A Conversation With the Beloved, Compassionate, Indefatigable, Very Wise Judith Light
December 5, 2016 8:00 am
Photo by Victoria Stevens. Produced by Biel Parklee.
There are many ways to be a fan of the actress Judith Light. Anyone who owned a TV in the 80’s and early 90’s probably adores her for her role as the divorced single mother Angela Bower, in the long-running show “Who’s the Boss.” The streaming generation likely feels equal affection for Shelly Pfefferman, the ex-wife of the transgender Maura (Jeffrey Tambor), on Amazon’s “Transparent,” now in its third season. Even theater purists must harbor immense goodwill for Light’s Tony Award-winning performances in the plays Other Desert Cities (2012) and The Assembled Parties (2013), among others.
But we should also be grateful Light’s enormous body of activism on behalf of AIDS/HIV awareness and LGBTQ rights. Since the beginning of the AIDS and HIV pandemic in America, Light has worked tirelessly towards illuminating the facts of the disease and the attendant stigma and bigotry aimed at those who have suffered and died from it. She has spoken at galas for practically every major organization devoted to AIDS and HIV; has marched, bicycled, lobbied and fought at too many events to count, and is on the boards of more non-profits than can possibly be listed, among them The Point Foundation, which seeks to empower LGBTQ youth through educational scholarships and mentorship (Light is currently a member of its honorary board). On December 7, Light will be honored by ACRIA, a nonprofit devoted to HIV research, with the Elizabeth Taylor Award at its 21st Annual Holiday Dinner in New York City.
Here, Light, 67, talks about the catalyst for her activism, her work on “Transparent” and her love of mega-jewelry.
Best of 2016 (Behind the Scenes): Transparent star Judith Light on Shelly’s Alanis Morissette cover
BY ARIANA BACLE • @IAMBACLE
Posted December 14 2016 — 1:00 PM EST
Transparent ended its stellar third season with Shelly Pfefferman (the family’s matriarch, played by Judith Light) performing Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in my Pocket” as part of her one-woman show. Here, Light tells EW about how important that scene was — to her, her character, and to viewers.
In the lead up to the opening of the New York City AIDS Memorial, Surface spoke with notable cultural figures who experienced the height of the crisis. Jenny Holzer turned excerpts from those interviews into a new series of artworks projected on the city’s buildings.
It was a potent, powerful, and painful time. When I was working on The Ryan White Story Ryan was still alive, and I remember a reporter asking him, “How did people treat you?” He said, “People would spit at me and call me a fag.” We’re talking about a community that was dying and being disenfranchised. The level of homophobia that was shoved under the carpet you could finally notice and feel in the response, in the way that people were being vilified. We we were losing so many people week after week. I remember going with friends to hospitals and being with young people we didn’t even know. They were dying alone, because their families had disavowed them.
Judith Light Really Hopes Alanis Morissette Likes Her ‘Hand in My Pocket’ Cover in ‘Transparent’ Finale
9/28/2016 by Jessie Katz
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Amazon Studios Judith Light attends the Amazon original series “Transparent” Emmy FYC screening at Paley Center For Media on May 19, 2015 in New York City
Hours before opening night of her one-woman performance in Neil LaBute’s All the Ways to Say I Love You, Judith Light jumped on the phone with Billboard to talk about her scene-stealing performance of Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket,” which closed out the third season of Amazon’s Transparent.
Below is an excerpt of our conversation with Light about how that scene came about, the convincing she needed from series creator Jill Solloway and her team, and what it came to mean to her personally in the end.
The final episode comes after a crushing revelation about your character Shelly, which re-frames much of what we thought we knew about her in the past two seasons. Was “Hand in My Pocket” specifically written into the script for that episode when it was handed to you?
Yes. Faith Solloway, who is Jill’s sister [and co-wrote the episode], worked with mereally endlessly, infinitely, religiously and generously on the song, because I wasn’t sure that that was the song for Shelly. I wasn’t clear about it. Faith and Jill talked to me about it and they explained to me what that was about, and then I understood.
Were you already a fan of Alanis Morissette?
Yes, I was personally, and I love that song, but I wasn’t sure that it was Shelly’s song. I thought she might have something that was even farther in the past. But in the first season, Shelly says, “You know I don’t like music.” That’s the brilliance of this show. That is the brilliance of Jill and our writers. That is the laying in of pieces of things that you go back and you look at and you say, “Wait a minute. How did this get uncovered?” And they’re always thinking out of the box, and they’re relating to each of our characters. I say this is the season of the peeling back of the onion.
WSJ. asks six luminaries to weigh in on a single topic. This month: Mistakes: Judith Light, Kamasi Washington, Jennifer Weiner, Toyo Ito, Minnie Driver and Joe Gebbia
Updated Sept. 26, 2016 11:18 a.m. ET
“After I had finished Who’s the Boss?, my manager came up with an idea for a TV series for me. So we did seven episodes, but it didn’t go beyond that. I was also doing movies, but eventually things just sort of stopped. My manager told me that I needed to go back to the theater. Here comes along this wonderful play about—you’re going to laugh—an aging sitcom star. He said it was perfect for me. I had started in the theater, but I was scared. I didn’t think I had the chops. I went to a yoga camp and meditated and finally called him, but by that point they had already cast it. So I told myself, ‘The next thing that comes up, I’ll go for it.’ It was this play, Wit. I had to shave my head and get naked onstage—I could have done a play with my clothes on! But it changed my life. I had to face the critics. I had dragged my feet because I was afraid of making a mistake, but what came out of it enabled me to learn something valuable.”
