming last week, the cast was required to strike in union with the Screen Actors Guild. Since the show itself is independent from Hollywood, production could continue with the background actors. It was strange to be on set without Jesus and the disciples, but it reminded me of the quote from St. Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now but ours, no feet but ours.” My fellow background actors embraced this opportunity to carry the load on set for the cast who were missing us since they stayed home. While “TV actor Jesus” (Jonathan Roumie) was not visible, I believed that Jesus Christ was indeed present. At Mass, we may not see the historical Jesus with our eyes or hear him with our ears. And yet, the priest stands in persona Christi so Christ’s Word can be heard and His Body and Blood received.
I’m often asked if I’m Catholic or Christian. Catholicism means “universal.” No matter where I go in the world, I can find a Catholic Mass and feel like I’m at home. Though the prayers may be in a different language than my native tongue, the same Jesus is present in the Eucharist. My experience as a background actor reminded me of how everyone is needed, but not everyone has to stand out. In relationships, it’s about “we” not about “me.” The directors told us that background actors support the scene, not distract from it. If we draw attention to ourselves, the focus on the whole scene can be thrown off so we may be edited out. In our lives, we may feel like “just background,” but in reality, those ordinary roles can create an extraordinary impact. . The background actors who were a part of those large-scale scenes aren’t able to pick themselves out on screen, but joyfully share how it felt to be a part of the crowd. The joy we experience in life comes from standing among our brothers and sisters, not from standing out.
Questions for reflection: We are each chosen to live in communion with one another. How are you participating in the Body of Christ?
**The reason I chose this picture is because each one of those people represents a different country! They are all social media representatives for The Chosen!**