Film & TV

Helen’s Journey in the Theater

Helen Mirren

Lesson time 8:50 min

Helen talks about the beginning of her career and the events that inspired her to become an actress, from an amateur production of Hamlet to a variety show in her hometown.

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 All-Access


I lived in a town that was like the British equivalent of Coney Island. So it was a seasidey place for people to go and have fun at the weekends, get drunk, put a funny hat on, have a fight, throw up, and go home. And that was a great night out. Anyway, it was that kind of town, and we had the longest pier in the world. And at the end of the pier they had a show. And I remember the name of the show. It was called Out of the Blue. And I was taken to see this show when I was about-- I guess I was about 7 or 8, something like that. And this show started. It was a variety show. And they had a comedian who was-- I just thought at the age of seven-- was just the funniest thing I had ever seen in my life. I literally remember falling off my seat with laughter. And then the dancing girls came on. And they had-- I'll never forget-- they had blue chiffon-- again, it was all about the costume. They had blue chiffon scarves and pink chiffon scarves. And they came on, and they floated their scarves around. And I was absolutely entranced. I went home on the train down the longest pier in the world after the show just feeling that a whole new world had opened up for me-- the world of entertainment if you like, the world of a darkened space with a group of people watching something where they're quiet, and they are transformed by it. They laugh, they clap. And that whole process just seemed to me just the most wonderful, magical thing. My mother took me to an amateur production of Hamlet which was, I'm sure, an extremely panned production. It was probably laughable, if a professional went to see it. But I wasn't a professional. I was a 12, 13-year-old girl and exposed for the first time to the world of imagination, and the world of drama, and the world of storytelling through drama. And it was a cataclysmic experience for me. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the romance of it, the beauty of the passion of it, the fantasy, the extremeness of it, coming out of my very dull, little world-- if you like-- that I lived in, very lacking in drama so to be exposed to these extraordinary characters and the language, even the language that I didn't at the time really understand. But I could tell there was something extraordinary in this language. My two great inspirations as an actor was an end of the pier show-- variety show-- and one of the greatest plays by the greatest playwright ever. But I think that that really indicates A, the breadth of what is available for us to do, and the fact that we shouldn't be snobby about any of it. Because it all feeds into that same filling up the empty space. That is a part of the great tapestry of what is available to us as actors. And I've always approached all of my work with the same kind of attitude, whether I'm doing Red or doing The Tempest. You're telling stories. You are entertaining. You are transporting people. And never ...

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.

Would have cordless inspiration in her look in her speech and her Talent... She is timeless classic and just phenomenal!!!! Cheers to this incredible woman who has had a strong and tremendously successful career for generations!!! Thank you so much for all of your inside and inspiration...loved every word!!!

Helen, I am truly blessed and honored to have had the access to such knowledge and reflection of your craft. Thank you, A. Tyler

I began this class during my audition process into the theatre schools of my region, and I have found it infinitely useful. It has given me a clear and inspiring idea of the field I am aiming to work in, and i truly hope that many others will, like me, benefit from Helen's sharing!

Helen is an inspiration! She is so generous with her ideas and thoughts. This masterclass is fascinating. Loved the parts on Shakespeare, costume, sets, working on film, working with writers, and so much more. Thank you so much Helen for sharing your experience and wisdom with us!


A fellow student

This gives me hope. I just started acting and me being 22, I felt alone and late to this but you have given me so much hope and enlightenment!!

Ana H.

I think that when you keep in mind that you are transporting people, you instantly develop a responsibility that is to create a place to transport the audience to. The only way you can do that is through actually creating life, you have to believe this place exists and live inside it.

Emmanuel C.

We do indeed tend to watch with a critical eye as actors, but the thing I struggle with sometimes is watching myself with a critical eye, which in my mind inhibits ones performance and risk taking. What a Lady Helen is! I am so inspired by her!


There was a time when all I wanted to do was acting. After a ton of frustration, lacking the ability to do a cold read, and not being able to project, I walked away from performing. I am visiting this class because I want to see what I missed.


For Lesson 1. Intended naturalness leads to unnaturalness or natural-less. Helen pointed out exactly the core of difficulty in acting. And actually this is what I did in the short term acting workshop I took the other day. Naturally the instructors did not like my acting at all. This put me in the starting position of learning how to act.

Patricia B.

I am always intrigued to hear how actors get their start. It usually seems to be something random that ends up catapulting them!

Mary R.

I love Helen's approachable and generous spirit with the material. Most appreciated the words about entertaining and transporting the audience through storytelling.


Beginning this masterclass experience with Hellen Mirren. I love the open honesty. As actors, we do have a critical eye....the jealous creatures gave me a giggle. Something I have learned is also to accept critical thinking and opinion on my work and use it to grow

A fellow student

This is very first On-line Video I m about learn for how to acting ! is just what I wonder ! how to walk natural ! merci dear Beloved Helen . I buy this master class because of you ! And it s open a new for me .

Vickie R.

Funny. Helen just reminded me of the time I performed in an amateur production of the song "Lemon Tree...Very Pretty," in our garage in front of the entire neighborhood. No wonder why the neighbors can't stand me. (Kidding). I had NO fear back then at a very young age and was game for anything. I then tried out at 15 for the school cheerleading squad and again NO fear of performing in front of a live audience. But at 20, that's when the fear and stage fright took hold and I butchered my cheerleading try outs at the local college here in Northridge. Stopped right in the middle of the routine which I knew by heart and simply forgot and froze and just stood there. It was so surreal and so unlike me to do that. Ever since I have not been able to give speeches or get up in front of a live audience. Don't know what triggered the stage fright in my later years but from what I hear I was a RIOT as a kid and the voted the Class Clown at my celeb studded highschool, until some jealous guy named JD got angry that he didn't make Class Clown and basically DETHRONED me!!!! True story. I think he bribed the school judges to take away the Class Clown title from me.