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.

Thank you so much. I have been watching in repeat.

thank you very much very real and authentic learnt a lot

Helen, You are a decent lady. Besides being talented in the art of acting, you understand very well other tools of filmmaking. Great.

So far so good. I like her simplicity & authenticity. I am seeing how she is connecting with me, eventhough she is speaking to lights in the dark


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!


Dear all, Does anyone want to discuss Brook´s Deadly Theater from THE EMPTY SPACE? At the end of the chapter, Brook uses a wheel metaphor to prove a point. I fail to understand his comparison.

Diana F.

so powerful! I love this lesson. yes as actors and actresses we are constantly being judged by EVERYONE. specially ourselves. thank you for such powerful lesson and i felt like im being understood and not the only one who feels insecure. it is only when we stop trying to pretend we are good trying to show others what we can do we can b free and truly reveal the vulnerability in ourselves through the characters


Revealing yourself, within the character. I love how she spoke about our own being and how it can reveal itself into the role we are playing. I also appreciate knowing "your not wrong", and that the right role will be there for you. Self-awareness is good, but not to alter every part of myself to fit the role that just simply wasnt ment to be mine. Thank you for your friendly reminder

Emmanuel C.

Love the part about revealing parts of yourself through the roles that one plays!! YOU ARE NOT WRONG! We live in a world so stuck on how we look, and it's important to ignore that and understand how unique each of us are. Loving this Masterclass!


Training the voice and developing the physical disciplines is what I missed in my training. Perhaps that is why I failed, or maybe I was down right lazy or worse, scared.

Liz C.

OWN YOUR OWN PHYSICALITY! This is such an important lesson. There are parts of ourselves that we can change and work on and improve on, and we should always strive to do so. But there are parts of ourselves, for better or for worse, that we cannot change. We have to remember to not waste the time trying in vain to alter those parts of ourselves. We are who we were destined to be.


For Lesson 3. This lesson tells us more specifically what to do in order to improve one's acting skill. And yet, they are actually encouragements for us e.g. "You are not wrong." "You are revealing parts of yourself through the character" is something I like to keep in my mind because your acting will have reality by doing so..not just "mimicking." Also, "working on one's voice" re-confirm the importance of practicing as a non-native English speaker. Otherwise it will be difficult to make oneself heard and understood by the audience.

Gisela S.

Absolutely loved this lesson. "You are not wrong" "Youre revealing parts of yourself through the character" "Listen to your instincts" "Work on your voice" Such important lessons that I will carry with me on my journey

gloria S.

"not hiding behind a role, but revealing oneself" That is wonderful! Anytime I tried to be someone other than myself, the directors noticed and encouraged me to be just me!