Chapter 4 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Choosing Roles


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

Topics include: Show Respect and Thoughtfulness in Auditions • Look for Your Character's Exit • Do Something Different From Your Last Role • Take Stereotypical Roles and Get Creative • Discuss Nudity Before Taking a Role • Transcending Traditional Casting Choices

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

Topics include: Show Respect and Thoughtfulness in Auditions • Look for Your Character's Exit • Do Something Different From Your Last Role • Take Stereotypical Roles and Get Creative • Discuss Nudity Before Taking a Role • Transcending Traditional Casting Choices

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.

Great to have the pdf and reading list prior to the Masterclass

Thank you Helen. This class felt like hanging out with a good friend...who happens to be the acting legend Helen Mirren.

She's brilliant! I'm not an actor... but as a writer, there is tons of great info in this class that I can still put to good use.

changed my perception of what good acting is. i think it's clicking for me more now.



That was great advice about how to know if your character as a great impact on the story/and audience or even at least a great scene. I am pursuing film making as well, so hearing about breaking stereotypes when it comes to casting characters was very eye opening


The honesty and depth of advice and information is brilliant. Helen has touched on many things confirming that my approach to auditioning and choosing characters is acceptable and match her own approach and asserting my recent - and tough - decision not to be "pigeon-holed".

Kristi N.

I love the idea of reading a script from the last scene; what a unique way of learning your character!

A fellow student

How do you memorize your role from the script? I will pick a monologue from Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.


Just brilliant to read the character's last scene first! I love that! It is also a great exercise to build the full arc of the character. You know where they need to end up emotionally by working backwards. And, we can do that with a one scene character as well.


There is a problem with this class. This class is a master class for masters. 99% of actors are struggling just to get a role so any advice beyond the audition shows how out of touch Ms. Mirren is with what it means to be an actor today. To have an entire lesson on whether or not to decide to take a leading role in a feature film feels pompous in an arena like this. Most of the "actors" watching this would be happy to be an extra on one of her films, or a waitress who brings a plate to her table. I do like hearing her stories about the different decades and how we are progressing in feminism, racism and Hollywood's portrayal of all humans. I also appreciate her stories about nudity and how to approach this with a project. That said, it doesn't redeem this lesson. How do we get seen? How do we get a shot at getting into the room? And once we are in there, what then???? In a way, this lesson is putting the cart before the horse.

Moothi F.

She jumped too far ahead into career advice; I am disappointed because I thought this course would focus on the actual skill of acting *first* (aka. what makes a good actor, how to channel emotions convincingly, method acting vs different approaches) and then progress from there.

Ann B.

The suggestions in this lesson are so very far ahead of where I am right now, but I value everything I am hearing and appreciate the down-to-earth attitude but nonetheless passionate!

Louanne F.

I love this lesson overall as a lesson in life - I have some background in screenwriting and was intrigued by her mention of the names in Alien being gender neutral - what a great idea for a script, to allow for such flexible casting! Again, here's a case of her throwing in such practical information while she shares her experiences and philosophy in general. Great teaching style!

Perry C.

So fatr from40 minutes of lessons I've got 'think the action, act natural, be you, learn from others, listen to instincts'... Which is nice, but it's not teaching acting. You're just telling us about your life and opinions. You could go through sensory with someone, or teach relaxation, give an example of how you bring out your backstory on set, or tell us how much work you did on a character, and how often, before going on set. What are the first things you do to break down a script? Or do you simply picture the character in your head, learn the lines and be you? I realise it's different for every role, but you haven't really specified any of this for ANY of the roles you've played.


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...