Unorthodox star Shira Haas says she got to 'scream her scream' in Esty's powerful singing scene
Shira Haas had to shave her head in Unorthodox, but the actress says that actually wasn't the scariest scene to film.
In fact, the moment Haas was most nervous to film was one that required her character, Esther "Esty" Shapiro — and herself — to bare all, in a figurative sense. In the Netflix miniseries, the sheltered Esty sets out for a new life after leaving her strict religious community, and her journey culminates in an audition to gain admission into a prestigious music school.
As part of EW's Awardist coverage, we talked to the Israeli actress, who scored her first Emmy nomination with an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series nod, about bringing to life Esty's powerful delivery of "Mi Bon Siach," the song first performed by the men at her wedding.
Part of Haas' nerves came from the fact that almost no one knew what her performance would entail. While she took vocal lessons to prepare, she felt Esty's vulnerability in that moment.
"It was more of a surprise. The only one that heard it was maybe two people of the production and I really worked on it by myself," Haas tells EW in a Zoom chat. "I almost felt like Esty in that moment, because no one knew what would come out of me, and I was really nervous and I felt like I'm auditioning because everyone's like, 'Ooh what will come out?' And there were so many people there and so many cameras, it was one of the biggest shooting days."
It required a few takes for Haas to get her nerves out and to capture all of the angles of those watching Esty in the audience, including her estranged husband Yanky (Amit Rahav), Esty's friends, and the judges. The next day, the actress was nearly losing her voice from singing so many times.
"The first take my voice was shaking, and I was so nervous so when it ended I was like 'Phew, okay, I need one more take please,'" Haas says. "I was a bit overwhelmed after the first take and then I was more confident, but I was really like Esty."
While the scene is Esty proving herself to the judges, Haas points out that it's also an intimate moment between her character and God. It seems fitting that Esty, who wasn't allowed by her community to sing, would finally get to belt out a tune traditionally performed by men. "It's almost like her approaching to God, in a way. Because I don't think it's a scene or a story about the existence of God or not the existence of God, but it's about taking it into your own hands, and finding your own God," Haas says. "It's almost like a praying, and also she gets to finally scream her scream. She's really screaming it at the end, and it was everything that she needed to do."
Ultimately, Haas sees the scene as both the climax of Esty's story and a fitting end. The four-episode series leaves her fate open, but audiences still feel satisfied knowing that at least Esty has discovered her own power.
"The show is about a woman finding her voice, and in that scene, she's literally finding it, she's even surprising herself of what's coming out of her," Haas says. "While watching it, I was really really moved because I felt like it's really a closure of this story."
Watch the full interview above. Unorthodox is available to stream on Netflix.