Chapter 12 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Creating Characters: Costume, Part 2


Every piece of your character’s costume—down to the shoes—has to tell the right story. Learn how to evaluate accessories for your character.

Topics include: Creating Characters: Costume, Part 2

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


Now speaking of color, and stuff around your face, this is gorgeous. The color is beautiful. It's alive. It's got a liveliness. But it's not overpowering. It's always lovely to have something you can play with in close up that just gives you a beautiful frame here, if you feel that's appropriate. It's also great, incidentally, to have something that, if you want to, you can kind of play with. If you feel that that's something that you're going to need in the scene, think about that. Think about maybe a scarf, or maybe a necklace, something to play with, another element that you can add for character And of course, purses for a woman or a man-- what does this tell about the character? It's old. It's heavy. It's ugly. It's period. So if it's modern, it's someone who hasn't bothered to buy a new one for a long time, someone who's very serious, who doesn't really care what something looks like. That's one thing. And here, we have a whole other story going on. Your purse is quite important. Because very often, you're opening it and getting stuff out. You have to check that it's easy to open and close if that's going to be a part of your action, so you're not fiddle-assing around and everybody's waiting for you to open your purse in the shot. So I'm terribly particular about the purse that I carry. Because I think women's purses are very much a reflection of who they are. Some are flashy. Some are very sober. Some are just not absolutely [INAUDIBLE]---- a sort of kind of non-existent. Like this is someone who just doesn't care what they look like. This is a lady who is quite Bourgeois, quite elegant, obviously, and just-- it's color-coordinated. There's a little tiny thing here that's useful. Oh, look, it's got a little thing on it. Oh, that's cool. I didn't see that. That would be good, too-- but anyway, very, very, very different. Likewise, my god, glasses-- how much? I mean, think of the queen's glasses. It always a good thing, if it's appropriate, to wear a pair of glasses. What a world of difference between those-- sorry, I'll put them on again-- those and these, very earnest, very sweet, very whatever it is, owl-like. And then these are always a winner. You normally get a nomination if you wear glasses like these. Because they instantly give you, like, total character, especially if you're playing a Russian. A Russian with a bad wig and these glasses, nomination. I'll have to try it next time. Watches, you're never going to get a nomination for the watch you wear. But it tells the story that you want to tell. And maybe only you will know that. But what a world of difference between this little watch, this very work-a-day watch. Obviously, this watch tells a very specific story about a character. If the watch is going to play, you know there's going to be a close-up of i...

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