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Judith Light Is Emotionally ‘Transparent’

“We have a million different people inside of us and they’re all different characters,” said the Emmy-nominated actress.

By Andrew Nodell on September 22, 2017
Judith Light

“Talk about a career of longevity,” she remarks. “Seeing that it’s still working out and still unfolding. So many people in our business see me doing this variety of roles and they have not pigeon-holed me.”

Light, 68, recalls getting her start on “One Life to Live,” which scored the-then unseasoned actress two Emmys. When she found herself out of work in the early Eighties, her longtime manager, mentor and friend, Herb Hamsher, gave her a much-needed reality check that she remembers vividly.

“After leaving the soap, I wasn’t working very much and I was upset by it,” she explains. “[Herb] said you’re so angry and entitled. You want people to just give you a job. I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ but I knew it. I was defensive.”

Tilting her chin downwards, Light appears noticeably embarrassed by her past diva behavior. Now an acute self-awareness has helped the busy actress stay grounded as she, like the Pfefferman character, works to reinvent herself with each unpredictable moment of life.

Since losing Hamsher to brain cancer last year, the actress admits she is “not on steady ground,” but sees this new phase of her life — and career — as part of her own “coming out.”

“This season you see [Shelly] telling more of the truth to her family than ever before,” says Light. “It’s about human beings living their lives and being flawed, fragile, vulnerable and frightened — but immeasurably alive.”

Now fully made up, her blonde hair bouncing, Light slips into a structured Brandon Maxwell jacket. “We have a million different people inside of us and they’re all different characters. Depending on what article of clothing you put on, it changes the energy, pulls people in and communicates something.”

Despite the gravity of her words, Light exudes a cheerful energy as she steps before the camera’s lens. “Can you play some Frank Sinatra?” she requests, pivoting towards a blowing wind machine. She’s clearly been here before. The actress is slipping into one of her many characters.

Judith Light

Judith Light  Axel Dupeux/WWD Read more

Emmys: Judith Light, Elisabeth Moss and More Stars Wear ACLU Ribbons on Red Carpet

The Emmys red carpet provides an opportunity for stars to make a statement. This year, several stars donned ribbons to support the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi, “Silicon Valley” star Kumail Nanjiani, and his wife, Emily V. Gordon, were among those who wore blue ACLU ribbons to support the civil rights organization.


Several of the actor nominees took part in the statement of support, including “Transparent” stars Kathryn Hahn and Judith Light, Elisabeth Moss (best drama actress for “The Handmaid’s Tale”), Ann Dowd (best supporting drama actress for “The Handmaid’s Tale”), Mandy Patinkin (best supporting actor in a drama series nominee for “Homeland”), Matt Walsh (best supporting actor in a comedy series nominee for “Veep”), Anthony Anderson (best actor in a comedy series for “Black-ish”), and Riz Ahmed (limited series actor for “The Night Of”).

The ACLU has been in the spotlight recently due to its confrontations with the Trump administration over policies including the president’s recent motion to end the DACA program.

“Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany, who won best actress in a drama series last year but who wasn’t eligible this year, also wore a blue pin, but for a different cause — her blue ampersand symbolizes support for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Stars also wore the blue ribbons at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend, as well as at the Academy Awards and the Tony Awards earlier this year.

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Courtesy of Angela Pham/
Judith Light at the Art of Caviar exhibition, hosted by La Prairie, in New York on Sept. 6.

“The year we won the Golden Globe, someone said, ‘Why is Judith Light onstage?'” the actress said with a laugh at La Prairie’s caviar-filled party during New York Fashion Week.

On Wednesday night in midtown Manhattan, Judith Light looked nothing like the lovably quirky, stooped and gray-haired retiree she plays on Amazon’s Transparent, a role that earned her a best supporting actress Emmy nomination.

Dressed in a sharp, tailored, hot pink Zac Posen skirt suit and sky-high heels, the blonde diva, 68, was in caviar heaven at a gallery space on 57th street, celebrating the 30th anniversary of celeb-loved Swiss beauty brand La Prairie’s famed caviar skin product range, which has to be one of the secrets to her flawless skin.

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Transparent’s Judith Light Talks Acting, Aging, and Her Role as Shelly Pfefferman

Tina Brown Hosts VIP Lunch In Honor Of Travelzoo
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To mark 30 years since the launch of its first caviar-based product, skin care label La Prairie collaborated with a group of artists to create “The Art of Caviar,” a traveling exhibition inspired by La Prairie’s Caviar Collection line. The exhibition’s one stop in the U.S. is in New York City on September 7, 2017, and actress and producer Judith Light was on hand to celebrate at the launch event the night before. Ahead of the event, she hopped on the phone with Allure to discuss acting, aging, reiki, and more.

There are a few things that set Judith Light’s nearly five-decade-long career apart. There’s its breadth — her work spans from theater to television to film — and the acclaim she has received: After making her professional debut in in 1970, Light went on to win two Daytime Emmys for her work on the soap opera One Life to Live, star as Angela Bower in the sitcom Who’s the Boss?, win two Tonys for her performances in the plays Other Desert Cities and The Assembled Parties, and nab roles in the television series Ugly BettyDallas, and Jill Soloway’s Transparent. (She’s been nominated for an Emmy for her performance as Shelly Pfefferman in Transparent for the second year in a row.)


