Detroit's James Lipton, host of 'Inside the Actors Studio,' dies at the age of 93

Mar 2, 2020 at 4:21 pm
click to enlarge Detroit's James Lipton, host of 'Inside the Actors Studio,' dies at the age of 93
s_bukley /

Celebrated creator and host of Inside the Actors Studio James Lipton died Monday morning at the age of 93.

Recipient of a Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award, Lipton died from bladder cancer in his Manhattan home Monday, while he was alongside his wife of 50 years, Kedakai Turner, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Lipton was born in Detroit in 1926. He attended Central High School and spent one year at Wayne State University before enlisting in the U.S. Airforce. From an early age, Lipton worked to help his family, first as a copy boy at the now-defunct daily newspaper Detroit Times, and also as an usher at the Cass Theatre. Later, he was hired by George W. Trendle, who owned WXYZ Radio (which later became WXYZ-TV), to voice the Lone Ranger’s nephew on The Lone Ranger radio show. Trendle first discovered Lipton acting in the Catholic Theatre of Detroit company.

“Like the Sanders hot fudge and Vernor's ginger ale that fashioned my sweet tooth, my days in radio shaped the man I am,” Lipton told The Detroit News in 2007.

He first served as chairman of the master of fine arts program, which began in partnership with the New School in Manhattan, and went on to become the dean emeritus of the Actors Studio Drama School when the program moved to Pace University. Lipton later created Inside the Actors Studio, for which he served as executive producer and host from 1994 through his retirement in 2018 when the series transitioned from Bravo to Ovation TV, where it airs with a rotation of guest hosts.

During the show's 23 seasons, Lipton interviewed more than 300 actors on the Inside the Actors Studio stage, where he discussed at length each performer's introduction to theater, delicately and earnestly probing into their upbringing and celebrating their successes adoringly as if they were his own. Lipton notably conducted all of his own pre-interview research, filling stacks of blue notecards. Each episode concluded with Lipton turning the show over to the student actors that filled the audience, offering them an opportunity to learn from Lipton's guests. In addition to his thoughtful questions, he became known for his eloquent and patient delivery, which became the focus of a recurring Will Ferrell impression on Saturday Night Live in the '90s, which Lipton loved.

According to Lipton, no actor ever turned down an appearance on the show.

Lipton interviewed Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Burt Reynolds, Robin Williams, Betty White, Glenn Close, and others. But his longstanding dream was actualized when he interviewed actor Bradley Cooper in 2011. Cooper had been a student actor and sat in the audience of Inside the Actors Studio in 1999 when he was chosen to ask Sean Penn to detail his approach in revisiting a character with new eyes.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.