Unorthodox Star Shira Haas on Portraying the Hasidic Community and That Emotional Head-Shaving Scene – Variety

Posted By on July 3, 2020

Shira Haas has catapulted herself into the zeitgeist with her moving performance as Esther Esty Shapiro on Netflixs Unorthodox.

The series sees Esty married off to a man whom she barely knows (played by Haas real-life friend Amit Rahav) and forced to shave her head as Satmar tradition dictates. Haas recalled shooting that emotional haircut scene on the very first day on set, describing it as one heck of a beginning during an interview for an upcoming episode of the Varietyand iHeart podcast The Big Ticket.

You see 20 seconds of this scene in the episode, but it took eight minutes nonstop, two cameras, one take, thats it, Haas told host Marc Malkin. I just had the rollercoaster of emotions and, of course, it was also real.

Variety caught up with Haas from her home in Tel Aviv to talk about her unconventional path into acting, how close she feels to her character of Esty, and the importance of the series covering the Hasidic community with authenticity.

When do you decide that you wanted to be an actor?

Pretty late. I was a very shy child, believe it or not. I was into writing, and I loved watching movies, and I love theater, but I never thought I would be in this professional life, being the center of attention. Going on stage seemed like an awful thing for me. But then, I went to a theater major in high school. I really loved it, but it was more of a hobby, not something like that.Then, a casting director approached me on Facebook, actually. Thats not a good message, maybe, but thats the truth. I Googled her, so its safe. She was casting a movie, and I didnt have agent, I didnt have anything, but she just told me that shed seen that I studied this major, and she thinks that I can work out. I went there, and it was my first movie, it was Princess.

When you auditioned, did you know it was for Unorthodox? Had you read Deborah Feldmans book?

I didnt know. They told me this is for a TV series called The Orchestra for a German network platform. I was like okay, cool. I read the scenes, and I thought its amazing. I went there and I did it, and I felt good, and I thought the dialogues were amazing, and I enjoyed playing it, and then a few days later, I got the phone call from my agent, and she was like, Okay, so they loved you. Theyre coming to Israel in a few days, and its for Netflix. Its called Unorthodox.'

What do you like about Esty as a character?

Every time someone asks me if Im similar to her, I always answer that I hope. I really think that even though she comes from difficult circumstancesshes very, very present. Shes really in the here and now, which we know about it, we talk about it, and we read books about it, and we go to psychologists and think, but shes without knowing it really aware of her feelings. She really knows what she feels. She really knows what she wants. She really knows when she doesnt want something, and thats also her curse in a wayI also love the fact that shes so complex, because even when I got one scene or two scenes in the beginning of the audition, I felt shes both very strong and tough, but also so vulnerable, and she also wants to fit in, but she doesnt want to be there. Shes very gentle.

How much responsibility did you feel in depicting this community?

A lot. It was a never-ending discussion in the production, in me, that I shared also with the creators and the director. You need to root for the lead character in a series, you need to understand her struggles, but at the same time, you need to understand, to see the whole picture, to have empathy to this place that shes coming from. Its more interesting as a story when something is not black and whiteAs a Jew, as an Israeli person, I felt responsibility to have something to say, because were doing art, and thats part of it, and its important not to be scaredYou need to have a moral sensitivity because its real peopleI think that there are beautiful sides to show, and that there is complexity, and that there are both sides of the coin.

Talk about your bedroom scenes with Amit, what was shooting those like?

Im an actress, Ive had intimacy scenes before. Its not the first one that I had, but every time, even if you know the person before, even if you dont know, its kind of like a stage that you need to go through to feel comfortable, to talk about things, or not to talk, but just to feel comfortable, to be you and to say stuff and to act without thinking too much. I think the fact that I knew Amit was really, really helpfulWe always laugh that we kind of had like our secret language. We talk Hebrew, no one understood, they know German and some Yiddish, but no one understands us. We always had this, we had our laughs together. But it was also very professional.

I know youve talked about it a lot, but I do have to ask you about the head shaving. Your face during that was so real. How much did you sit there and grieve while it was happening?

When I start a new production, Im very excited, and I want it to be good, and Im happy to do these things. I was ready for it. I knew about it a long time before, even in the audition process. At the same time, Ive always had the longest hair. I never cut my hair. I love my hair. It was scary. How does my head, shaved, look? Even before we started filming, I really felt nervous and scared alongside excited, just like Esty in a way. Then, when we arrive on action, I remember [director] Maria Schrader told me, I think it was few hours before, or a day before, she was like, I know that you love to be prepared for scenes, which I do, but she was like, dont be prepared for it too much, because theres no right and wrong in that scene. All of the emotions that will come are correct. Shes right. You see 20 seconds of this scene in the episode, but it took eight minutes nonstop, two cameras, one take, thats it. I just had the rollercoaster of emotions and, of course, it was also real.

Unorthodox is available on Netflix.

You can also listen to The Big Ticket at iHeartRadioor wherever youdownload you favorite podcasts.

Continued here:

Unorthodox Star Shira Haas on Portraying the Hasidic Community and That Emotional Head-Shaving Scene - Variety

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