Meryl Streep opens up to PEOPLE about how she overcomes her jitters – and how it's helped her as an actor

By Mia McNiece
Updated August 09, 2016 05:30 PM
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Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty

Meryl Streep recently made a powerful speech in support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention, but the actress admits she had a bad case of stage fright before heading to the podium stage.

“I was so nervous,” the three-time Oscar winner tells PEOPLE. “When you have nerves about something you are hurtled back to being 13 and in 8th grade singing ‘Summertime’ and quivering in front of the whole school audience.”

The actress, 67, who is currently starring with Hugh Grant in Florence Foster Jenkins, says she is often more comfortable playing a role than being herself.

“Give me a character and I am perfectly fine,” she says. “When I have to be me, then I am 13 and my lip starts to wiggle.”

For more on Meryl Streep, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday

Luckily, Streep says she has found a way to overcome her stage fright.

VIDEO: Meryl Streep Thinks Amy Schumer Should Play Her in a Biopic

“The way I learn to do things is by imagining that I can do them. I remember I was learning to do a one-and-a-half twist off the diving board when I was 13. I was afraid to do it, and I imagined it happening and then just went and I did it.”

She adds that this helpful technique is also the key to being an actor.

“That is what actors do,” says Streep. “We imagine it and then it happens.”