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May 23 Vallejo/Vacaville Arts and Entertainment Source: Vacaville sisters fulfill dream as extras in “The Chosen” TV series

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Vacaville natives Shaina and Esther Whaley would not consider themselves actors by any stretch. But after their recent experience as extras in their favorite show, “The Chosen,” the Whaley sisters said they wouldn’t hesitate to return to set.

The crowd-funded TV series following the life of Jesus recently premiered its fourth season in February at theaters in Los Angeles and London. During the premiere buzz, Shaina tuned into the show’s livestreams, where she learned about an opportunity to participate in season five filming. She quickly submitted her email for consideration.

A month later, a response arrived with sign-up instructions.

“To be a part of your favorite TV show, I jumped at that opportunity,” said Shaina, who had signed her sister up as well. Despite never having acted before, the Whaleys could not pass up the opportunity to get involved with the production they had bonded over.

The three days of filming took the sisters to Utah, where the show was utilizing a set borrowed from the Church of Latter Day Saints. The Whaleys recalled the surreal process of checking in alongside hundreds of other extras and receiving the filming schedule announcement.

“They announced the next three days we would be shooting the same scene, so they wanted us all to wear the same costume,” said Esther.

The Whaleys, along with the other 600 extras, had been instructed to make their own costumes ahead of time. Following guidelines on texture, color and styles of certain groups within that period, the Whaleys had selected fabric and enlisted their mom’s help in sewing it together.

“My objective was mainly to cover my hair, since I’m blonde and there weren’t too many of those back in the day,” said Esther, who was also given a staff as her prop for the duration of filming.

After seeing the array of first century costumes from other extras, Shaina and Esther started getting ideas for how they could change it up if they return next year.

Shaina Whaley captures hundreds of fellow extras preparing for ‘The Chosen’ filming on location in Utah (contributed photo, Shaina Whaley)

“Everybody there was a big fan. They all volunteered to be there,” said Esther. “The way I look at it is, ‘The Chosen’ needed people to do a job and that’s what every single one of us showed up to do.”

Between long hours of standing and walking outside while wearing yards of fabric, the environment was certainly taxing at times.

Within the context of the scene, extras were told to gather around the main actors who addressed the crowd. In order to compensate for the different angles, Shaina and Esther were separated into different groupings to give the impression of a filled courtyard.

“It was very reactive to what was being spoken, at times tense” said Esther, describing the general feeling required for the scene.

The hundreds of volunteers represented a global sampling of the show’s fan base, with some traveling from as far as Australia and India. Without an emphasis on compensation or acting credits, the community instead bonded over what brought them together: their shared love for the show. The opportunity to participate in the series before it hit screens helped create an energetic atmosphere among the extras.

“Being on set, it felt every bit as genuine as if I was watching it on screen,” said Esther. “It’s not hollywood-ized, it’s very down to earth.” Despite the production’s instruction to treat the actors like service animals and not engage with them between takes, Esther and Shaina found that many of the actors willingly took time out of their day to greet the extras.

“Nothing made me feel more appreciated as an extra than the actor who plays Peter, Shahar Isaac, taking out his film camera between takes and taking pictures of us extras,” said Shaina.

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