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The creators of the Emmy-nominated limited series “Unorthodox” knew from the beginning that executing a show based on Deborah Feldman’s memoir would be no small feat. Bringing the story of…
The creators of the Emmy-nominated limited series “Unorthodox” knew from the beginning that executing a show based on Deborah Feldman’s memoir would be no small feat.
Bringing the story of how Feldman left her Hasidic community in Williamsburg to flee to Berlin took copious amounts of research from actor Shira Haas, who plays Esty Shapiro, showrunner and writer Anna Winger, director Maria Schrader, costume designer Justine Seymour and casting director Esther Kling.
An integral part of the production process was casting. Together, Winger, Schrader and casting director Kling decided to only cast Jewish actors, a choice they felt largely impacted the authenticity of the show.
“You need to know something about the tempo of the community, about the different little nuances that there are,” Kling said. “You can do it if you do loads of research, but it’s easier for a showrunner and a director to work with people who are already quite well-acquainted with the community, to know the tenacities of the characters. Otherwise, it’s just acting and not being.”
Israeli actress Haas not only fit the mold, but greatly intrigued both Schrader and Winger with her audition.
“I opened the computer and there she was,” Schrader said. “Sometimes, you almost feel a physical reaction to something, and I was like, ‘That is Esther.'”
Winger thought the same thing – at the exact same moment.
“I got so excited that I started to write an email to Anna [Winger] describing what I saw and before I could push the send button, I received an email from Anna saying, ‘Look at Shira Haas,'” Schrader said. “Sometimes, coincidences are a source of inspiration and power and also reassuring that we share a taste, we share even timing. It was magical.”