THE BIG ASK JUDITH LIGHT
HLight first found fame as Karen Wolek on the US soapie One Life to Live, but it was her stint as advertising executive Angela Bower on the sitcom Who’s the Boss, costarring Tony Danza, that made her in Hollywood.
She brings authority to her recurring role as Judge Elizabeth Donnelly in Law & Order: SVU, but it is Ugly Betty, where she plays Claire Meade, the alcoholic mother of Daniel and Alexis Meade, that she is at her best. OWlucky is Judith Light? At a time when most actors are out of work, the 59-year-old is starring in two shows— Ugly Betty and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. You must be having a wow of a time playing Claire Meade on Ugly Betty. To do Who’s the Boss and then to not do anything for such a long time or to do some series that didn’t make it (another sitcom Phenom lasted one season) and then to come back in something that’s already a hit and to play this kind of character, it’s fantastic. What makes Ugly Betty so special? It’s so different. You haven’t seen anything like this before. In the United States people are longing to see something that makes them laugh and also touches their hearts. I’m so glad it caught on and people really responded to it. What’s also great about this show is it’s an ensemble cast. You have Betty (America Ferrera) sort of the core of everything. But it really is an ensemble, and everybody is working together and everybody loves working together. Nobody’s snooty because that’s not where we all come from. Almost every one of us on the cast comes from the theatre and that, I think, makes a huge difference in the whole process of how we work. We don’t really know why Claire became an alcoholic. Was it because of her philandering husband? You can never blame it on someone else. It is your own responsibility. If Claire is ever going to go into any kind of recovery, she’ll stop blaming everybody else for her own problems. The issues are her issues within herself, which are her own lack of self-esteem, her own lack of security in herself. It’s only natural that she would marry a man who would be philandering. If you had your choice, who would you like to get on the show? Anthony Hopkins, I’d take him . . . and Gena Rowlands, a great actor. I hear you are into cooking? I love to cook. My husband (actor Robert Desiderio) and our business partners own a restaurant in Aspen and I’m a big foodie. I don’t have one specialty. I like to do a lot of different things— to experiment. I like to cook for a lot of people. We had about 10 people stay over for Thanksgiving. You’ve had a long career. How has TV changed over that time? They don’t leave things on for much time these days. Who’s the Boss tested through the roof. ABC so believed in it they moved us around until they found the right slot. They don’t tend to do that any more. So when you get a show that’s a hit like Ugly Betty you are grateful because people are less inclined to leave a show on and see how it develops.