From Helen Mirren's MasterClass

Evolving as a Theater Actress

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

Topics include: Train Your Voice • Finding Freedom With Peter Brook • Taking Control • Own Your Physicality


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

Topics include: Train Your Voice • Finding Freedom With Peter Brook • Taking Control • Own Your Physicality

Helen Mirren

Teaches Acting

Learn More


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. [CHUCKLES] 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.

I have learned very much about not thinking that I am not permitted to be a part of the stars scene, when I work with them. That was very eyeopening for me. From now on I will not be star stroked hopefully again :-)

This has been an incredible class! So much insight and it was all a joy to learn. Thank you!

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

From a writer-directors point of view, this will help me work more closely with actors, i believe this artform is a lot like music, drummers singers working together, bouncing ideas and elevating to shift the performance to maybe something new, This class with her kicked some real ass.



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!

Mary R.

...always revealing something about myself in a role. This really stood out to me.

Kara F.

I feel like her lessons translate so well into every aspect of life. Specifically the end of this lesson on owning your physicality and yourself...beautiful.

Katharina B.

Really enjoyed Ms. Mirren. What a gift. Thank you, you have given me some things to think about. Katharina

A fellow student

I could listen to Helen all day. Her stories are fabulous, with some good suggestions. However - I would have loved some actual tips and exercises on HOW to train your voice. I thought that's what we were paying for here. She mentions that drama courses can be pricey and not always beneficial - I agree. Disappointed in lack of 'technical' sharing at this point.

A fellow student

Enjoy anything she does. What a powerhouse this woman is! She gives good advice that can be translated to writing, and to life in general. She should have gone into psychotherapy, not teaching.