James Lipton may have retired, but his spirit lives on in the new season of “Inside the Actors Studio.” The brilliant concept — actors and directors discuss their work in front of a live audience of eager young acting students — has attracted countless talents from across genres, including Lauren Bacall, Meryl Streep, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, and the entire main voice cast of “The Simpsons.”
For the first season sans-Lipton on its new home at Ovation (it previously aired on Bravo), the venerated series is changing up the format: Guests will now be interviewed by fellow actors or directors. The new season includes Laura Dern in conversation with Greta Gerwig; Al Pacino speaking to Ellen Burstyn; and Pedro Pascal interviewing Willem Dafoe. For this Sunday’s episode, “Inside the Actors Studio” has David Oyelowo sitting down with Jane Lynch.
A longtime fan of the series, Lynch jumped at the opportunity to host, even though she had some pretty big shoes to fill.
“If I thought for a moment that I was stepping into James Lipton’s shoes, I would have never done it,” Lynch said in an in-person interview following the April taping. “He just set the mold for this in a genius way. … What is so wonderful about James Lipton is his natural curiosity and respect for the craft, and his knowledge. He’s a walking encyclopedia of theater history and film history. He’s got not only a professorial love of this, but a true respect for the craft of acting.”
Lynch trained at a theater conservatory program before becoming involved in Chicago’s Second City, and eventually earning her big breakout in Christopher Guest films such as “Best in Show.” Her serious theatrical background gave her much common ground with Oyelowo, the British actor who studied at prestigious London conservatory LAMDA.
“I’ve done nothing but immerse myself in David’s work, and he is an amazing actor. He’s so talented, has such a range, and he’s so smart and committed. And this is before I even talked to him, just from the work and the depths that he goes to in every role,” Lynch added.
Not only that, but throughout the nearly 90-minute long discussion, Oyelowo was able to discuss the intricacies of his acting process in ways both enlightening and entertaining.
“He absolutely has the genius capability of expressing through words what he experiences on that deep, visceral level. And he is so committed. A lot of the times I was asking him questions and he’s going on and on about great lengths about his process, I’m thinking — ‘I don’t work that hard! I don’t care that much! Is there something wrong with me that I don’t care?'”
In this clip from the new episode, which premieres this Sunday, Oyelowo shows off his accent skills with a hilarious impression of his mother. Prompted by Lynch, he doesn’t miss a beat, launching into the charming anecdote about when his mother found out Oprah would be playing Oyelowo’s mother in Lee Daniels’ 2013 film “The Butler.”
Take a look:
The new season of “Inside the Actors Studio” airs on Ovation Sunday nights at 10pm ET / 7pm PT.