From stage to television to film, Joel Grey has acted, danced, and sung in virtually every entertainment medium over the course of his 60-year career. You might know him best as the Master of Ceremonies from 1966's Broadway hit Cabaret and its later 1972 film incarnation, but you've probably also seen him in numerous TV guest appearances on programs including House, Oz, and Star Trek: Voyager, not to mention roles in films like Choke and Dancer in the Dark.

In the past few years, though, Grey has applied his talent to a different form of art—not dramatic but visual. Photography has become Grey's latest endeavor, and now he's releasing his third book, titled 1.3: Images from My Phone. Comprised of 1.3-megapixel photographs taken entirely with his cell phone's camera feature, the book pulls together snapshots of daily life and urban scenery. Grey recently talked to us about the unique project and his artistic pursuits. He also shared with us a few photos from the book, which we've reproduced in the gallery below.

How did you start getting into photography seriously? I've always taken pictures. I've always collected photographs—it's been one of my passions—so I think it's always been very much in the back of my mind as an artistic pursuit, but it never occurred to me that it would have anything to do with anyone else but me and my family.

Then, a friend of mine was doing a book on flowers and he asked 25 photographers to contribute a photograph of their favorite flower. I said, "I can't do this, I'm an actor," and he said, "No, I want you to be in it." Somehow I did it. I came up with a photograph, autobiographical, of a Lily-of-the-Valley. My picture was of myself at 8 years old—I had found it and made it very small—and I put it into a garden, 8" by 10", of Lilies-of-the-Valley. It looked like I was in a forest, but the trees were Lily-of-the-Valley.

Everybody seemed to like it, and the next thing I knew, the gentleman who edited and designed that book, Sam Shahid, was at my house. I had started looking at some shoeboxes full of negatives and prints that I had taken over the past 25 years, and he said, "What are these?" I said, "Oh, these are some things I'm fooling around with." He said, "Give me everything you have, because I have an idea." About a month later, he called me into his office, and he had made a dummy of a book called, Pictures I Had To Take. It was stunning to me because he saw a way of looking at these photographs that I had never had. I realized then I had a distance to see creatively in a new way. I started to think, "Hmm... I'm seeing new things going on with my photographs from what I used to do 20 years ago." I realized my eye was different and that I was interested in different things.

Tell me why you started experimenting with the cameraphone for photography. About a year and a half ago, I went down to Florida and I forgot my Nikon that I had since 1972. I had my cell phone with me and I saw some things that were kind of interesting. I had such disdain for cell phones at the time—I thought they were the kind of things that you used to stand in front of the Statue of Liberty and take a picture of yourself—but, I was stuck. I saw these images and my photographer's brain was working, so I had no choice but to shoot about 25 things that were just fun to me. I realized that my eye was exactly the same then as looking into the Nikon, so when I brought them home, I showed them to Sam Shahid. I said, "Look at these, this dopey 1.3 megapixels. Look at the kind of texture and interesting atmosphere that this camera creates. It's different." And he said, "Yeah. And it's your next book." Hence this new book.

What sort of phone was it? A Nokia 133. I must have gotten it four or five years ago, and now, everybody's very busy with their iPhones, but they're all saying to me, "Why are your pictures better than mine when yours has so fewer megapixels?" I don't know the answer—maybe my camera's got a mind of its own and it's magic.

When you finally got the photos off the phone and into a larger format where you could see them better, what did you think? Everybody's had such scorn for the cell phone. If I said I was doing a book, they'd say, "Well, yeah, but they don't blow up." In fact, some of them blow up to 11" by 14" and maybe 20" by 24", and you cannot tell that there's any loss of crispness or original intent. It's really surprising. Magic! Magic!

Do the limitations of the cell phone camera ever frustrate you? Not at all. I found them inviting and surprising and fresh. It was almost like I had a collaborator in the creative process. Some things looked different than they looked as I saw them in the viewfinder.

Do you still like using the cameraphone? Is that your preferred camera now? I'm sort of addicted to it. But, I have started taking photos with my Nikon again, and I think that, somehow, working with the phone has intensified my vision.

Have you tried using a better model? An iPhone? No, I haven't. I really like what this phone does, and most people with more serious phones are admiring of my photographs. It's weird. There's something about it that has character.

What do you look for when you're taking photographs? It's usually something I don't quite understand. What is that? Look at that juxtaposition of color! Or, What was this once? I'm very interested in things that are weathered and beaten and show the beauty of broken things.

I think I've always wanted to be a painter, in truth. Very often, people have called my photographs painterly, and maybe that's my answer to that need.

Has there been a particularly surprising or compelling photograph you'd pick from your new book? There's a picture in the second book of a white background with a red wire bisecting it in the center and something black on top. It's very abstract—like an abstract painting. I called it "Remains of the Day." I was walking around a building next door to me in New York and it was the last wall of the building that they were tearing down. This one detail of the red wire just fascinated me, and it turned out to be an abstract image that very few people could say what exactly it was. But I knew, and it stood on its own just as something to look at without knowing what it is.

When you're walking around New York like that, do you have a favorite place to go for finding photo subject material? No—I live in the West Village, so, wherever you go there, there's something. It may even be just a puddle of water—there are several puddle of water pictures in the new book. One that you'll see in there, I looked down and there was a building in the puddle. It was a reflection of the building across the street. Well, of course, you have to take that picture!

Did using a cell phone to take pictures of people in public get you in trouble ever? Were people wondering what you were up to? No, fortunately, but this is the first book that has people in it—mostly backs of people and sides of people. One of my favorite photographs is of the backs of two gentlemen. One is very pale and one is very brown, and their arms are entwined with each other so that you don't know quite what you're looking at. I just happened to be leaving my house and walking down Horatio Street and there were these two guys walking. I saw this abstraction of something that had a design to it, and it's a picture that people seem to be talking about.

Besides your photography and your new book, what are you up to as an actor? I just did a show this past season called Private Practice. It was during a time when my favorite relative, my sister-in-law, was battling pancreatic cancer. She died a couple of months ago, but during this time, I got this script, and I couldn't believe it. It was to play a guy with pancreatic cancer. It was a very heavy but rich experience—it was strange for that to be on the page when that was what I was struggling with. Acting is like that sometimes.

What was it like to play a character suffering from the same disease that a close relative was suffering from? I thought to myself, "There must be some sort of synchronicity to this," because it was too painful to not be. Acting is being in the moment of whatever that character is living through, and I sort of saw my sister-in-law living through this dreadful challenge. I think it maybe taught me something that was useful, so I guess it was the right thing to do. I find that I've learned something from every character that I've played. You have to go into the worst and best parts of yourself to play these villains and these heroes. It doesn't come from thin air—if it's right, it comes from part of your own imagination or your own experience.

Are you the kind of actor who can keep a mental divide between the character and yourself? Often I can. Sometimes it's so intense—the exploration of the character—that you think about it 24 hours a day until you get it, and then, when you start doing it on the stage every night, sometimes you can never get over it. Then there are the things that are lighter—that are more fun and closer to your own real life—that you can dance through.

Are there characters that you feel like you still haven't given up a part of them? Oh, I think they all are. I think that, once you've done them and explored them and made them specifically yours and shown them to sometimes vast audiences, yeah, they're yours. They're there. They don't necessarily hang around on a daily basis, but they're there.

Do you think you'll ever return to Broadway? Only if it were a limited engagement with something that was brand new, a part I've never done before. I had a great experience working with Robert Wilson a number of years ago and got to use a lot of new muscles. I wouldn't do anything just to do it. I don't need to be on the stage to live.