JudithLight2article

 

Judith Light is a prolific actress of both stage and screen. She won her second Best Featured Actress in a Play Tony Award in two years for The Assembled Parties (a best play nominee) in June of 2013, becoming the first consecutive acting winner in almost 20 years and is also the first ever consecutive winner in that category.

 

The two time Emmy winner is best known for her turn on several popular television shows ranging from Ugly Betty, Who’s the Boss and more recently in TNT’s Dallas. But she’s equally known in LGBT circles for her social justice activism which makes her most recent role on Amazon Prime a no-brainer.

 

Starring in Transparent, the newest binge-worthy series, Light plays the matriarch of a Los Angeles family with serious boundary issues.

  

The story revolves around Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) and her colorful family. After spending her life as Mort, the Pfefferman family patriarch comes out as transgender making for profound and provocative episodic television.

  

#Boom caught up with Light on her press junket to talk Transparent, her LGBT activism and more.

 

We really enjoyed watching Transparent. What drew you to this project? Transparent2

 

Well, as you can see watching it why I was drawn to it and also because of Jill Soloway, who I think is an incredible person and an incredible artist – and my friend Jeffrey Tambor! So it was really about those people and then I got to know the rest of the cast Amy Landecker and Gaby Hoffmann and Jay Duplass whose work I had already respected – and then there were all these other people, so the whole combination. Working for Amazon Prime has been extraordinary. Joe Lewis, who is head of comedy development – there’s this kind of appreciation for people that they hire and they let us do the work that they hired us to do and just are incredibly supportive... so it’s a combination of things.

 

For the first time it seems we’re finally seeing transgender story lines being told in thoughtful, compelling, realistic ways. As a longtime activist for LGBT equality, I’d imagine it must have some special meaning to be a part of this project.

 

This has as much meaning as those other things that have been aforementioned; as much as the people who are involved, as much as the writers, this has been very important to me. And in the interview I had with Jill – we had a Skype call for about 45 minutes – we talked a lot about LGBTQ activism. And yes, I think it’s so important and so about time. I feel strongly that the gay community has really been the leaders in teaching people about sexuality, teaching the world about sexuality. And I think it is the transgender community that will be the leaders in really teaching the world about gender identity.

 

Do you feel that transgender equality is the great unfinished business of the LGBT rights movement?

 

I would say it is the most important and it is the next issue in many ways that really is up to be dealt with and looked at and focused on. Like I said, when you have a community of leaders and each aspect of the community – the “L”, the “G”, the “B”, the “T” and the “Q” – all of those have to be respected and honored, and like I say, it’s about time that the transgender community is really appreciated for the leadership they can give in terms of gender identity.

 

What do you hope that viewers take away from seeing Transparent

 

That it’s not just about this man who realizes and has known forever that she is actually a woman, but that she is actually a person who is living an authentic and courageous and important life. And that when someone in a family dynamic chooses to do that what she (Maura) does in this story, thatJudithLight that requires everyone else in the system to look at their lives. And there is not a family that doesn’t have a story like this. The content may be different, but the story of one person changing the dynamics of a family is within the story of every family and that’s why I think it’s universal.

 

Could you talk a little bit about your activism within the LGBTQ community – how did it come about?

 

It really started a long time ago. I’ve talked about it quite a lot because it’s very important to me. People will come up to me as say, “My goodness, how did you get involved?” But it started when I was really young. I was in a performing arts camp and many of those people who came to be our teachers and who came to this performing arts camp came from New York and many of them were gay. I was very young and they watched out for me and it wasn’t until later that I realized the protection that they had given me and the support that they had given me. So it really just lived in me for a long time and then my husband’s and my – our closest friends really who we consider family are our managers and that’s Herb Hamsher and his partner his partner of 34 years, Jonathan Stoller. They've been our managers for 34 years.

 

So they’re our family and when we all started seeing what was happening with our friends dying – and at the height of the epidemic we were really looking at and watching the community and how brave and inspiring and generous this community was. I started looking at them and saying this is a community that I want to be there [for] and support. Here is a community that is inspiring me. The level of courage and generosity... and I just say, people aren’t talking about what’s going on in a way that’s important. There is so much homophobia that was keeping the community, who I considered to be my family, from getting the medications that they needed. The focus that needed to be put on this issue – there were two presidents who never said the word AIDS! It was infuriating to me. I thought it was unconscionable that people would treat people this way and I just said I want to be involved in what way I can, so that’s what happened.

 

You were friends with one of my favorite LGBT/AIDS activists and writers, Paul Monette – could you talk about him for a moment? 

 

Oh, I miss him still. How did you become friends with Paulie?

 

Through the HIV/activism after just reading his book. Judith Leight Dallas

 

Becoming a Man, Half a Life Story?

 

No, Borrowed Time. I think he really found his voice right there with that book.

 

You are totally correct. He totally found his voice and when I finished that book – I put it down and I said to my husband, "I have to find this man. I have to find him." He was like, call your agent. So I did and he said, "Well, he’s dating a friend of yours". And I was like, oh my God, I had no idea. So I called Stephen Kolzak and said I’m coming over for dinner. That was how the relationship first started.

 

It was interesting, because we would go over – Stephen and passed away – and Robert and Herb and Jonathan and I became very close friends with Paulie and then subsequently his partner until the end, Winston Wilde. We would go over to the house to be with Paulie and Winnie and Herb would sit at the edge of the bed and read what Paul had just written – just what was on the paper that he had just written. It was such an intimate and powerful experience just to be with him and he would take delight in having his work read to him. There was just no one like him and I’m so glad when people remember because that was so important to him. And I talk to young people now and they don’t all know him and it saddens me. So I think continuing to put out his voice and remind people about him is really important. So when I hear that someone is connected to him it thrills me.

 

Last question – my friends would kill me if I didn’t ask you about Dallas. You were absolutely brilliant in that and I’m sure you’ve heard what a big hit your character Judith Brown Ryland was with gay fans.

 

You know I haven’t heard a lot [laughs]. I do know that people liked the character but I didn’t know that it was such a hit with the gay community. Oh my God, how funny. She’s a great character and also they wrote her. That’s their brilliance. They wanted to create a character who would really start getting in there and messing up things down at South Fork. They knew they could do that and there’s all kinds of secret stories about the background that we all made up and so unfortunately now we’re not going to be able to do that because it’s been cancelled.

 

 

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