James Lipton

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

on Jun 24, 2008

Now, seated at my desk at the school, brow knotted, I asked myself, "What is it called?" I was still covering a sheet of foolscap with names -- Onstage! -- Lights! Camera! Action!--Backstage--when the phone rang. The network executive's voice trembled. "Listen --we've got a TV Guide deadline! If we don't tell them what it's called right now, the Bravo space'll be blank!" The words came out instantly and automatically: "Inside the Actors Studio." "Got it! I'll tell Publicity." I hung up and wondered why it was called Inside the Actors Studio. "Well," I told myself, "it's obvious: you're inviting all these people inside the Actors Studio to teach the Studio's students, and the public's being invited inside the Actors Studio to witness the interaction." It may have been obvious to me, but it hasn't been obvious to every member of our television audience. I still get viewer letters from self-appointed custodians of the Studio's torch demanding to know whether Anthony Hopkins and Martin Scorsese and Robert Redford and Vanessa Redgrave are Studio members, and, if not, what are they doing there! All I can do is sigh and say, (A) I wish they were members, and (B) I'm eternally grateful to them for interrupting their busy schedules to come inside the Actors Studio to teach our students, whose education would be the poorer for want of their instruction.

So, if you were wondering, that's how our show was born, and how it got its slightly ambiguous name -- and why, fourteen years later I am as excited each time a guest walks onstage as I was that first night in 1994 when Paul Newman did.