Chapter 22 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Case Study: The Queen


Helen breaks down two powerful moments of her Academy Award–winning performance in The Queen, illustrating how she reveals the nuances of her character without saying a word.

Topics include: Mannerisms Can Speak Louder Than Words • Look With Intention

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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Class Info


Prime minister. Good morning, your majesty. Sorry to disturb, but I was just wondering whether you'd seen any of today's papers. We managed to look at one or two, yes. In which case, my-- There was a scene in The Queen where she is getting a call from the prime minister asking her to come down to London to be with the people, and to cry with them, and to be a part of this extraordinary-- to my personal mind-- mass hysteria that was building to the royal family, to the queen who'd been through the Second World War. She'd been through major trauma. And the way Britain got through the Second World War was through-- to their mind-- through restraint, through self-discipline, through gung-ho-ness, whatever, a stiff upper lip and all the rest of it. So this was suddenly an alien world for the queen. Anyway, there's this phone conversation where this is proposed by Tony Blair, the great politician who understood what was needed. But it's a foreign language to the queen. It might be necessary. No. I believe a few over-eager editors are doing their best to sell newspapers. And it would be a mistake to dance to their tune. Under normal circumstances, I would agree. Well, my advice is-- I've been taking the temperature among the people on the street. And, well, the information I'm getting is that the mood is quite delicate. I always felt to find a lightly comedic side of it was valuable. So her cleaning her-- in the process of the conversation, I have her cleaning her glasses with her sweater, not with a hanky specially set aside but like we all do, cleaning it with her sweater and looking through the glasses as this conversation's going on-- so little things like that, anything like that that you can add to the scene, to the situation. This is where props are absolutely invaluable. At the same time, in that scene, there's a cut away to her laying in her tension and the inner tension that's going on. You see her laying these pens down in a very neat, precisely spaced row. So to me, that could indicate-- without me having to indicate here-- but it could indicate an inner real fierce tension. So what would you suggest, prime minister-- Some kind of a statement? No, ma'am. I believe the moment for statements has passed. I would suggest flying the flag at half mast above Buckingham Palace. As I said, the very valuable things about research is you can suddenly find really unexpected little things, but very meaningful, I think. So in my research for Elizabeth Windsor, I read this book about her. It's called The Little Princesses. And it's a book by the nanny about them as young girls. And she tells this story of the queen getting up as a young girl-- getting up as Princess Elizabeth-- getting up in the middle of the night. She is angsty every night before she goes to bed. She has a series of little toy horses, of course. And she ...

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.


Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting