James Lipton Remembered by Laurence Fishburne: "He Really Adored Actors"

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Laurence Fishburne

The 'Boyz in the Hood' actor describes his time in the chair on 'Inside the Actors Studio' and how Lipton, who died on Monday at age 93, "was even better offscreen than he was on."

Laurence Fishburne is the Tony-winning and Oscar-nominated star of such films as Apocalypse Now, The Color Purple, What’s Love Got to Do With It and the Matrix. He appeared on James Lipton's Inside the Actors Studio in 1998.

I was a little apprehensive about doing it at first. I think I may have turned down the invitation the first time. But then, after seeing the show a bunch of times, seeing many of my friends and people I’ve worked with doing it, I was like, "Oh, yeah, I can get into that." And when I got a chance to sit with him [in 1998] I found him really engaging and charming and funny and thoughtful. He not only loved the craft of acting, but he really adored actors. And, you know, that’s always nice.

After the show, he asked me to have dinner with him and his wife. And he was even better offscreen than he was on, if you can imagine that. On camera, you just got to spend an hour with him and he was the person doing the interview. But during dinner, it felt like we were old friends. I felt like I was at home with him. I mean, the fact that he even invited me to dinner afterwards was amazing. I guess I was a little nervous about that, too, because he’s interviewed truly, truly great actors and you don’t want to come off like "I’m the greatest" just because I’d been on Inside the Actors Studio.

It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember a lot. But I do remember the two questions he always asked at the end. He asked what do you want God to say when you meet him and what your favorite curse words were. My favorite cuss word was “motherfucker” — I’m pretty sure about that — and I think what I wanted to hear God say was, "Well done."