Chapter 2 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Helen’s Journey in the Theater


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.

Topics include: Showgirls and Shakespeare • Early Training and Opportunities • Learning to Swim at The Royal Shakespeare Company

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.

Topics include: Showgirls and Shakespeare • Early Training and Opportunities • Learning to Swim at The Royal Shakespeare Company

Helen Mirren

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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Find freedom in your roles

Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony winner Helen Mirren is one of the greatest actresses of our time. In her first online class, she discusses the dualism that is core to her method: the necessity for mastering technique (craft) and then letting go so that your imagination can take over (art). Learn how to break down a script, research characters, and master techniques so you can transcend them to find freedom in every role.

Helen brings you behind the scenes to show you the secrets of her acting technique.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Helen will also critique select student work.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

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

Fantastic class! I learned so much about the art of acting and more broadly, about the art of filmmaking. I highly recommend this experience with Helen Mirren!

I'm an instinctive actor... I haven't been to any acting school to learn acting so Helen's Masterclass has been my first coaching from a Master. It has helped me with some very fine suggestions that I am sure would help me when I do bigger and significant roles over a period of time in Bollywood and Hollywood. Thanks you Masterclass team and Helen!

This was really a stellar class. I learned many valuable lessons and was introduced to fabulous exercises and perspectives. It is the first class I have completed on Masterclass and is a testament to why Masterclass is so incredible. Helen Mirren especially is a fabulous instructor and she spoke with wisdom, poise and humility and made her class more than I could have asked for.


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.

Kathleen L.

In a way my journey began much like Dame Helen's. During the summer between second and third grade (I was just about to turn 8) my mother took me to see Marlon Brando and James Mason in "Julius Caesar." I was horrified by the assassination, but heartbroken when Brutus died. I hated Mark Antony with the fire of a thousand suns! Of course the brilliant performances of the actors had everything to do with these feelings. Then during the school year my third grade class went to a student concert at the University of Arizona. For the event we had to learn to sing an English translation of The Triumphal March from "Aida." The student dance company also performed, and it was all very grand. At least my 8-year-old self thought so! I have loved opera and musical theater ever since.

Brexton O.

The first time I saw a live acting performance that genuinely moved me was when I saw The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at my high school. The actress who played Olive was amazing. During one of the scenes when she sang about her parents I teared up and the person next to me started full on crying. That person next to me ended up becoming my best friend and it felt very special when I found out a few weeks later that both him and I had made it into the same Repertory acting class that the actress who played Olive was in. That's what I think is so amazing about theatre and acting, that a performance can make an audience member feel emotion so intensely.


Lesson 2 : Great Honesty. We ARE a strange race of jealous but loving creatures, we thespians! Great advice, to watch and learn with adoration BUT with a critical eye. I would have liked a little more depth into HOW Helen worked on her roles, a greater explanation into her mention of the "Mantra" technique and I am hoping this will be covered in more detail later. Helen makes it sound very easy. She auditioned and was accepted and was also invited to join wonderful establishments - clearly great testament to her talent and her character - but many audition for years before winning these opportunities and some never win even though they too have great qualities. I wonder if it may be better to tell us of her experiences, yes, but also address more broadly? And, I'm afraid, I found some comments unnecessary in this lesson that will not further the education intended - with the risk of sounding "snobby", also remember that there are amateurs - both good and bad - that will find some Professional work "laughable". Looking forward to the next lesson.

Dona I.

I LOVE this!!! My mom says that when I learned to talk, I told her I was going to be on the screen, big and little. I had a drama coach tell me, when I was in highschool, that I would never be a successful actress. I currently have 3 films under my belt, working on 2 more and I have 2 televisions series that are in pre production. I think I will be okay, but I want to be better than okay. I dream bigger and bigger and I am so excited to see where this journey takes me.

Ryan R.

Ever since I was a little kid watching actors or actresses on the big screen, it has always inspired me to become one too. The process of grabbing the emotions of the audience and making them feel a certain way is something I will never forget and thrive to impact others in just that way. This has always been my dream and I'm so excited to begin this journey.

shantelle H.

Movies have always been a huge part of my life, and someday I hope to give back everything I feel they have given me.


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 ...