Film & TV

Evolving as a Theater Actress

Helen Mirren

Lesson time 11:07 min

While performing with an experimental theater group, Helen learned valuable lessons about voice training, physicality, and control. Here, she shares them with you.

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 would advise many of you-- actually in a way more maybe than going to drama classes. I'm a little ambivalent about drama classes. But what I do believe in is training your voice. Because if your voice is so developed and so present, at least that's one tool you don't have to worry about. And that's to do with breathing, and breathing is very much to do with relaxation, and relaxation is very much to do with acting. Learning to breathe, learning to resonate. It's not necessarily about projection, although projection is very much a part of it. And it's very disappointing to me. Sometimes you see a wonderful actor on the screen, fabulous at being quiet, absolutely wonderful. Modulated, there's a lot of music, maybe, in their voices. Very interesting. But now they have to play a scene where they're supposed to be talking to 50 people. And you can't talk like this to 50 people because they won't hear you. You have to talk with some voice. And then you hear this actor who talks like this. (EXAGGERATEDLY) Something that sounds like this because they can't produce their voice. I don't know how to. And it's all become strangulated. So the idea of freeing your voice, freeing your vocal chords, it's a process, incidentally, I'm still working on. It's a constant work, but it's a good work to do. It's a good basic physical exercise. And that's a good thing to do. This was what I learned at the RSE. Because we were very lucky, we had voice teachers there as a part of the company. So you would be taken off every once a week or twice a week to work with the voice teacher. And they had very, very brilliant vocal teachers there. So if you can, either make your own group-- because if you can't afford to go to a voice coach, you can actually read some material and the exercises. And maybe make your own little group where you do a little half hour session together every day or three or four times a week or something. And I think that's a very good training tool. And then Peter Brook came to do what became one of his most iconic productions, which was of a Midsummer Night's Dream that I wasn't in. I very much wanted to be. I very much wanted to play Titania, but my dear friend Sarah Kesselman got that role and she played it brilliantly. And I was not chosen for that role, but I was on the sidelines watching. And I watched this extraordinary genius of the theater work. I had seen his experimental work in London a year before and been very, very taken by that. And the whole idea of experimental theater was exploding at that time. So I felt that I needed to expand my understanding, my preparation as an actor needed to expand. And needed to expand out of the classical theater, which is beautiful because it's so disciplined and demanding, but into experimental theater to find freedom. And freedom, freedom is my...

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.

A wonderfully personal exploration of the processes and pieces of the acting experience. Such an insight.

It was packed with meaningful information. I enjoyed every minute! :)

Helen Mirren is remarkably open and generous in this class. How fun, how fascinating to hear about the complexity and thoughtfulness that goes in to playing a role. Highly recommend this class!

This class has given me a much better understanding of the techniques of acting. And Helen Mirren is the best teacher I could ever hope for.


Márcia A.

This lesson really spoke to me. Owning yourself might be hard, but it is undoubtedly the most important part of being an actor. And your reveal yourself through a role? Never thought of it this way, and that just goes to show how badly I needed this class. Loved how she said it's all about the voice - it's funny, when I went to the movies for the first time, and every time since then, I noticed that actors had a special voice. When I was a kid I even thought that that was one of the reasons why they were chosen for roles. Because if you sit at the movies and listen to them talking, there is something about their voice that I can't quite put my finger on, that simply transports you, and no one else you hear can make you believe that. Also loved how she talked about not being too fond of drama schools and being more interested in voice training - being an actor is about passion and talent and if you don't have those qualities, a drama school can't give it to you and that's true.

Ashley W.

You might be wrong for the role, but you are still right for acting...what words of wisdom!

Lydia P.

I adore the last part of this lesson. Owning yourself is one of the hardest things to do and I'm so glad that Helen stresses the importance of doing that. It's something I personally need to work on and am happy to have the encouragement to do so.

Carrie S.

I love how she talks about owning yourself and revealing yourself within a role. We all have something unique to bring to each role. It's easy to forget that.

Abbie F.

I just finished Samuel L. Jackson's acting masterclass. If you guys like this maybe check out that one to. I heard Natalie Port man's acting Master Class is great to.

Mary S.

Hello Everyone - I am a newbie to Master Class. What a wonderful Christmas gift from my family! I love to do online classes. I love the new knowledge I receive and the chance to keep my 70 year old brain stimulated as I venture down each new path in my life. I chose this class because I adore Helen Mirren and wanted to hear the story of her career and to learn as much as I can from such a talented woman. Do I want to become an actress? Who knows? For me the more new adventures I experience just adds to my forever growing memory bank. I look forward to the rest of the class.

Gregory R.

Fabulous! I want to find out more about using the voice. Experienced actors often have great ‘projection’, but it sounds like an actor who has learned to project. My voice doesn’t carry especially if I am nervous about the lines. I think for a start I need to learn how to get my lines rock solid ...

A fellow student

As individuals and as actors there is a constant worry that there is something not right about ourselves, a defficiency. But little things like that can become tools for succeding in a way. Being comfortable and owning that is tough, although it can make you unique


What she is saying about allowing yourself to be you, that is so important! It really hit me. It is so easy to forget that fact. It's so easy to look at others, and envy them for what they have accomplished instead of remembering what makes you special as an actor. I am really working on changing my mindset on that matter, I try to focus on me, what I can, and have accomplished, instead of focusing on everyone else.

A fellow student

Helen is fantastic and has certainly developed extraordinary insight... Self-recognition of individuality is in and of itself both revolutionary and empowering. Her insight will likely change the lives of some. Thank you, Helen. You're brilliant!