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Arts & Entertainment

Preparation and Rehearsal

Helen Mirren

Lesson time 18:06 min

Helen advises you on aspects of the preparation and rehearsal process, from learning your lines to working with a dialect coach to overcoming creative blocks.

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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You know the whole process of learning lines and how well you know them and if you don't really know them that well-- it's a very-- what's the word? It's a bit of a soup, really. Because I absolutely understand the theory-- because I haven't learned my lines talking to you. I didn't sit down and learn this stuff off by heart. If I did, I wouldn't be nearly as good at saying it as I am because I'd be trying to remember what comes next. It would be awkward, maybe, or I'd be delivering it in a weird way. And I certainly wouldn't say "um". But then you have to learn it, don't you? You have to learn it. The great thing is, if you've learned it so well, so immaculately, perfectly well, that you don't even have to think about it, that's ideal. And I have to say when I did The Tempest, I had to do that. And I've never done that before. I sat down for about two months before I started shooting and I learned that script from beginning to end. And I learned it incredibly well because with Shakespeare, you've got to be ahead of yourself. You can't be behind yourself. And I'm sure you guys know what I mean by "head of yourself", as opposed to "behind yourself", which is, as you're saying a line, you're aware of what the next line is, and the next line after that. So as it's passing you by, you're always ahead of yourself. If you're just behind yourself, what's the next line, what's the next line, what's the next line. Shakespeare, you can't play it because it's got to move. Modern stuff you can because you're allowed to pause and think and you look like you're thinking about your dead mother. You're actually thinking, what do I say next? But you can do that more in modern stuff. In procedural drama, obviously, it's not emotional stuff or is it poetic? It's, as they say, procedural. You're just literally having to remember and repeat facts. The only way to do that is to know the facts-- know them. So if someone questioned you, where was she on July the 4th at 3 o'clock in the afternoon? You say she was walking down that road. She was crossing that road, that the camera saw her. Or just to know what the facts are, and actually, knowing the facts is not that difficult if you see what I mean. And then, if you got that in your mind, then it's much easier to go forward with these long procedural sorts of things. But that stuff is difficult-- and an awful lot, I have to say an awful lot of American television is a little bit like that. It's, how can I put it? It's repeating facts, rather than scenes that play out, that have subtext or emotional context. I think if you're asked to do anything that you've never experienced, like, I don't know, giving birth, for example. I've never given birth. But I had to do a scene where I was giving birth at one point. Well, it's very simple. It's what you do normally-- is you just ...

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.

Being a working actor myself, it was great to compare notes with and also learn a few 'tricks' from Helen.

Fantastic! Beautiful! Honest! Great Lady! I am always learning and improving my life by understanding people's experiences, skills, and advice.

Fantastic Actress. She was so open sharing all her experience. She has a wonderful career and she's a deep actress. I loved all her classes. I will do all my classes again. There're so many interesting advicces. Thank you so much. Please, more and more actresses and actors like her.

I feel very grateful to Helen for sharing so much of her experience and I feel like it has given me more confidence as an actor to know where i'm on the right track and also what I can learn.


A fellow student

Will I remember my lines? Major anxiety. Thanks so learn the facts. and learn the lines exactly so I can be ahead of myself. That's a challenge. Doing research for experiences I haven't had is very appealing to me.. Discovery! Staying in accent all day sounds like fun. Interesting to know that one has to find one's own dialect coach. I thought it was provided for the good of the production. Good tip to have someone else try the line so one hears it in a new way. Okay to look in the mirror for one's makeup and costume (the building blocks), but avoid for delivery of lines that way. The part comes from within.

Madeline E.

I found this lesson really useful, particularly the advice about staying in the accent all day and the different ways to approach the preparation and rehearsal period.

Magdaléna P.

Thank you for this lesson. It was very useful to me. All my life i did the opposite. I was training my acting in from of a mirror. Now it is hard to get rid of the feeling that i do not see myself when i am training my acting. Thanks again Helen.

Barry C.

I love the bit about dialect coaching being an intimate experience. I recently delved more deeply into my character development with my dialect coach than I did with the director, or even with my own preparation. Once the director changed the direction I had been going with my accent, in my work with the coach, we did a deep-dive to determine why I was speaking differently than the others in my circle, not just how i was going to speak. Very interesting and helpful details of my character came to light during this work.

A fellow student

She's right about the experiences you've not had. Yes to research. Birth. Holocaust survivor., Mossad agent. Etc. All things some people have never gone through, have their views on what happens, so you should do a variety of research to get a colourful idea. The accents are interesting. It can add more depth to the character, as a wig, make up, etc would. Anything to help with bettering the story, as Helen would say....

R.G. R.

This is the kind of information that I've learned before, but when Helen Mirren says it, the information sounds new. This is one lesson that I will listen to again and again as a reminder of the practical elements of what it means to act.

Jill N.

How inspiring that last piece of advice is! Never act in front of your mirror - acting is all about what happens within you. Lose that self-consciousness and transform yourself completely into the role, that's what sets actors apart from ordinary people.


Achievement happens from doing your work, and doing it well. If you have to battle the darkside then do it. That vortex can be yucky, but it's there. If you have to learn and stablize an accent/dialect then do it. Research, memorization and practice is part of the work. It is what makes the actor. I didn't think about an accent having variations before... How did you learn an hold an American-Russian accent so quickly, when it's a Russian-British accent that you learnt? Can you do a Chinese-Russian accent?

Celene G.

For me so far this was the most interesting lesson, especially because of the teaching on accents and remembering your lines and not looking into the mirror. That feeling of playing a role as liberated as possible and then applying it to every other role you will play, I get it. Great advice. Ill probably watch this one over and over again.

Sylvie B.

Inn a professional singer and I'm not very good with music doesn't always help...