Inside the Actors Studio

Inside the Actors Studio
Starring James Lipton
Opening theme Angelo Badalamenti
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 22
No. of episodes 274 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) Jeff Wurtz
Running time 60 minutes; 120 minutes
Original network Bravo
Original release June 12, 1994 (1994-06-12) – present
External links

Inside the Actors Studio is an American television show on the Bravo cable television channel, hosted by James Lipton. It is produced and directed by Jeff Wurtz; the executive producer is James Lipton. The program, which premiered in 1994, is distributed internationally by CABLEready and is broadcast in 125 countries around the world reaching 89 million homes.[1] It is currently taped at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University's New York City campus.[2][3][4]

About the program

The program began as a televised craft seminar for students of the Actors Studio Drama School, originally a joint venture of the Actors Studio and New School University in 1994, with Paul Newman, a former Actors Studio president as its first guest, and soon became Bravo's flagship program.[2] At first taped at the New School's Tishman Auditorium in Greenwich Village, New York City, blocks away from Actors Studio's home in the theater district in midtown Manhattan, it was shifted subsequently to its present location, Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University's New York City campus. The program is presented as a seminar to students of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University.

The show deliberately uses a slower pace in the interviews as compared with a typical celebrity interview, thus cameras usually record a couple of hours of conversation, later edited to one or two hours, a trick used by Groucho Marx on his 1950s quiz show You Bet Your Life. The result, as a New York Times article put it, "In Mr. Lipton's guest chair, actors cease being stars for a while and become artists and teachers." Though sometimes, some interviews go longer; Steven Spielberg's 1999 visit, for example, stretched to four hours, and was later shown as two episodes of one hour each. The interviews are guided by Lipton's trademark index-card questions, which sometimes reveal his well-researched knowledge of guests' lives, often startling some. On one such occasion, Billy Crystal told Lipton, "You know you're scary, don't you?"[2][3] On another occasion, Martin Sheen asked Lipton, "How do you know all this? This is extraordinary." And Sir Anthony Hopkins, upon learning that Lipton knew the exact address where the former had been born and raised in Wales, turned to the audience and remarked, "He's a detective, you know."

In May 2005, the contract between the Actors Studio and New School University was not renewed. Beginning with the 12th season, in the fall of 2005, the program has been taped at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University's New York City campus. The show now has a new set with a gritty backstage feel, designed by Will Rothfuss for Blair Broadcast Designs, and The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University has re-opened in new facilities.

Since its premiere, Inside the Actors Studio has had over 200 guests, with Lipton himself being the 200th. The first episode's guest was Paul Newman (Alec Baldwin was the first guest, but his interview was broadcast after Newman's). The guests have included 74 Academy Award winners: eight directors; four screenwriters; 61 actors and actresses; and three composers. For its 200th show, Lipton became the guest subject of the show. He was questioned by Dave Chappelle, whom he picked personally. The show ended with the Pace University provost announcing that the college is sponsoring a scholarship in Chappelle's name to his high school alma mater. Based on the show, James Lipton published a book titled "Inside Inside" in 2007.[1]

In his review of the program, The Sunday Times critic A. A. Gill wrote: "The format is simple and idiotically inspired. The Actors Studio is the New York drama school made famous by Stanislavsky and his method (although the series is now filmed elsewhere). These shows are thinly set-up masterclasses for students. The cleverness is in the vanity it allows the guests, who are the very greatest and most self-regarding performers and creators of theatre and film. People who are too grand to talk to anyone will talk to Inside the Actors Studio. They believe they're giving something back, offering precious pearls of insight to a new generation. And who doesn't look good passing it on to adoring students? In truth, it's just a chat show on satellite, but the veil of education and posterity is held decorously high, so everybody turns up and talks with a smile."[5]

While most of the show is a one-on-one interview conducted by Lipton, this is followed by the host submitting a questionnaire to the guest. The questionnaire concept was originated by French television personality Bernard Pivot on his show Apostrophes, after the Proust Questionnaire. The 10 questions Lipton asks are:

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What sound or noise do you love?
  6. What sound or noise do you hate?
  7. What is your favorite curse word?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

The program usually concludes with a question-and-answer session with the students.

