James Lipton, the acclaimed wordsmith, theater historian, radio star, and long-time host of “Inside the Actors Studio” has passed away at the age of 93. The news was confirmed by both TMZ and Lipton’s wife, Kedakai Turner.
He created “Inside the Actors Studio” in 1994 wherein students of the Actors Studio Drama School could listen to successful performers discuss their craft with Lipton. Paul Newman was the inaugural guest and from there Lipton interviewed nearly 300 award-winning actors. The series was one of Bravo’s longest-running series and won a Primetime Emmy. The series also garnered a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Daytime Emmys in 2016 and a Critics Choice award for best reality show host. In 2018 the series moved from Bravo onto Ovation, a move coinciding with Lipton’s retirement from the program.
The young James Lipton began his writing employment as a teenager, where he was a copyboy for “The Detroit Times.” He also dabbled in acting as a member of the Catholic Theater of Detroit.
Lipton got his acting start playing the nephew to the masked hero, the Lone Ranger on WXYZ Radio in 1944. From there he cultivated a string of successes writing for early radio soap operas like “Guiding Light,” “Another World,” and “Return to Peyton Place.” After his time in the Air Force during WWII, Lipton started to study acting at New York University and The New School, working with acclaimed acting teachers Stella Adler, Harold Clurman, and Robert Lewis.
While continuing to dabble in film, television, and Broadway, Lipton was also an author and had a brief marriage in the 1950s to actress Nina Foch. In the 1990s, Lipton wanted to give new acting students a different way to engage with the craft — “craft” being one of Lipton’s favorite words — and developed a curriculum he took to New York’s acclaimed Actors Studio. The rest is history. Lipton would retire as dean of The Actors Studio Drama School in 2004 and in 2008 he himself would be the subject of the 200th episode of “Inside the Actors Studio” where he was interviewed by comic Dave Chappelle. He also made fun of his persona on “Arrested Development,” playing a prison warden trying to get his screenplay sold.
Whether you knew him for his grand, magnanimous voice or the unique questions he posited to some of the biggest stars of our day, you know James Lipton. He and his interesting questions — “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?” — will be missed.