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Why was Billy Joel on ''Inside the Actors Studio''?

Jessica Lange questions the interview show’s guest list, but host James Lipton has all the answers

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Jessica Lange
Corbis Sygma

When movie buffs think of the Method, an acting technique popularized by Lee Strasberg at the exclusive Actors Studio in the 1940s, they probably picture James Dean or a pre-bloated Marlon Brando bellowing for Stella. But Billy Joel? Such un- ”Method trained” stars as Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Matt Dillon, and the Piano Man himself have appeared on Bravo’s in-depth interview program ”Inside the Actors Studio” (which has just begun its new season), and not every Actors Studio member is happy about it. ”I would say 90 percent of the people they have on have never walked through the doors of the Actors Studio before,” sighs Jessica Lange. ”I think they should change the title. A lot of these people don’t even know Strasberg, they don’t even know what the technique is or what the Method is.”

Host James Lipton has heard it all before. ”I had to come up with a name quickly after Bravo said they’d buy the show, and I made a dumb mistake,” he admits. Although not every star who graces the stage is a member of the Actors Studio, the show is part of the Actors Studio MFA Program, a collaboration between Manhattan’s New School University and the Actors Studio. ”What you see on the air is actually a course,” says Lipton, who is vice president of the Studio. ”What I meant by the title was that we’d invite actors to come inside the Actors Studio school and teach our students.”

And although Strasberg may be spinning in his grave, this doesn’t necessarily mean Lipton and Co. are teaching only the Method. ”We’ve had people who are pure, pure Method, and we’ve had others who have never studied it and are brilliant,” says Lipton. ”There are many, many ways to act.” Under the guidelines of the program, even Billy Joel is a smart choice for the lineup, says the show’s amiable host: ”The students spend one third of their time here studying voice, so he filled a need.” A few bars of ”Uptown Girl,” anyone?

Here are some of the guests scheduled to appear on upcoming episodes of ”Inside the Actors Studio” (8 p.m. EST; repeated at 9 p.m. PST):

Geena Davis — 4/9
James Woods — 4/30
Harrison Ford — TBA
Andy Garcia — TBA

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