Have you ever sat down and watched an episode of Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio, or is your only experience with James Lipton been Will Ferrell's fantastic impersonation on NBC's Saturday Night Live? As good as it is, you are missing out if you have not listened to Lipton discuss acting and really break down the art behind the performance.
The show, which has aired for 19 seasons, has ben hosted and executive produced by Lipton (the dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School at New York's Pace University) since day one. The show is a rare chance to listen to actors talk about acting - not about who they are dating or wearing or whatever film they are trying to get you to spend some money on. The show is celebrating its 250th episode and Lipton, who is 86, is likely winding down. Cherish it while you still can.
"My resolve was to stick to craft, and it would not be a gossip show," said Lipton about the program. "But by asking those questions about craft, we blew the door off its hinges, and as a result, we have had, I think, some of the most revealing and intimate moments in the history of television. And it didn't make us dry. It asked people something about themselves that was of the deepest importance to them."
Lipton vividly remembers the first episode.
"I was in the makeup chair with my eyes closed, and I felt somebody put an arm on my shoulder," he said the way only he can. "I opened my eyes, and there right next to my head looking in the mirror at me was Paul Newman. I said to my makeup person: 'That's what God intended for me to look like. Time to correct the mistake. That's what I want to look like when I get out of this damn chair.' "
Inside the Actor's Stuido is now the second longest running series in the history of cable (behind MTV's The Real World) and has been nominatd for 15 Emmy Awards. Lipton is thankful he talked Bravo into taking a chance on the beloved series.
"My original pitch to Bravo was 'Look, these people are liable to say something worth preserving,' " he said. " 'That means it should be televised. The school can't afford it, but you can. Are you interested?' And Bravo took that existential leap of faith with me."