Chapter 15 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Preparation and Rehearsal

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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.

Topics include: Learning Your Lines • Know the Facts • Research Experiences You Haven't Had Firsthand • Stay in Accent All Day • Find a Dialect Coach Who Doesn't Try to Act • Overcoming Creative Blocks • Try It Another Way • Never Rehearse in Front of a Mirror

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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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

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.

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Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting