Emmy-nominated limited series Unorthodox forecasts the various amount of research completed by showrunner and writer Anna Winger (Deutschland 86), director Maria Schrader (Silent Night), casting director Esther Kling (Spell Keepers) and Shira Haas (Broken Mirrors), via Variety. The Netflix series is based on Deborah Feldman’s (Exodus: A Memoir) memoir.
“Our kids go to school together here in Berlin, where I live, and so I read the book and I loved it and we became friends,” said Winger to Variety.
Unorthodox follows a Brooklyn-based Hasidic Jewish woman, Etsy Shapiro, that fleet to Berlin from an arranged marriage. Shapiro is taken in by a group of musicians and is faced with the troubles of her past.
Haas, who plays Shapiro in Unorthodox, joined in on the research with the executive team to assure the true colors of the Hasidic Jewish community were being depicted and represented accurately. She personally rekindled with former orthodox members as well to enhance the understanding of certain cultural aspects of the Hasidic Jewish community.
“I learned a lot of new things. I mean, for example, even the shaving ritual or the wedding, I wasn’t aware of so many specific details,” said Haas via Variety, “We had like a lot of discussions in general about the character and the world that she’s coming from. So yes, it was an amazing trust of research.”
Most importantly, the casting process needed to reflect the integral part of the show’s authenticity. Therefore, Winger, Schrader, and casting director Kling shared their mutual understanding of only casting Jewish actors and actresses.
“You need to know something about the tempo of the community, about the different little nuances that there are,” shared Kling according to Variety. “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.”
Check out the livestream below for more details on the Unorthodox’s crew research process: