James Lipton, the creator, executive producer and longtime host of Bravo’s interview series Inside the Actors Studio, died today of bladder cancer at his home in Manhattan. He was 93.
His wife, Kedakai Mercedes Lipton, announced his death.
From 1994 until his retirement in 2018, Lipton interviewed some 300 actors about their careers, training and the acting life on the Emmy-winning talk show. Known for his extensive research – detailed on the collection of index cards he kept at the ready – the genial, professorial and ever-curious Lipton would conduct his Q&As holding those many blue cards he carried onto the set.
With a studio audience of Actors Studio Drama School students – Bradley Cooper appeared on the show both as a questioning student and as a movie star – the one-hour program featured big-name actors who often seemed moved by Lipton’s loving attention to even their most obscure works.
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Lipton announced his retirement from the show in 2018, timed to coincide with the show’s 2019 move from its longstanding home on Bravo to Ovation TV. The latest incarnation of Inside The Actors Studio – part of the master’s degree program at the Actors Studio Drama School of Pace University – features a rotating roster of guest hosts.
Pace University President Marvin Krislov said in a statement today, “James Lipton was a great writer and actor, a great interviewer, and, most important, a great teacher. He was a revered leader of the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University, and we are all deeply saddened by this loss. We send our condolences to his wife, Kedakai, and we know that his legacy will live on in the generations of actors he inspired.”
Lipton served as the creator and Dean of Pace’s Actors Studio program from 1994-2004, and the Dean emeritus since 2005.
Though his interviews were exhaustive, Lipton made a point of keeping the questions on the craft and study of acting, strictly avoiding anything remotely tabloid. “I made a vow early on that we would not deal in gossip — only in craft,” Lipton said upon his retirement announcement.
The Bravo run included more than 200 episodes and the series earned 20 Emmy nominations — its lone win came in 2013 for Outstanding Informational Series or Special. Lipton won a Critics’ Choice Award for hosting in 2016.
With his carefully trimmed beard and spectacles, Lipton was the very image of the erudite, know-it-all professor, an image the self-deprecating host was known to embrace. “I think he’s got me cold,” Lipton once told CNN of Will Ferrell’s pompous Saturday Night Live version of the host.
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