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Arts & Entertainment

Scene Studies: Physical Gesture

Natalie Portman

Lesson time 06:51 min

Natalie shares three performances by actors who have inspired her, breaking down thow they use physical movement to reveal character in surprising ways.

Natalie Portman
Teaches Acting
Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman shares the techniques at the heart of her acting process—and teaches you how to tackle your next role.
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Make every role extraordinary

Natalie Portman began acting professionally at 12 and won an Oscar before she turned 30. As a self-taught actor, she uses personal techniques to create compelling, complex characters. In her first-ever acting class, Natalie shows how empathy is at the core of every great performance, how to bring real-life details into every role, and how to build your own creative process. Get ready for your breakout performance.


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

I I am not an actor. But I enjoy thinking about what goes into acting preparation. Natalie Portman was so prepared for these masterclasses. I knew she was intelligent and articulate. It was a real joy to learn her approach to acting. And great also to experience it along with the other actor Materclasses. What a rich opportunity MC is.

I loved listening to her. Thank you Masterclass!

I have learnt more about the thought processes and efforts that make great acting. Also, how to expand my creative capacity when doing so!

I loved this masterclass with Natalie Portman. I've been an actress for 15 years while raising my daughter. Now that she's grown, I need to pursue this love I have for filmmaking further.


A fellow student

Such good suggestions... the gestures...doing something instead i=of just being quiet waiting to speak your lines. Going with the flow with accidents and how your character might respond. The texture is getting rich.

Stuart G.

Grafton Australia Interesting how actors can improvise with the physicality of a performance the gestures as apposed to what you'd expect was going to happen.

Inge V.

My keynotes: - “What are the gestures that you can add to moments to make them a little juicier, a little bit more fun to watch, and a little bit more eccentric?” These gestures say more about the human being that you are. - “Chose to embrace the unexpected, so you should be so grounded in your character. The more you are able to go with the flow as you’re acting, the better your chances are of making new discoveries about your character.” Flow with accidents and don’t just say you want to start over. Use it to show how your character is dealing with a real-life situation. - “Making specific physical choices within your actions is another way to highlight a character’s emotion in a scene. Sometimes we react to situations in life unexpectedly, and different emotions manifest in different ways in different people.” Everybody reacts differently to situations. Show how your character would react to a situation by doing the unexpected. - “Be specific with your choices no matter how small or short the moment, especially with in-between moments.” Things that seem like nothing in a scene, you can make interesting. It can say something about how your character specifically would behave in a situation.

Sara R.

I think we could all learn from this, even the most experienced actor still has things he or she needs to evolve from. I will certainly remember this episode of Natalie Portman’s MasterClass.


Wow. This really shows that actors can bring something more to a scene than what stands in a script.

tobias T.

I recently played a detective who was shot in the hip and the physicality that I carried through the movie really helped inform the audience and it really connected to the audience. It was really nice to see the added layer that turned out to be subtle but very powerful in my performance. It resonated.

Allison F.

I love this because it is a teacher not only for acting but for life as well. The small moments, the caught gestures, the moments of surprise are what make life so rich and beautiful. However, in terms of theatre (and, for me, writing) keeping in mind that these seemingly spontaneous or subtle moments can also inform my writing, giving clues to actors or readers. In terms of performance, it is really wonderful to hear Natalie share the times when gifted actors expose their creativity.

A fellow student

The way a character moves or how in certain moments he or she can use their hands or whole body to convey an emotion complemenst the performance as a whole

Michèl N.

I`m wondering how an actor would feel if those little details, like "watching herself in the window and arranging her hair" are actually written down in a screenplay? Would it annoy anyone who is reading it because of the micro-managing? Would it limit the freedom of an actor, or is it suitable to ignite a spark to find a more creative way of expressing something?

Kristine K.

This is where my study of comedy improv comes handy...when things go wrong I am so used to not having a script and improvising I use that when I am in a scripted scene. Meryl Streep knew how to steal that scene. ;-)