‘Unorthodox’ Lead Shira Haas Says the Netflix Series Was ‘Everything You Could Ask For as an Artist’

Unorthodox debuted last month on Netflix. Esty, the main character played by actress Shira Haas (who is originally from Israel), is a woman raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. While the subject matter is intense, reactions to the show from critics and viewers alike have been incredibly positive. The Unorthodox star says it’s everything she’s been looking for as an actress.

[Spoiler alert: a few spoilers for Unorthodox below].

Shira Haas talks about the new Netflix series in an ever-changing world

Shira Haas, star of Unorthodox
Shira Haas in. 2015 | Larry Busacca/Getty Images

IndieWire interviewed Haas this month about achieving success on an American viewing platform–despite not being American herself. The Unorthodox actress thinks it’s a good sign. She shared:

You see so many series on Netflix that are international, and it’s beautiful because I think people really want to see something that is different from them to understand and to say, ‘Huh, maybe it’s not so different.’ The world is much more open now.

While Esty’s community in Unorthodox is insular and has little contact with the mainstream world, the narrative is what stands out. Also, it’s what Netflix viewers can understand and connect to.

“This is a story about a woman trying to find herself, and part of the series is also finding yourself as a woman,” Haas told IndieWire.

‘Unorthodox’ star says ‘the highest form of connecting is art’

Actress Beanie Feldstein, known for her work in the movies Lady Bird and Booksmart, also did an interview with Haas recently for Vogue magazine. “The world is falling in love with you right now,” Feldstein told Haas. How does it feel? The Unorthodox star replied:

Anika Molnar/Netflix

It is really amazing and it was a surprise. I can really feel the love. …you can never tell what is going to happen with the thing that you are doing. I can’t take it for granted that so many people all around the world, no matter what their religion is, not necessarily Jewish, or secular, connected to the show and to Esty.

The most significant thing for Haas was many viewers related emotionally to Unorthodox.

“The fact that it is has touched so many people and that it is universal is such an amazing thing,” she told Feldstein. “It is everything you could ask for as an artist. The highest form of connecting is art.”

For many people who might not know much about Hasidic Jewish communities, Unorthodox might be their first experience relating to and sympathizing with such a character. Haas explained in Vogue:

If you just heard about the show or a story about someone like Esty on the news, maybe some people would say, ‘Oh, those people,’ but once you see the show you’re like, ‘She is like me’—not only Esty but also different people as well.

‘Unorthodox’ lead cast member Shira Haas says ‘people have been way more open’ in recent years

Feldstein gushed over the Netflix series in the interview. She said about Unorthodox:

I loved the show’s commitment to detail and authenticity and honoring the traditions and the rituals and the language of the Satmar people … Your show is a beautiful example of … not shying away from the specifics and not watering them down actually makes it so much more universal because there is an instant connection to feeling that is so powerful in the show.

Netflix Unorthodox

“It is a new thing for many people,” Haas responded. Unorthodox was groundbreaking in that it was not only made, but not done in English. “Maybe a few years ago maybe the show would have been done, but not in Yiddish, for example.” Haas continued:

There are now so many different TV series on Netflix in so many different languages and cultures. Over the past few years, people have become way more open to it and people want to see someone who is different from them and realize, ‘Yes, it is a specific story, but I can relate to it,’ or ‘He is different from me, but he is a human being and I understand.’