How ‘Transparent’ Changed Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light
Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light talk Season 3, their education on trans issues and rights, and how they talk to their friends about the progressive show.
By KEVIN FALLON 09.25.16 10:00 PM ET
Jeffrey Tambor has a story he likes to tell about his role playing trans woman Maura Pfefferman on Transparent.
The first season of the Emmy-winning Amazon series had aired and the actor, previously best known for his comedy work on Arrested Development and The Larry Sanders Show, was on a plane. A male passenger recognized him. The man was coiffed and suited up, “obviously a CEO or hedge fund guy,” Tambor remembers. You might call him a bro.
The passenger pointed at Tambor and said, “You. Wait a minute.” Tambor immediately recoiled, he remembers, certain that this was going to be it: the moment when the representative of the population that is repulsed by transgender women, who find his involvement in telling that community’s stories abhorrent, who aren’t open enough to learn about and accept a community that is in the midst of a civil rights crisis, would finally confront him. Read more
Between ‘Transparent’ Seasons, Judith Light Isn’t Playing Nice
Judith Light is enjoying the kind of career she deserves. In other words, at 67, she gets to work as much as she likes, she gets an early crack at quality roles, she is nominated for awards (and wins some) in each medium she tackles, and she is “beloved wherever she goes.” (That last remark comes from Jill Soloway, the creator of the breakthrough Amazon series “Transparent,” for which Ms. Light is up for an Emmy.)
So why would she decide to collaborate with Neil LaBute, that gnarly playwright of unlovable characters? Was life just too easy for her?
For the last couple of years, Ms. Light has been parsing a complicated role as Shelly Pfefferman, the self-absorbed mother of three remarkably unfinished adult children, whose ex-husband, played by Jeffrey Tambor, is a transgender woman. “Transparent” may be considered a comedy during awards season, but it is also a profoundly honest and often heartbreaking story of an upper-middle-class Jewish family in Los Angeles. Season 3 begins on Sept. 23.
In the meantime, Ms. Light finds herself in a cluttered rehearsal space above Eighth Avenue, preparing for the MCC Theater production of Mr. LaBute’s new play, “All the Ways to Say I Love You,” which is in previews and opens Sept. 28. It is a solo piece in which her character, a former schoolteacher blandly known as Mrs. Johnson, tries to justify her behavior to herself — and to us. (The run has already been extended to Oct. 16; then Shelly Pfefferman has to move back to Marina del Rey to shoot Season 4, bubbeleh.)
Ms. Light has a longstanding relationship with MCC, which partly explains why she’s returning to Off Broadway after four Broadway commitments, two of which — “Other Desert Cities” and “The Assembled Parties” — won her back-to-back Tonys in 2012 and 2013.
But as has become her way, it’s the chance to take on a challenging, many-layered role that has her enticed. “Each character I play,” she explained, “I have to wake up inside me.”
She is tinier in person than onscreen, her giant brown eyes seemingly bigger than her waist, her straight blond hair showing just a whisper of beach curl. Even on a warm day, her black turtleneck looks uncommonly chic.
Judith Light On ‘Transparent’: I Get To Be A Part Of The Transgender Community
By ON TOP MAGAZINE STAFFJuly 20, 2016
In a recent interview, actress Judith Light was asked what makes working on Amazon’s Transparentdifferent from other television shows.
Transparent, about a transgender woman who comes out to her family in her 70s, received numerous Emmy nominations last week, including an acting nomination for its star, Jeffrey Tambor, and a directing nomination for its creator, Jill Soloway. Light, Bradley Whitford, Gaby Hoffmann and Melora Hardin also received nominations in acting categories.
“First of all, all credit goes to Jill Soloway and all of our writers and the actors I get to work with,” Light told the Huffington Post. “Jeffrey Tambor, Amy Landecker and Gaby Hoffman … That kind of support and creativity and artistry.”
“On top of that, you get to be part of the world of the transgender community that has so long been in the shadows, and for so long has been ‘the other.’”
Light, a long-time supporter of LGBT rights, added: “We get to have a conversation that changes the way that the world thinks about the LGBT community. … The combination of those two things is just quite remarkable.”
EXCLUSIVE: How Judith Light Overcame Her Fears of Filming an Orgasm on ‘Transparent’
By Stacy Lambe , KUSA1:33 AM. MDT June 14, 2016
Judith Light has been a staple on television for nearly 40 years, playing a number of memorable characters — Karen Wolek (One Life to Live), Angela Bower (Who’s the Boss?), and Claire Meade (Ugly Betty) — but none more important or as relevant as Shelly Pfefferman on Amazon’s Transparent.
“I feel doubly blessed,” Light tells ET about the role, which has revitalized her career — just this year, she was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Television Award and Golden Globe — as well as aligned her longtime activism for the LGBTQ community with her onscreen work.