Nearly 25 years after its debut on Bravo, “Inside the Actors Studio” is swapping networks — and hosts. Ovation TV is set to announce Monday morning that it has sealed a new deal with the Actors Studio to become the new home and producer of the long-running interview series.
As part of the announcement, series creator, host and executive producer James Lipton has announced that he is retiring. Lipton will be replaced by a rotating list of celebrity guest hosts until a permanent guest host is eventually identified.
The new “Inside the Actors Studio” season won’t premiere on Ovation until fall 2019, giving the network time to stockpile at least 10 episodes to air as a full season.
“For years, we’ve been very interested [in the show], but the timing never quite came together,” said Scott Woodward, executive vice president of programming and production at Ovation. “Three months ago it all seemed to work out all at once.”
Meanwhile, Bravo said the channel decided to end its relationship with the show in the wake of Lipton’s retirement.
“Inside the Actors Studio was Bravo’s first original series, getting 19 Emmy nominations and an Emmy win over the last 24 years, and it will always be a part our family,” the network said in the statement. “We’ve had a legendary run with Jim and we’ve all enjoyed his unique interview style, comprehensive research, intimate conversations and his impact on pop culture. With Jim at the helm, the series became a must stop for A-List Hollywood and creative talent. Now that there will be a new host, we felt it was time to close this chapter and pass the baton.”
As part of the deal, Ovation will also have access to older episodes in the “Inside the Actors Studio” library, and the network plans to re-clear rights from those episodes and air them, alongside the new episodes, next fall.
“We’re going to view it as a tentpole, and we’ll end up building some content around it,” Woodward said. “As America’s only arts network, this fits into our DNA. I look at the earlier episodes of ‘Inside the Actors Studio’ and it is truly a master class.”
“Inside the Actors Studio” was the last holdover on Bravo from the channel’s earlier focus on the fine arts — essentially, how Ovation now markets itself. When “Inside the Actors Studio” launched in 1994, Bravo called itself “The Film and Arts Network.”
The final Bravo episode of “Inside the Actors Studio,” featuring a conversation with Ted Danson, aired Jan. 11. The network maintains rights to the last six years of “Inside the Actors Studios” episodes, but older installments will be available for Ovation to run.
Ovation will now produce the show with the Actors Studio, as well as hold exclusive linear and digital rights to new episodes of “Inside the Actors Studio” in both the U.S. and internationally. The series will continue to be filmed at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University’s New York City campus.
More than 200 actors, performers and directors have been showcased on “Inside the Actors Studio,” including Paul Newman, Sally Field, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crystal, Meryl Streep, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, Barbra Streisand, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, George Clooney, Sally Field, and more. The show won an Emmy for outstanding informational series or special in 2013, and Lipton was named best host at the 2015 Critics Choice Awards.
“It’s very gratifying to see the legacy of ‘Inside The Actors Studio’ being carried forward for a new generation to appreciate and enjoy,” Lipton said in a statement. “I made a vow early on that we would not deal in gossip — only in craft, and Ovation, as a network dedicated to the arts, will continue that tradition with the next seasons of the series. I’m excited to see the new hosts engage with the guests and students and continue to entertain viewers in the U.S. and around the world.”
Woodward said Lipton’s future involvement would be “determined based on his availability. But we’d love to have him involved.”
The departure of “Inside the Actors Studio” at Bravo comes as the network brings back another show from its past, “Project Runway,” although with new hosts. Meanwhile, for Ovation, the “Actors Studio” news comes as the network prepares to launch the final season of its signature scripted drama, “Versailles,” next month.
“Over the years this series has had a profound impact on the Studio’s MFA program at Pace University,” said Actors Studio co-president Ellen Burstyn. “I know my co-presidents, Alec Baldwin and Al Pacino, and our Board of Directors, share my enthusiasm that Ovation has come on board to continue this enduring legacy.”