When Judith Light walks into a room you know she is a star. Not just your average star in today's instant celebrity but a real genuine star that thrills an audience. Her entrance is greeted by huge smiles, people whispering to companions so they don't miss her and I-phones coming out to capture the moment.
Light loves being an actress and all that comes with it.
That includes decades of making her celebrity available in the battle for LGBT freedom and against HIV/AIDS. She has never for a moment in all those years ducked an issue or refused to be front and center in those battles. She rivals the late Elizabeth Taylor in her devotion to the LGBT community and those people around the globe who have HIV/AIDS.
The actress currently is taking the New York stage by storm. First with her off-Broadway rave-reviewed performance in "Wit." She earned a Tony nomination last year for her featured role in Broadway's "Lombardi." Next week she opens in "Other Desert Cities" at the Booth Theater and already people are leaving the previews of the show raving about her performance.
Most of America still knows her as the two-time Emmy Award winner for the soap "One Life To Live" or from the long-running ABC-TV hit comedy "Who's The Boss?" She earned another Emmy nomination for her performance in ABC-TV's "Ugly Betty." One of my favorites was her tough judge on NBC's "Law and Order: SVU." Plus she has done a large number of guest appearances on television series and movies. She combined her principled stands on HIV/AIDS with her incredible talent by playing Jeanne White in the 1989 TV movie "The Ryan White Story".
She earned raves for the amazing major motion picture "Save Me" about a recovery home for ex-gays.
Here are "Five Questions" For Judith Light!
1. You return to Broadway this fall in "Other Desert Cities." What attracted you to this project as your first one since your Tony nomination?
As a huge fan of both Jon Robin Baitz and Joe Mantello, I was extremely delighted to have received this offer. Everything I had heard about the play confirmed what I knew about Robby and Joe. I made a movie with Stacey Keach years ago and have always loved both Stockard’s and Rachel’s work and Thomas Sadowski is such an extraordinary actor, that it was all pretty much of a slam dunk.
2. For decades you have been battling for LGBT rights and against HIV/AIDS. What is the high point and low point for you personally in that struggle?
This is somewhat difficult for me to think in terms of high points and low ones in relation to HIV/AIDS. The whole process has been enormously painful and daunting for me. Since it has been so deeply personal for me from the beginning it is hard to focus on much more than so much loss and suffering. In terms of the fighting the fight against social insensitivity and discrimination, it has been a real challenge for me to resist the impulse to be very judgmental of much of our country. On the other hand, few things in my life have been more inspiring than watching the LGBT community respond to the epidemic the way they did from the very beginning. This community has always set the standard for me in terms of responding to challenges and operating at the highest levels of personal courage and integrity even in the face of discrimination and oppression.
3. If there is any role you would give your right arm to play and what would it be?
The truth is I don’t think in terms of specific roles I would like to play. I have loved the theatre literally all my life and could identify countless roles I would love to sink my teeth into. Every role I do is an opportunity for me to explore human complexity in new and surprising ways. At the beginning of my career I said that I would never do a soap opera, that I would never do a sit com, and I would never marry an actor. After discovering that those were the things that actually gave me this wonderful life I now have, I realized that I probably shouldn’t be trying to “choreograph” my choices but just leave it all up to the Universe. If I were making specific requests for roles, I don’t know that I would have the wisdom to want Vivian Bearing, or Marie Lombardi, or Silda Grauman.
4. What is the funniest/ most embarrassing episode to happen to you in acting?
When I did "Hedda Gabler"at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. it was a beautiful production with a very distinctive look. I wore a very elaborate, Victorian gown with rows and rows of draped tiers. Michael Kahn, the director and I spent many hours in rehearsal making sure I was comfortable moving in the dress as if it were what I wore on a daily basis. The first preview went very well, until I was taking my bow. In a way that I will never, ever quite be able to explain I came out in front of the audience and managed to catch my shoe in the hem of the dress and proceeded to fall, literally, flat on my face. I am still mortified!
5. Who is your mentor and please share about him/her?
My manager, Herb Hamsher, and I have worked together for over thirty years. At the very beginning he told me that he could not tell me how to make life easy but that he could tell me how to make it very much “alive.” He has not failed in keeping that promise so far. It is his wisdom that has enriched and guided my life and career.
The following video clip is from when she was in "Lombardi" and was chosen by Sardi's to be on their celebrated "Wall of Fame."