If you were watching Bravo at 8 P.M. on Sept. 28, as we launched our Seventeenth Season, you were privileged to see Betty White, dispensing the wit, wisdom and, yes, sex appeal of her 88 ½ years (she's always meticulous about including that ½ - like a kid who wants you to know that she's six and a half years old). That's part of Betty's charm–-an eager, childlike enthusiasm that meets life head on, with an open mind and heart, ready for anything.
Next on our schedule as we've continued our march through the Seventeenth Season, have been Bradley Cooper and James Franco, two of the most gifted and celebrated actors of their generation-–which is to say, they could be Betty's grandchildren! If I may sound a note in praise of Inside the Actors Studio, this illustrates one of the series' virtues: its sweeping range, bringing to our stage, and to television screens in 94,000,000 homes in America and 125 countries around the world, all the hues, aspects, ages, races, genders, ethnicities and ideologies that make up the dazzling rainbow of our profession.
In the case of Bradley Cooper, there is an additional element, a first after more than 250 guests. One of the most frequent questions I'm asked by interviewers, is, "Who is the guest you want the most?" My answer is invariable: "Since I'm the founding dean of the Actors Studio Drama School, of which Inside the Actors Studio is a class, the night that one of our graduates has achieved so much that he or she walks out and sits down in that chair facing me will mean more to me than any moment since this journey began."
Bradley Cooper is that graduate-–a member of the Actors Studio Drama School, Class of 2000-–and I was his dean. When he walked out on our stage to the frenzied cheers of our Actors Studio Drama School students and the rest of the 700 people in our packed house at Pace University, my prediction came true: the two of us were too choked up to speak for more than a minute.
Later in the evening, as Bradley spoke about his experience in our school, his emotions once again flooded to the surface as he exclaimed, "This is sacred! This is sacred! This is sacred!"
There were as many laughs as tears as we roamed through his remarkable career, from The Hangover to his newest film, The Dark Fields, in which he co-stars with his fellow Actors Studio member Robert DeNiro (yes, upon graduation, Bradley was admitted to the inner circle of the Studio itself). But you can see every sizzling minute of his return to his alma mater – one of the most emotional experiences in the history of Inside the Actors Studio - when the Bradley Cooper episode airs next Spring with the release of The Dark Fields.
Next on our stage was James Franco. Like Bradley, he is one of the most respected members of his generation, and, as you probably know, there's buzz, mounting to a roar, about an Oscar nomination for his stunning performance in 127 Hours. And, like Bradley, he also has a connection to the Actors Studio, since his breakthrough role was as James Dean, one of the Studio's most famous icons. And he's just been announced as co-host of the Oscars!
As with Bradley, there were lines around the Pace campus, clamoring to get into the Franco taping. You may have seen the newspaper stories that rocketed around the country last week, beginning with, "James Franco just made history on Inside the Actors Studio. Tickets to see J.F were in such demand that the staff literally rejected a record number of people. As for the interview, set to air next month, we're told Franco was such an awesome guest that, one source told us, 'After the taping, James stayed another hour and talked to every single person who wanted a personal moment with him,' which host James Lipton said, 'hasn't happened since Paul Newman, our first guest, was here seventeen years ago.'"
You won't have to wait 'til Spring to see this episode. It airs December 7th. Miss it at your peril.
Our next guest? Jim Carrey. That's right, Jim Carrey, coming to our stage after a courtship that began when we opened our doors in 1994. We haven't taped it yet, but whatever will transpire will be on Bravo, waiting for you, on January 4th. Need I repeat? Miss it at your peril. We are, in the immortal words of Jim Carrey as The Mask, "Smokin'!!!"
Since we’re celebrating the Seventeenth Season, I'd like to observe that 'some of the greatest shows in television history have managed to stay on the screen for seven years, in rare instances eight. Only one cable series has had a longer run than Inside the Actors Studio's seventeen years – thanks to you, the readers of this blog and viewers of this show.
Not bad for a series that has never claimed to be anything but a class in a masters degree program, the Actors Studio Drama School of Pace University, of which, to bring this blog full circle, Bradley Cooper is a graduate.