HFPA in Conversation: the Eclectic, Masterful Judith Light

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros July 25, 2018
Actress Judith LIght

jared siskin/getty images

She is known for socially conscious TV shows like Ugly Betty and Transparent, but Judith Light didn’t search specifically for those projects.  Regardless of who she is playing, the character has to be important to her, Light told HFPA journalist Gabriel Lerman at the Rogers and Cowan office in Century City. “If I had tried to orchestrate what has happened for me, I could never have done that in a million years.  I happened to meet Silvio Horta and I did a pilot for him that didn't get picked up by ABC.  And he looked at me after that and he said to me, I will put you in something else.  He is a man of his word. Along comes Ugly Betty. I wasn't in the pilot, but right after the show won the Golden Globe, he called me and he said, here's the part, this is what I want you to do,” she recalls and continues. “It's about relationships to me and about meeting people and how you formulate those kinds of connections.  They fit in with the world that I like to operate in. I think playing all different kinds of women is extremely essential to me, what I can bring to those women.”

In her five-decade career on stage, television, and film she has been nominated and won several different awards, including two consecutive Tony awards for the Best Featured Actress in a Play in 2012 (Other Desert Cities) and 2013 (The Assembled Parties).  In 2016 she received a Golden Globe nomination for her work in Transparent and lastly, she got an Emmy nomination for her performance as Marilyn Miglin in the limited series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. “I thought it was such an interesting story culturally as to how this young man had been so closeted by his parents and by the culture and that the way the world looked at him and treated him, pushed him to kill more people.”

Early in her career, she understood that she can’t seek anybody’s validation.
“If you keep looking for approval from somebody, you can't get yourself anywhere really that has any kind of depth.  And that was when I realized that we're in a service business, we're here to serve people, we’re here to give people a psychological understanding, an emotional understanding of a character, and we're here to give a performance.  That's what our job is.”

Listen to the podcast and learn more about Light’s life: when she realized for the first time she wanted to be an actress; why she wanted to study theatre in college; what she did when everything didn’t go as she planned; what advice she would give younger actresses; how she learned she has deep emotional reactions; why she thought she would become a sign language teacher;what she learned from the soap opera One Life to Live; why she didn’t return to theatre for over two decades; why she and her husband, Robert Desiderio, decided not to have kids; and what are the pros and cons of being married to a person who understands the entertainment business.

Listen to the conversation here or, for immediate access to all of our podcasts, subscribe to HFPA in Conversation on iTunes.