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Arts & Entertainment

Choosing Roles

Helen Mirren

Lesson time 19:14 min

Helen offers you advice for auditions and shares her unique way of assessing a role.

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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I want to talk a little bit about auditions because, obviously, many of you will have been to many, many auditions in your life, and you probably will go to many more. And I don't have a lot of words to say about that because you guys know more about that, really, than I do at this point. I know that you know you're often given sides, so you don't really know the whole story, and that's a big challenge for an actor. But I know that you understand you have a sense of who the character is. And I know that you will often go-- in a sense-- in a form of the costume that you think this character would wear. And that's a good thing because I think the people auditioning you have to make very quick decisions. I just give two pieces of advice. One is, if the people auditioning you give you a note in your performance-- you've done it once, or maybe twice, and then they give you a note. Why don't you try this. Even if you feel it's completely wrong, immediately try to incorporate that note into your performance because that will tell the director, the producers, that A, you're capable of doing that. And B, you are amenable, and you know how to listen. You can incorporate it in, and at the end of it, you can say, I tried to do what you were saying. I'm not too sure that that work, but you know. But you listen to the note, and absolutely respond to it, and try to incorporate it into your next go through, the performance. And I think the other thing to do is if you're just being given sides and you don't really know, where does this character sit, I think, one or two very judicious and very pointed questions-- intelligent questions-- I think show that you're thinking. That you can see beyond. You understand that beyond this one scene, that there is a whole piece of work around it. If you can ask, what sort of background do you think this character comes from? Or do you think an accent is appropriate? Or I'd just like to know where this character goes afterwards. Or I have a sense of the direction the scene should be going in. Just if there's a really thought out, accurate question to ask, ask it because again, that means that you're thinking. You're intelligent. You're responsive. And I think that's what people want to see. They don't just want to see, is this person right for the role? Of course, they want to see that, but they also want to see, can I work with this person? Is this going to be a living relationship on set? I'm going to share something with you, which I really shouldn't, because it reveals actually how venal I am, and what a terrible person I am. And you can only really do this if you're being offered nice roles, but when I get a script, I do this. It's awful. They always tell you-- not always-- but they often tell you, oh, it's a great role. It's not on the page, but it needs an actress like you to do it, and it will...

Find freedom in your roles

In her first-ever online acting class, Academy Award-winning actress Helen Mirren shares the techniques she has learned through the course of her international career that has spanned stage, screen, and television. Her powerful and versatile performances have earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award in 2007 for her performance in The Queen, a Tony Award in 2015 for her performance in The Audience, and four Emmy Awards.


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

I am incredibly happy and always inspired by Helen Mirren. She has reassure all of us that the power lives in our wheelhouse and humans and then coupling that with the copious hard work and then letting it go and being. I am combing through workbook and will go back and work through the incredible activities that has been mapped out.

I have learned sooo many great and amazing tips! I loved it!! It is so amazing how you need to figure out your character you become the character! it is so amazing!! this was a great class!

Learnt immensely from Helen. Her experiences are inspiring.

Very useful overview for up-and-coming actors who have no experience of acting for camera. I was very pleased to hear Helen talk about the importance of spending the 10 years or so you need to learn the technique of acting, whether for stage or, specifically here, of acting for camera.


Dalin G.

So glad I decided to enroll in this class. It is imperative to keep up on one's craft, especially if you haven't been in the loop for some time. So not only is this a refresher course but her input and expertise is invaluable.

A fellow student

Such valuable advice for auditions as well as any job. Take feedback and try something different. Be respectful. ...clever way to judge significance of the role of the character. Hard to take something different when you know that you do something, but stretching will open up opportunities and facets. Love the use of the backstory for you. Be upfront about nudity, yes or no, Don't show up and change your mind. gender does not have to be limiting. Perhaps even more creative stepping out of the traditional role.

Maryam L.

I had no idea that you can learn so much from someone else's experience. As she's telling us her stories, I'm gaining information so much on the world of acting. It's always better to learn from someone else's experience, in my opinion, because you really get to understand where they're coming from and why they think the way they do. I also didn't think that it was still a bit of a struggle for women to act way back, but knowing that that has changed and the limitations have changed is just astounding. There is so much that I didn't even think about considering when it came to acting, and I am so relieved that she brought to my attention. You couldn't have asked for a better instructor.

Márcia A.

Helen's lessons are always mesmerizing and I'm always blown away by what she says. She's not afraid to speak her mind, and she talks about a lot of things that are important and that matter to an actor wanna be.


She gives such well advice both in the profession and showing how affected it can be by life.You couldn’t find a better instructor so experienced talented true to herself genuine without nothing to hide.I’m sure that everyone would want to act opposite her .

Liv B.

These are not "acting lessons," these are short stories from the acting life of Helen Mirren. There is no class plan, no technique, no practices.

Ashley W.

This is inspiring me to pick a male Shakespeare monologue to work on for this class. Love it!


There's so many amazing lessons in this one clip. Helen's approach and humility are also so inspiring to me. While I'm not an actor by trade, I find myself making some similar decisions working as a consultant for my clients. I think the biggest lessons for me here are "Planning by the Exit" and "Run with It". Planning by the Exit, I mean planning how to extract myself and my company from our clients' day-to-day operations as seamlessly as possible, but remaining present and diligent throughout. Impact them, but also ensure the "show goes on" without me there. Run with It, namely that I find myself on what feels like a cliffside at times - armed with context and opinions my leaders and bosses have no experience of, but wished they did. I've managed to earn their trust enough to be a leader of sorts in some assignments, and it really is a beautiful opportunity for me to go "hey, well, here's an idea - let's try this". So much is new nowadays, it's brilliant. But also, so much has come before, and it's amazing to meld new knowledge with old.

Matthew B.

No Formal training since the Fourth Grade but I have been self employed for 20 years in Direct Sales. Honored to be your Fan and Student ?

Diana F.

Just what I needed. Im prepping for a audition. any good Shakespeare monologue suggestions? I love lady Macbeth, but just felt like its too over done. Really wna try something that is originally written for a male character.