And then there’s the depth of the roles Light, 68, continues to play. Instead of her opportunities contracting as she’s gotten older, she has continued to portray characters with “complications,” as she puts it. Take Shelly, for instance: As the ex-wife of Jeffrey Tambor’s Maura, a trans woman who came out in Transparent‘s first season, Shelly is “funny and frightened and lonely,” Light says — a character she can dig into. Allure spoke with Light about the entertainment industry’s evolving attitude toward women (and older women), her take on aging, and the quote she returns to every morning to stay present.

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Judith Light promises ‘Transparent’s’ Shelly is finding her true voice


Most recently, Light’s been playing Shelly Pfefferman on Jill Soloway’s series “Transparent,” a role that has nabbed her a supporting actress Emmy nomination for a second year in a row. Shelly finally began to blossom after several seasons of lurking in the shadow of her transitioning ex-husband Maura’s journey of self-discovery.

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Judith Light reflects on her long, varied career

Emmy spotlight: Judith Light triumphs as Shelly Pfefferman in ‘Transparent’ Season 3

By Tony Ruiz

judith light transparent

The third season of Amazon’s groundbreaking series “Transparent” was released back in September of 2016. And while Jill Soloway’s dramedy continued to showcase one of television’s finest ensembles — led by two-time Emmy-winner Jeffrey Tambor — this season belonged to Judith Light, whose performance as Shelly Pfefferman deserves serious awards consideration and could bring the actress her first Primetime Emmy.

The stage and screen veteran has already amassed an impressive list of awards and nominations. She earned two Daytime Emmys for Best Actress for her role as housewife-turned-prostitute Karen Wolek on ABC’s “One Life to Live.” An accomplished stage actress, Light’s work has earned her three consecutive Tony nominations for Featured Play Actress, winning in 2012 for “Other Desert Cities” and in 2013 for “The Assembled Parties.” She has yet to win at the Primetime Emmys despite nominations for Comedy Guest Actress for “Ugly Betty” (2007) and Comedy Supporting Actress for “Transparent” (2016) Read more

Shelly Pfefferman Is the “Fragile, Tender” Guide Judith Light Needed

The Transparent star on her character’s Season 3 journey—and why it’s just the beginning.

As Emmy nominations approach, Vanity Fair’s HWD team is diving deep into how some of this season’s greatest scenes and characters came together. 

The Character: Shelly Pfefferman, Transparent

The lights dim and a projector rises as the final scene of Transparent Season 3 opens on Judith Light. In Shelly Pfefferman’s signature silver bob, she wears a long black dress and a shimmering black-and-gold jacket as she steps into the spotlight of a cruise-ship stage to perform her one-woman show, the aptly titled To Shell and Back. “When I was a young girl, something happened to me that made me stop being who I really was; I stopped growing . . . Who am I? I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to know. I was in a cocoon,” she says. She takes a measured breath, looks to the audience—including her family—and launches into Alanis Morissette’s 1995 hit “Hand in My


The song, famous for its litany of conflicting emotions, acts in this moment as Shelly’s personal theme. Three seasons into her journey as the ex-spouse of Jeffrey Tambor’s Maura—a transgender woman who came out in the series’s first season—and mother of three adult children on their own equally convoluted journeys, Shelly is finally getting a moment of her own. Read more

Judith Light (‘Transparent’) reveals desire for LGBT advocacy signed her to the show without even seeing a script [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO]

Judith Light (‘Transparent’) reveals desire for LGBT advocacy signed her to the show without even seeing a script [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO]

Judith Light On Shelly’s Season 3 Breakthrough in ‘Transparent’

June 8, 2017
By: Joey Moser
Judith Light
Judith Light talks about Shelly’s emotional breakthrough on Transparent Season 3 and her working relationship with old friend Jeffrey Tambor.

Judith Light is a force to be reckoned with. When I revisited the third season of the critically acclaimed Amazon smash Transparent, I had forgotten what a breakthrough Shelly Pfefferman has in the very last episode. Shelly has always been a big ball of energy throughout the course of the show, but this year we start to learn about an incident that traumatized her as a young girl. Light won several Daytime Emmy® Awards for her work on One Life to Live, but she deserves to take home her first Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in Transparent.

You don’t watch Transparent. You feel Transparent.
Throughout the course of the third season, Shelly goes through several life changes. She must take a realistic look at her relationship with live-in boyfriend Buzzy, and she excitedly begins building herself as a social media brand. As she takes her one-woman show to a more serious level, we learn in flashbacks that she was assaulted by a teacher in elementary school. It’s a very unexpected turn that calls back to a certain moment in Season 1 that Light can easily recall, and it was very freeing to explore that history of the character.

Judith Light gives a performance that pulls back the layers so carefully and earnestly that it might make you look at your own mother in a different way.

Was it freeing to have Shelly break out in this last season?

It was in a lot of ways and on a lot of levels. It’s funny because people tend to not remember that in the first season there is a discussion about music and Shelly turns to the kids and says, ‘I don’t care for music.’ Just like that. If you go back to Season 1, you’ll find it somewhere in there. I always thought how interesting. How fascinating. What is that about? Two seasons later, we come to find out what has been going on. In a lot of ways it was very freeing.

You have to understand when you work with the people that I have the blessing and the good fortune to work with it’s thrilling. It’s an incredible writer’s room. These are an incredibly funny, smart, deep substance of people. It’s not only freeing to have done that, sing ‘Hand in My Pocket,’ but what’s also freeing is to work in the way that we work. There’s a kind of freedom in the experience that is unlike any other experience that I’ve ever had before in television or even in a play for that matter.

There is an experience of working in a system where everyone is valued for their talent, and I mean everybody. I’m not just talking about the actors and the writers. That makes you very free to create, and that’s very unusual. Read more