To find out if his lead actor Kian Lawley had the right chemistry with his costars of “The Chosen,” director Ben Jehoshua sent the YouTube star on an unusual challenge.
“I took Kian and Angelica (Chitwood) to a nail salon and we acted these scenes out,” he recalls during an interview with Made in Hollywood.
Jehoshua observed them as they delivered tense lines of dialogue during a mani-pedi session. “You should have seen the looks that the nail ladies were giving us,”Angelica Chitwood adds.
In “The Chosen,” which debuted on Netflix in November, Lawley plays Cameron, a younger brother to Chitwood’s Caitlin, a former drug addict and single mother on the mend. The horror flick follows the siblings after a series of demonic encounters and other complications reunite them on a path of destruction and salvation.
Compounding matters further, Cameron finds out he has only six days to save his favorite person in the world—his niece Angie—who is also his sister Caitlin’s daughter (actress Mykayla Sohn). To circumvent her ill-fated future, six relatives from their bloodline must be sacrificed—quickly—lest a child-stealing demon takes her to hell as its prize.
“We wanted to explore the idea about family and sacrifice,” Jehoshua explains. “Can you evaluate your family members—does this person has more value than the other person? This is something that we do insidiously, do unconsciously, deep inside our souls—very, very dark thoughts.”
During an “on and off” process that took nearly four years, Jehoshua and his partner Barry Jay, and Andrew J. Scheppmann wrote “The Chosen.” The film was first released in July on Vimeo’s streaming service before making its way one month later to iTunes, where it ranked among the most popular downloaded horror films. “We maintained a top 100 rating for eight weeks,” Jehoshua explains, “then it was sold to Netflix.”
No doubt Lawley’s massive social media following helped catapult the title to success.
The heartthrob has more than 3 million YouTube subscribers to his channel where he publishes humorous video shorts—mostly under seven minutes long—like “I Peed My Pants in the Library” and “How to Know If You’re a Tool.”
Incredibly, the leap from YouTube vlogger to leading star wasn’t a difficult one for Lawley, whose appearance in “The Chosen” is his first full-length feature film credit.
At Lawley’s audition for the role, “everyone was impressed,” Jehoshua recalls.
“He just kept his integrity in the moment, even though he’s never read script lines before,” he says. “Kian has an intelligent way of acting. He’s living in the moment. I think he’s really talented and he’s going places.”
Though it’s fear and suspense that he brought to his performance in “The Chosen,” off-screen the crew members were left in stitches.
“Working with Kian was an absolute blast,” recalls Chitwood, “even though we were working on a horror movie he made sure to make every moment of it full of laughs and ridiculousness.”
Jehoshua agrees, calling Lawley “the funniest person I’ve ever worked with.” “He has a rubber face—he is the manifestation of Jim Carrey,” he explains. “Every time a take ended we had to reign him back in because he was going off the wall, making faces.”
“The Chosen” is available to stream on Netflix now. Click here for more. Watch the trailer below.