Chapter 28 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Bonus: Naturalism


Discover which film actors had the biggest influence on Helen and why their work is so important to her.

Topics include: Marlon Brando • Anna Magnani • Beyond Naturalism

Discover which film actors had the biggest influence on Helen and why their work is so important to her.

Topics include: Marlon Brando • Anna Magnani • Beyond Naturalism

Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting

In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.

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Find freedom in your roles

Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony winner Helen Mirren is one of the greatest actresses of our time. In her first online class, she discusses the dualism that is core to her method: the necessity for mastering technique (craft) and then letting go so that your imagination can take over (art). Learn how to break down a script, research characters, and master techniques so you can transcend them to find freedom in every role.

Helen brings you behind the scenes to show you the secrets of her acting technique.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Helen will also critique select student work.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I would like to see more technical stuff with real examples

I love clever women with a sincere attitude.

I'm a writer and I'm very thankful to all her insights about acting that can have an impact on me as a writer.

The MasterClass helped me gain more confidence in trusting my instincts. I don't have a lot of formal training, so I tend to "feel" my way through roles (after doing the work to build/connect with characters). Helen has a great balance between humility and confidence, and that is the kind of actor I want to be.



To act "naturally" is now in vogue, she says. And to think that for decades, actors worked very hard to put on a certain affectation, until someone somewhere decided to simply act naturally, and voila!, people liked it! Fascinating; I'll try it.

Lora H.

Thank you, i found this masterclass extraordinary! My sincere compliments to Helen Mirren and the team!

A fellow student

Beyond excellent, as was Ms. Mirren's entire course. Complete, riveting, genuine, thoughtful, surprising, delightful. I am not a performer but have the idea to write small stories. This course taught me a whole new layer of experience and technique to bring to that task. Thank you Helen ~~ I'll be out here watching!

A fellow student

Hi Helen. Thoroughly enjoyed your course! I will recommend it to people, when I can. Lots of insightful stuff I've learned about acting-there's more to it than meets the eye. Here I thought it was a shallow career, but in fact, it's very complicated and sophistacted (as writing fiction is). There's many things we, the audience, don't see and therefore we have misconceptions about them (granted, there are actors/actresses out there who do fit the stereotype of 'dumbies'/ 'shallow'' as you said in an early lesson). I really enjoyed learning the technical side of film acting as well. All that machinery has got to be annoying when you're trying to focus. I realize I probably couldn't thrive in that environment, being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). lol. And thank you for your kind words in regard to writers! I appreciate your regard for our craft, as in many cases, a film or stage production begins with a book and is adapted for either medium....

M.K. B.

A million thanks Ms. Mirren for your incredible insights based on so many years of magnificent experience - the amount of content you covered was remarkable - your use of the stage, crew, makeup, costumes, props, and set were really instructive - "making it your own." The clips that were included were really valuable, especially from Prime Suspect - to illustrate the difference between stage acting and film. And I really loved to hear you underline the collaborative aspect of the worlds of theatre and film...with all those involved wanting the very best "work" to be created ... And finally thanks for clarifying why you played "The Queen" in one moment and then "Reds" in the next - such incredible juxtaposition of characters !! As with many of your films and theatre work - this course was a true "tour de force"....thanks for taking such valuable time and putting forth such a kind inclusive effort. With deep admiration and gratitude, Kate


I have enjoyed this Masterclass enormously seeing and hearing for the first time a professional actor's views ad feelings about acting. Thank you


Great bonus. Acting with our time is the most relevant comment of all these Masterclasses.

Anastasia E.

Very uplifting class, The best. Working as an actor for 5 years in NY you lean all this in a set environment because nobody wants to share their knowledge. in this class I learned that you can negotiate your set, hair make up, that was new to me. Very interesting class, highly recommended! Tnx

Stephen Fryson I.

Thank You for the words of wisdom and the awesome class. It’s a bittersweet feeling finishing this course, but I’m ready to put your lessons in action.


Hi all, what was the book Helen was reading in one of the episodes? Memoirs of a male actor. Can't remember in which episode.


It's very interesting that some actors, no matter, really, where their background is-- what they come out of-- are natural Shakespearean actors. And here I would quote Marlon Brando, one speech in particular-- friends, Romans, and countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do, live after them. The good is often interred, buried with their bones. He does that speech with absolute pure Shakespearean-- if you like-- actor's expertise. He knows how to breathe. He knows how to carry on. And incidentally, speaking of voice, his voice is strong enough, and powerful enough, that you can believe that he's talking to 200 people. But at the same time here, he imbues it with his own natural sense of naturalism of drama. And I think it's a beautiful, beautifully executed Shakespearean speech. Done by an actor not famous for Shakespearean acting, and actually much better than most of the other British very-good-at-Shakespeare kind of actors in that film. I was blown away by it when I saw it many, many years ago. If you want to watch great Shakespearean actors, Olivier always. Olivier was famous in his day for naturalizing Shakespeare. And it wasn't acceptable when he first came to do Shakespeare, because Shakespeare was very declamatory thing at that point. And all of the work, really, in the 20th and 21st century, has been finding a way to be truthful to the poetry of Shakespeare-- utterly truthful to that-- but naturalize it. One day-- and I can't actually quite remember when it was-- I saw Anna Magnani work. And she became at that point, and still is, my great inspiration for film acting. Also, she was a theater actress, which I thought was great. I loved the fact that she was a theater actress as well. But on film, there's something so alive about her. It's the perfect combination of heightened but natural, which is what really, in a sense, the greatest acting is. Why, again, back to Al Pacino, Marlon Brando. The ones we love. The ones we really admire. It's heightened. Often they fall, because they go out on a limb. They're brave. They have the courage to put themselves out there into the world of poetry-- into the world of heightened work. But at the same time with naturalism. And it's a very heady mix. And for me that's what Anna Magnani has. There's an incredible scene in Mamma Roma, the film by Pasolini. I think one of her early films. This amazing scene, where it's this long-- talk about Scorcese-- I think it's like a three- or four-minute long shot where she's just walking towards the camera. And the camera's tracking behind her. I don't know how they did it, whether she was following someone on a bike, or something. It's very steady. They didn't have steadycam those days. So she's just walking and talking. And different characters come in a...