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Record-breaking ‘The Chosen’ series gathers 2,000 extras to film biblical reenactment amid COVID regulations

The Chosen
On set of "The Chosen" in 2019. |

Thousands of fans and actors endured strict COVID-19 health and safety guidelines to be featured in a reenactment of the Sermon on the Mount for a scene in “The Chosen” series. 

While many studios in Hollywood have avoided gathering large numbers of extras, thousands endured COVID-19 testing, quarantining, and more testing to be a part of the production that's being filmed in Midlothian, Texas.

At the top of 2019, “The Chosen” became the No. 1 crowdfunded media project in history. It has since garnered over $20 million in crowdfunding. On Wednesday, the faith-based drama gathered more than 2,000 extras to film a reenactment of the famous biblical account. Many of the extras were people who've invested in the project. Some even flew from outside the U.S. to attend the filming. 

According to Hollywood Reporter, Dallas Jenkins, director of “The Chosen,” revealed that they initially planned to shoot the scene before the novel coronavirus outbreak. 

“But then when the pandemic hit, we thought, ‘Is it possible for us to do this and do it safely by following all the COVID guidelines?’” Jenkins, the son of Christian novelist Jerry Jenkins of the Left Behind series, said. “We thought, ‘You know, maybe if we literally test everybody we can make this work.'”

Reports of the elaborate production revealed that everyone who participated in the scene was required to get a negative PCR test result before traveling to the set. A PCR test is a COVID-19 test that detects the genetic material of the virus. Once on set, they were given a rapid antigen test and had to remain in their cars while awaiting their virus-free test results.  

“That's the sad reality,” he told HR. “We told everyone to please, please, please, for your sake, be as careful as humanly possible because if you test positive, not only are you not able to be allowed in, but no one in your car will be allowed in. But we’re sure it's going to happen to a few people.”

Texas COVID-19 filming guidelines do not place a limit on the number of extras allowed on set. They require health screenings before coming onto a production, face coverings and social distancing when possible, and note that productions "should stay informed and take actions based on common sense and wise judgment that will protect health and support economic revitalization."

The eight-episode first season, now available to watch on The Chosen App, takes viewers into the lives of those who were by Jesus’ side while He walked the Earth.

The first installment of “The Chosen” has been seen by nearly 50 million people in 180 countries and has been translated into over 50 languages.

Production for season 2 is underway and Jenkins and his team had to raise another $750,000 specifically designated for COVID-19 protocols. The first half of the new season was shot in fall 2020 with safety protocols in place. 

While filming the new season, Jenkins revealed they had less than five positive cases, each of whom was isolated to prevent further infections. The filmmaker did, however, acknowledge the large gathering of their latest scene did come with risks involved.

“Just the act of being involved in this, it means you're carrying with it a little bit of exposure,” he said. “We have a track record of now four months of filming and being incredibly safe — but nothing's ever 100 percent.”

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