Shira Haas on her ‘Unorthodox’ arc: ‘It’s really about surviving’ [WATCH]

At 25, Shira Haas would be the youngest Best Movie/Limited Actress winner at the Emmys in 50 years, since a 23-year-old Patty Duke prevailed for the 1970 movie “My Sweet Charlie.” 1958 and 1978 are the only other years that the award has gone to actresses in their 20s: 27-year-old Polly Bergen for “Playhouse 90” and 29-year-old Meryl Streep for “Holocaust” respectively. Haas broke through with her performance in “Unorthodox,” which was her American television debut. The four-episode miniseries from Netflix follows Haas’s character Esty Shapiro as she runs off to a new life in Berlin, leaving behind her family and ultra-Orthodox Jewish upbringing in New York.

Speaking to Gold Derby this spring (watch the exclusive interview above), Haas says about her journey, “It’s so hard to leave a place, especially when it’s the only thing she knows. Those are the only people that she also loves.” She explains about what motivates Esty to uproot herself, “It’s really about surviving. She’s leaving because she needs to leave; she needs to find herself.” The character of Esty is inspired by author Deborah Feldman, who wrote the “Unorthodox” memoir upon which the show is adapted. Haas says more generally about people in such impossible situations, “No one wants to leave. You really only leave when you have no other choice.”

“Unorthodox” has struck a chord with the Television Academy, boasting eight Emmy nominations, including Best Limited Series. Haas hopes that Esty’s arc might be especially resonant for some as it continues to reach a wider audience. The actress wants people to know that it can be true both “that they are feeling different and they are okay.” Haas notes, “We see so many people that are so free-spirited and liberal and modern and we might think that are free, but it’s really not necessarily true.” She concludes about what she hopes viewers take from watching, “If it will make people question that and to get stuff like that on the table and to talk with people about that, then if it will stay with them, then I’m very, very happy about that.”

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