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Helen Mirren’s Acting MasterClass Review

If you want to take an online acting class, there’s probably no better choice than Helen Mirren’s MasterClass. Read our honest review of the course to make sure it meets your needs.

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Helen Mirren Teaches Acting MasterClass: Our Verdict (2024)


4.5 / 5

Helen Mirren’s Acting MasterClass is focused on the fundamentals of acting. The critically acclaimed actress breaks down her approach and talks about characters, film acting techniques, preparation, props, and many other elements and tools that can help you hone your acting skills. The course contains 28 video lessons, which makes it one of the most in-depth acting classes available online.


  • Learning from a critically acclaimed actress
  • Detailed lessons
  • Immersive case studies
  • Useful class guidebook


  • Lack of theory and demonstrations

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Without a doubt, Helen Mirren is one of the greatest actresses of our time – and perhaps of all time. Whether you like her roles or not, Mirren’s acting skills and talent are undeniable, and her numerous accolades and awards confirm that as well.

But awards and accolades aside, there is something in Mirren’s approach to characters that helped her get to where she is now.

As I learned early in her MasterClass, she didn’t go to drama school, so she gained most of her skills through experience. But that only made me more interested in what she has to say about acting. I didn’t want to take traditional acting lessons; I wanted to hear what such an experienced actress has to say about her own method.

So, did Helen Mirren’s MasterClass meet my expectations, and what does it actually cover?

Who would I recommend it to?

I’ll tell you everything in the upcoming paragraphs.

Table of Contents

What is the Helen Mirren MasterClass?

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting” is an online course offered by MasterClass, a popular learning platform known for its team of world-leading instructors.

Dame Helen Mirren is an Oscar-winning actress known for her work both on stage and in film. She started out in the Royal Shakespeare Company in London and rose to fame during the seven seasons of the TV show Prime Suspect.

With a career spanning 60 years, Helen Mirren is one of the greatest actresses of our time. Her MasterClass captures the lessons she learned over the decades, covering acting fundamentals, techniques, case studies, and interesting personal stories.

The course contains 28 video lessons with a duration of 6 hours and 17 minutes. Compared to other similar courses, it’s a rather detailed and lengthy course that offers an in-depth look at the world of acting.

Helen Mirren speaking in her MasterClass

Who is Helen Mirren?

Helen Mirren is a critically acclaimed English actress. She is a recipient of numerous awards and accolades, and she is the only performer to have achieved both the American and the British Triple Crowns of Acting.

After leaving her mark on the National Youth Theatre, Helen Mirren was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. She made her West End stage debut in 1975 and continued to evolve as a theater actress.

She also appeared in a large number of films and TV shows, and some of her most memorable roles include Elizabeth II in The Queen, Mrs. Wilson in Gosford Park, and DCI Tennison in Prime Suspect.

Helen Mirren didn’t go to drama school, but she learned her craft at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and her experience, talent, and skills make her one of the most qualified instructors for an acting MasterClass.

Who is Helen Mirren’s MasterClass for?

Helen Mirren’s MasterClass provides a unique look at the world of film and theatre.

Mirren’s personal approach to acting is a result of her training at the Royal Shakespeare Company as well as her fondness for naturalism. But she has had a variety of different roles over the decades, so her method can be applied to a range of characters and genres.

That said, Mirren’s class is suitable for all types of actors, including theater and film actors.

Moreover, she covers the fundamentals of acting, but she also assumes her learners have a bit of experience. Beginners will probably benefit from her lessons the most, but even more experienced actors will find something for themselves.

Finally, anyone passionate about film, theatre, and Helen Mirren’s work would probably find this course insightful and entertaining. Some parts are heavily focused on acting techniques, but others include Helen’s experiences and behind-the-scenes stories.

The course is generally easy to follow, so you don’t have to be a drama student or Helen’s die-hard fan to enjoy it.

In any case, here are some of the people who would benefit from it the most:

  • Aspiring actors and drama students
  • Beginners
  • Admirers of Helen Mirren’s work
  • Theatre and movie lovers

What does Helen Mirren's MasterClass cover?

The course contains 28 video lessons, so it’s fair to say that it’s pretty thorough.

Of course, even 6 hours isn’t enough to cover all the basics, but it provides a nice foundation on which to build.

Importantly, it includes Helen Mirren’s personal views and secrets of the trade, which isn’t something you can come by so easily.

Helen’s class is a nice blend of the lessons she learned throughout her career and more general and somewhat abstract discussions related to the craft.

To make things more clearer, here is a brief overview of all the lessons:

  • Lesson 1 is an introductory lesson where Helen introduces herself and sets the tone for the course.
  • Lessons 2-3 delve deeper into Helen’s career and depict her journey as a theater actress.
  • Lesson 4 contains Helen’s tips for auditioning, choosing roles, and assessing a role.
  • Lesson 5 deals with scripts and effective ways of tackling a large volume of material at once.
  • Lessons 6-7 cover Helen’s process for breaking down a Shakespeare passage, including the interpretations of Portia’s “Quality of Mercy” (speech from The Merchant of Venice) and “Our Revels” from The Tempest.
  • Lessons 8-10 are focused on characters and research regarding both real and fictional characters.
  • Lessons 11-14 expand the lessons about characters and show how hair, makeup, and costume help actors get into their roles.
  • Lesson 15 deals with preparation and rehearsal.
  • Lesson 16 is focused on human behavior and the importance of creating a toolbox of experiences.
  • Lessons 17-19 cover film acting techniques.
  • Lessons 20-22 include case studies of Elizabeth I, Prime Suspect, and The Queen.
  • Lessons 23-25 contain behind-the-scenes shots of the film set and Helen’s tips on how to personalize your character’s space.
  • Lesson 26 is focused on creating successful relationships with writers and directors.
  • Lesson 27 contains Helen’s final thoughts and advice for young actors.
  • Lesson 28 is a bonus lesson where Helen talks about naturalism and film actors who had a big influence on her.

