James Lipton

James Lipton tells the story of how Inside the Actors Studio began.

on Jun 24, 2008

In September, 1994, once we had assembled the full-time faculty of Studio members for our school, one category remained: those Studio members and colleagues whose lives were so circumscribed by their work schedules that they could give us, if they were willing to participate, only one evening. I set out to enlist them, sending dozens of letters, explaining and describing our school, and inviting them to come for one evening to teach our students. The response to my letter startled and heartened me. Paul Newman said yes, as did Alec Baldwin, Sally Field, Dennis Hopper, Shelley Winters, Sydney Pollack.

With a sheaf of acceptances in hand, I sent word back into the professional world from which I'd come. It was a simple message: "These are the people who are coming, and it's possible that they may say something worth preserving. The only way to preserve it is with cameras and microphones." In an existential leap of faith for which I'll be forever grateful, the Bravo cable network stepped forward. Now, suddenly, we were a master's degree program and a television series, owned, at my insistence, entirely by the Actors Studio, and licensed, like any other television series, by a network. The day after the contract negotiation was concluded, I got a call from a Bravo executive asking, "By the way, what's the series called?" "I've got someone on the other line. I'll call you back," I sputtered, and hung up. I had no one on the other line. What I had was a problem. In the burly-burly of putting together our TV staff and crew, and booking equipment--not to mention admitting our first academic class -- I hadn't paused to give "the series," as it was identified in the contract, a name.