A well-known actor in The Chosen is opening up about his faith journey, saying he had never had a personal encounter with Jesus until he took the role in the Bible-based hit series and was influenced by Christians behind the scenes.
Nick Shakoour, who portrays Zebedee, told Christian Headlines that the series has had a significant impact on his life. His character is the father of James and John.
"It's been a major change," Shakoour told Christian Headlines, referencing his life.
Creator and director Dallas Jenkins, a self-described evangelical, has been open about the series employing Christians and non-Christians alike for the cast and crew, saying the goal is to hire the best person for each position.
Shakoour said he grew up in a Christian environment but never had a personal conversion. He told Christian Headlines he has been influenced on the set of The Chosen by the "behind-the-scenes people who are Believers" and by "their friends and in running in their circles and starting to seek out God through them."
"And it all accumulated to last September, where I was invited to a church conference where the next thing I knew a bunch of people surrounded me … and laid their hands over me and started praying," Shakoour told Christian Headlines. "And I was able to experience what it was like to experience the Holy Spirit going from outside to in and it set my body into flames."
The experience, he said, was overwhelming.
"It felt like my organs were all being burned away and I was being vibrated and microwaved at the same time," he said. "That's the best way I can describe it."
Shakoour said he feels like a new person.
"I literally felt like I was given a brand new body – brand new everything," he said, choking back tears. "... But since that's happened, I don't have the sensation of hunger, and I don't get thirsty. So now I've got to go out of my way to remind myself to drink water and eat – and I [formerly] was someone that would [eat] six meals a day … for the workouts. And it's like God came and went, 'No, you don't need all those six meals.'
"My mind is blown by what's happened. So the show's been a blessing and I've loved acting in it. But it's definitely been the conduit that I can't help but talk about."
Shakoour said he learned that a lead construction worker on the set of The Chosen had prayed that an actor would convert. That construction worker also said the construction team had written Bible verses on the walls of the sets before they painted them. Incredibly, the first home they wrote Bible verses in was that of Zebedee.
"He said, 'We got together as a construction crew, and we prayed for one of the actors to receive the Holy Spirit, and [that the actor] would become the seed that would spread the gospel,'" Shakoour said. "... It's been one mind-blowing thing after the next with what's been happening in and outside of the show."
Shakoour and the rest of the cast and crew are currently filming Season 4.
Photo courtesy: ©The Chosen/Angel Studios, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.