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'Unorthodox' Star Shiira Haas Opens Up On Shaving Her Head For The Netflix Series

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'Unorthodox' Star Shiira Haas Opens Up On Shaving Her Head For The Netflix Series

Unorthadox star Shiira Haas has recalled shaving her head for the Netflix show, in a new interview.

The actress, 24, played 19-year-old Jewish woman, Esty Shapiro, in the TV series, and depicted her upbringing in an Ultra-orthadox community in Williamsburg, New York, and her subsequent decision to run away to start a life in Berlin.

In one of the most powerful moments in the series, her character Esty follows her community's tradition and has her head shaved after getting married.

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Speaking to Vogue, Shiira said she had mentally prepared for the scenes, but was still "shocked" and "nervous" when they pulled out the razor on her first day on set.

Shiira had just one take to get the poignant scene right (Credit: Netflix)
Shiira had just one take to get the poignant scene right (Credit: Netflix)

"That was the final scene on the first day of shooting," she said. "When Maria [Schrader, the director] told me it was going to happen right at the beginning, I was so shocked.

"But, it was great because it really got me into character. Of course, your head can only be shaved once so I knew it would be one take and I had to get it right.

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"I was nervous, but I was willing to do it in order to tell this story."

Ultra-orthadox Jewish women have been covering their heads for thousands of years, initially using a cloth or veil.


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In the 16th century it become customary to wear wigs, as we see Esty do in the series while in New York.

The reason for this is widely disputed, but many believe it originates from Sotah ritual - which is a ceremony described in the Bible that tested the fidelity of a woman accused of adultery.

Rabbi Avram Mlotek told Refinery29 that some religious interpretations of head covering are explained because woman's hair is determined "to be nakedness and part of the alluring nature of the effeminate."

"It takes a lot of self-acceptance for a girl to cover her head with a wig," adds Anat Hazan, who published a booklet, "The Sheitel Advantage," in the New York Times.

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"It's an act that has a very deep meaning beyond its physical expression-and it's not only for modesty reasons, since in many times the wig is more beautiful than a woman's hair."

Esty is past of an orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg (Credit: Netflix)
Esty is past of an orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg (Credit: Netflix)

Today, the majority of the Jewish community have rejected the tradition, with only small communities of the most religious still adhering to it.

During her Vogue interview, Shiira - who grew up in a Jewish family in Tel Aviv, Israel - said she was unfamiliar with many of the Ultra-orthadox tribe's religious customs until she started working on the show.

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"Every Jewish community is different and you really can't generalise," she said.

The series is inspired by a true story, loosely based memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection Of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman.

The four-part drama, which landed on March 26th, follows budding musician Esty as she grapples with her suffocated marriage and the pressure to have a baby, and her decision to escape her world for Berlin, in search of her estranged mother.

The series follows Esty's awakening in Berlin (Credit: Netflix)
The series follows Esty's awakening in Berlin (Credit: Netflix)

Esty believes her mother abandoned her years ago to leave the community because she was gay, but later learns her mother was terrorised by her husband's family and she was eventually taken from her in rabbinical court.

While in Berlin, Esty befriends a group of musicians from a local prestigious college and discovers new and exciting parts of life that she'd never been exposed to before, from clubbing to fashion and romance.

The moneyless protagonist decides to audition for the music school's scholarship scheme. Meanwhile, her husband Yanky Shapiro (Amit Rahav), and his cousin, Moishe Lefkovitch (Jeff Wilbusch), arrive in the German capital determined to find her.

People have been bingeing the series in isolation, and many are saying it left them emotional wrecks.

"For anybody looking for an unsolicited Netflix recommendation, #Unorthodox is absolutely brilliant. Had me and the significant other in tears. Wonderful, and very moving performances," raved one fan.

"I watched #Unorthodox on Netflix last night and it was brilliant. Such a moving story that actually had me in tears," said a second.

Unorthodox is available to stream on Netflix now.

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Topics: TV News, TV Entertainment, Netflix

Joanna Freedman
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