Shira Haas Interview: ‘Unorthodox’
“I did not dream of being an actress,” Shira Haas reveals in an exclusive interview about her breakthrough performance in “Unorthodox” (watch the video above). She continues, “I was very, very shy as a child, believe it or not.” Speaking to Gold Derby from Tel Aviv, Haas explains that although she “always loved theater” and “always loved movies,” it was leading the 2014 Israeli film “Princess” that finally convinced her of her career path. “I remember suddenly understanding how you can say so much with saying nothing at all,” she recounts about her feature debut before comparing her own journey to that of her character in “Unorthodox,” who escapes an oppressed life and finds a passion in music. “Like Esty, I found myself suddenly through art,” she laughs.
“This character and this story really made me question a lot about what freedom is and the value of freedom,” Haas says about playing Esty Shapiro. She continues, “Freedom is an inner feeling and we need to ask ourselves all the time if we feel that.” The four-part drama is loosely adapted from the 2012 memoir of the same name by Deborah Feldman, with Esty standing in for the author. Haas reveals, “In the beginning, I was told that role is for a TV series called ‘The Orchestra’ for a German streaming network. No one told me it is Netflix or ‘Unorthodox,’ since it’s such a bestseller.”
Unfolding in Berlin and New York, with dialogue alternating between English, German and Yiddish, the show has been an international hit for the streaming service and has exposed audiences to the customs of ultra-Orthodox Jews. Haas says, “If people will see this show and will see this community that they did not know before (or just have stereotypes in their head) and they will see we are all people. Even though we’re different, the fact I can relate to someone that is so different from me and I can understand her and I can understand also the other characters, I can that say people are people.”
“She’s definitely stronger and I definitely have faith in her,” Haas says about where her character ends the miniseries. She speculates about what happens to Esty after the events of the finale, “She has a lot of challenges to go through right now. It’s not like it’s over because she has her happy ending; it’s a never-ending challenge to find yourself. I don’t know what will happen. I want to believe she got into the conservatory and to be honest, as for love interests, I don’t think she’ll be either with Robert or Yanky. There are teams right now, like team Robert/team Yanky — and I’m team Esty.”
Aside from the success of “Unorthodox,” Haas recently “woke up with the greatest news” that the Tribeca Film Festival had awarded her Best International Actress for “Asia.” She likens the Israeli film to “Unorthodox” in how “it also in a way talks about our relationships and how we cannot take things for granted.” Haas concludes, “I cannot wait for people to see it and I am very very also of course thankful for this award.”