My favorite parts of Helen Mirren’s MasterClass

This is arguably one of the longest and most detailed MasterClasses I’ve taken so far. And since I’m not an actress – I’m just a writer interested in creative insights and methods behind artistic crafts – I did feel a bit overwhelmed at times.

However, if you’re a drama student, an aspiring actor, or a Helen Mirren fan, I’m sure you would take a lot out of this course.

Each lesson has something interesting to offer, but from my perspective, here are some of the lessons that stand out.

Finding your character

Helen Mirren speaking in her MasterClass
Helen Mirren discussing the role and purpose of every actor

According to Helen, real life is always more interesting than anything we can invent. The world is full of characters, so as an actor, you can draw inspiration from the people around you.

But in order for your performance to make sense, you also need to create a solid base. To do that, you need to know the backstory and the psychology of the character.

Another thing that helps Helen create a believable character is finding a secret message within a story.

Human behavior

Helen Mirren speaking in her MasterClass
It’s important for actors to learn essential human behaviors

If you want to be a good actor, you need to learn the essential human behaviors and create a toolbox that you’ll use throughout your acting career.

In this insightful lesson, Helen talks about common challenging experiences actors usually need to face in front of the camera or on stage: surprise, physical pain, nudity, sex, sleeping, being drunk, and dying.

Acting on a film set

Helen Mirren speaking in her MasterClass
A look at the film set

In this lesson, Helen explains what acting on a film set is really like. She walks you through shooting a scene and tackles the details you need to think about when facing the camera or another actor.

She also talks about the depth of concentration that an actor has to have at particular moments and emphasizes the importance of imagination in acting.

Last but not least, she talks about the value of getting to know the crew and being aware of everything that happens on set. 

How much does the MasterClass cost?

MasterClass is a subscription-based learning platform, so it’s not possible to purchase courses individually. If you want to take this MasterClass, you have to become a subscriber.

The standard annual plan has been renamed "Plus" and is available at $120 a year (which makes it $10 per month, billed annually), and now provides access to all MasterClass courses on two devices instead of one. The Premium plan, providing access for up to six devices costs $240 per year.

A MasterClass subscription gives you unlimited access to a catalog of 200+ classes, so if you want to take multiple classes throughout the year, the subscription is definitely worth it, and there are pleny of interesting courses on related topics to explore.

Also, the platform offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you’re not happy with your learning experience, you can request a full refund.

Note that the "Standard" membership, priced at $72 per year, only gives you access to their short-form learning content – none of their full MasterClasses are included.

What I liked about Helen Mirren’s MasterClass

Honestly, I didn’t find Helen’s class as captivating as some other MasterClass, but I assume that’s because I don’t strictly belong to the course’s target audience. Nevertheless, I always hope to find some inspiration and new perspectives in such classes. And this time was no different.

This course gave me a lot to chew on, and Helen’s lessons and stories can bring many benefits to actors and non-actors alike.

So, all in all, I’m glad I decided to take this course.

After all, how often do you get a chance to learn from one of the greatest actresses of our time?

Now, here are some of the specific reasons why I enjoyed the class and why I would recommend it to fellow creatives.

Learning from a critically acclaimed actress

Once again, Helen Mirren is an experienced, critically acclaimed actress, and both film and theatre actors can learn a lot from her.

She turned out to be a good teacher as well, and I think she took the responsibility to teach this MasterClass very seriously.

Also, at the very beginning of the course, she demonstrated a seemingly simple act that’s also one of the hardest things for an actor to do: walking naturally. By doing this, Helen announced that this wasn’t going to be yet another standard acting course. 

So, although she covered Shakespearean speeches and basic film acting techniques, she also managed to create rather unconventional acting classes.

Detailed lessons

With a duration of more than 6 hours, Helen’s MasterClass is rather detailed. It covers a lot of ground, from acting fundamentals to case studies.

I think it’s great that Helen took her time to come to a certain conclusion. She would let her mind wander a bit, though, and some of the things she said were rather abstract, but the main point and key takeaways of the course were always clear.

Immersive case studies

Case studies that provide an in-depth look at a certain scene or role are always fun to watch.

Since there were no detailed discussions or group workshops, case study lessons offered a nice refreshment after a round of more technical lessons. 

Useful class guidebook

The accompanying class guidebook is a great supplement to Helen’s class. It features reviews, assignments, and suggested resources, so it can help you get a better understanding of everything Helen talked about in the course.

Drawbacks of Helen Mirren’s MasterClass

There are, however, some things that could be improved.

Lack of practical explanations

At times, Helen’s explanations would get pretty abstract or vague. For instance, when talking about finding a secret message within a story, she didn’t exactly say how she did it.

There were many other moments where she didn’t provide any practical advice. So, although I enjoyed her artistic, often conceptual ideas and ramblings, I think any aspiring actor or student would benefit a lot from some extra tips and examples.

Review conclusion: Is Helen Mirren’s MasterClass worth it?

All things considered, I think Helen Mirren’s MasterClass is definitely worth taking.

It’s a detailed and well-rounded course ideal for drama and film students as well as experienced actors who want to learn Helen Mirren’s secrets of the trade.

Helen Mirren is obviously an incredibly talented and experienced actress, but she is also passionate and entertaining, all of which make her a fantastic MasterClass instructor.

She does tend to get a bit abstract at times, and more practical tips and examples would make her points even clearer. But I guess it all comes down to your preferences and expectations.

In any case, this MasterClass offers a fascinating, in-depth look at Helen Mirren’s career and acting techniques, providing valuable knowledge and tips for anyone who wants to hone their acting skills.