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.
Get Started


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.

She was professional by all means . I hope her advice might help in acting career as well as writing . Thank you Helen

This course was insightful and worth the hours put into completing it.

The part where I learned the most was the part about props and dressing the set. I also loves the part about the crew and maintaining focus at the start of a shoot. All the parts about Shakespeare wanted to make me get out out my old copy (and unread) copy of Julius Caesar and read it from cover to cover. A great class... missing a few students, but a great class, without a doubt.

This class was simply amazing. Thank you so much. I really appreciated everything Helen said and demonstrated. Got a ton of useful advice. Awesome!


Mia P.

This lesson was really great. A part that really stuck out to me is when she was talking about how ourselves and how "to be an actor, you have to be the you that you are." It's so true, you need to be yourself in order to act because when it comes down to it we are playing characters on top of ourselves.

Rob H.

Hey guys this lesson is great I never thought about training my voice like this! if anyone is keen to set up a group as she suggests let me know :)

Madeline E.

I have little training in the way of voice at the moment so this is a great insight into how I can learn and develop further

A fellow student

I enjoyed this lesson, too. i love her sincerity and desire to share her life and love for her work. And I love her acting ...''the smell of the stage'' ... this lesson and words spoke to me.. pleased to meet all of you greetings from Milan

Judy H.

I enjoyed this lesson very much. Ms. Mirren is very modest about her talent and therefore, is most endearing to listen to because she is such a wonderful actor. But per her advice, I wondered where to go for the voice training. I am a beginning actor and I do not know how to sort out qualified instructors. My budget is very limited-as is all actors :) so I must make any financial decision very carefully and it would be good to know how to choose a good instructor without wasting a good deal of money.

Dianne F.

I love listening to her speak. She's very inspirational and while I'm listening to her, I feel more like I'm listening to an in depth interview rather than learning anything or being in an actual class. For example, she says earlier on, getting proper voice training is very important. I studied with folks at the RSC and it was so extremely helpful. Get voice training. OK...but it would be so great if Helen could tell us what she learned all those years in her voice training. Actual warm ups, vocal techniques, how long she did them for, what they helped her with specifically, or maybe even bring a voice expert in for this one lesson to teach along side her. I feel this way with a lot of Master Class things...they feel like interesting, wonderful interviews that inspire, but ...I want to feel like I'm in an actual class learning specific, tangible tools and things I can use to move forward.

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.