In France, the show has been broadcast since 1999 on Paris Première, with French subtitles.[6]

The show has been good-naturedly lampooned for Lipton's paused and somewhat clipped delivery on Saturday Night Live, in which Will Ferrell portrayed Lipton interviewing himself as an annoyed guest. He was also spoofed on The Simpsons, where character Rainier Wolfcastle (a parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger) shoots his interviewer and a dying Lipton croaks, "It has been both an honor and a privilege to eat your lead, sir." In another episode of The Simpsons, in which Homer donates a kidney, he single-mindedly rushes his family home so he can watch the Inside The Actors Studio interview of F. Murray Abraham. Ferrell, with his Old School co-stars Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and director Todd Phillips, again portrayed a satirical version of Lipton in a skit called "Inside the Actors Studio Spoof", which can be seen as part of the DVD release special features for the film. Ferrell appears as himself and answers questions poking fun at some of his less successful films, such as A Night at the Roxbury, in what is obviously a comedic take on Lipton's sometimes overly reverential approach to his interviewees. Comedian Will Sasso portrayed him on Mad TV and David Cross parodied him as Cyrus on Mr Show. Weird Al Yankovic's song Couch Potato describes "James Lipton discussing the oeuvre of Mr. Rob Schneider." amongst other things on TV.


Guest list for the show sorted alphabetically by last name. For a full list of episodes, see List of Inside the Actors Studio episodes.

























Cast notes
  1. Bradley Cooper was the first guest to have attended the Actors Studio as a student.
  2. James Lipton's episode was hosted by previous guest Dave Chappelle.
  3. Charlie Sheen was the second guest ever on the show who is a descendant of an earlier guest (Martin Sheen).
  4. Kiefer Sutherland was the first guest ever on the show who is a descendant of an earlier guest (Donald Sutherland).

Ensemble guests

Declined invitations

  • In January 2013, Jennifer Lawrence declined the chance to appear on the show, citing her youth and lack of experience.[9]
  • From the show's beginnings, Lipton had tried to persuade Marlon Brando to come on the show. Although a charter member of the Actors Studio, Brando flatly refused; speaking in a 2012 interview, it was the only such categorical rejection Lipton could recall:

"[B]y the time I started the show -- although he was a member of the Actor's Studio and had been trained by Stella Adler as I was; we knew each other, and we used to talk on the phone for hours at a time -- but by that time he was already reclusive. I couldn't get him out of the house and neither could anyone else."[10][lower-alpha 1]

  • Gregory Peck repeatedly turned down Lipton's offer to be interviewed ever since the beginning of the show, but he finally agreed to do so. However, he died before his scheduled appearance in 2003.[13]
  • From the show's beginnings, Lipton had tried to persuade Katharine Hepburn to come on the show. Although a member of the Actors Studio, she didn't want to interrupt her retirement from show business. Hepburn died on June 29, 2003, 17 days after Peck.[13]
  • Nicole Kidman, Jack Nicholson, Chevy Chase, Daniel Day-Lewis, Denzel Washington, Bill Murray, Warren Beatty and Sean Connery all declined the chance to appear on the show.[13]
  • When the program was based at New School University, Gary Oldman was selected as the most popular request for which guest should come visit the Actors Studio. As of 2015, he has not appeared on the show.[13]

DVD releases

Selected episodes of the show have been released by Shout! Factory. Three DVDs containing a single episode each feature Robin Williams, Johnny Depp, Dave Chappelle and Barbra Streisand. Two compilation sets were also released. Leading Men features Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, and Russell Crowe. Icons features Clint Eastwood, Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Barbra Streisand.


The show has been nominated for 16 Emmy awards, winning once.[14]


  1. Lipton's recollection notwithstanding, not only did Brando appear on Larry King Live more than a year after the debut of Inside the Actors Studio;[11] but also in four feature films and one music video.[12]


    Further reading

    External video
    Inside the Actors Studio
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