FIND­ING HER TRUE VOICE

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE - By Joy Press cal­en­dar@la­times.com

Few ac­tresses have taken a more zigzag­ging route through the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try than Ju­dith Light. Some fans re­vere her for her stint on the soap opera “One Life to Live,” for which she won two Day­time Em­mys. Oth­ers re­mem­ber her as the pow­er­suit-clad work­ing mom on the ’80s hit sit­com “Who’s the Boss?” Then there are the the­ater fans who have watched her daz­zle au­di­ences in such plays as “Other Desert Cities” and “The As­sem­bled Party,” for which she won Tony Awards.

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.

“I have thought to my­self, who in the world would cast the Ju­dith Light who played Angela in ‘Who’s the Boss’ as Shelly Pf­ef­fer­man in ‘Trans­par­ent’?” says the 68-year-old actress, her eyes welling up. “In a busi­ness that likes to pi­geon­hole peo­ple, Jill Soloway has a lot of vi­sion.”

We fi­nally got a glimpse of Shelly’s back story in Sea­son 3, and it was re­ally sad. Is that go­ing to be a cat­a­lyst for her?

Maura is lead­ing the way for the rest of the Pf­ef­fer­mans, as a model of how to be your real self. Don’t you find it ex­tra­or­di­nary that [this show] is about a trans­gen­der per­son who is mak­ing a break for their free­dom when they’re 70 years old? Maura is say­ing: “I’m un­will­ing to die not hav­ing lived the life that I want to live.”

So now Shelly can move into a place where she says, “I have a se­cret too.” [whis­pers] I can’t tell you all of it yet, but I’m go­ing to find my voice.

Peo­ple in the fam­ily treat Shelly like she’s a bit of a joke.

She’s in­cred­i­bly nar­cis­sis­tic, and she drives ev­ery­body else crazy in her at­tempt to con­nect, be­cause she doesn’t want to be alone. We all be­have in par­tic­u­lar ways to pro­tect our­selves and stay se­cure, which, of course, is a los­ing bat­tle.

But then in the Sea­son 3 fi­nale, Shelly per­forms her one-woman show “To Shell and Back” and sings a heart­break­ing ren­di­tion of Ala­nis Moris­sette’s “Hand in My Pocket” — and sud­denly she’s not a joke any­more.

Peo­ple have said to me, “We wept when we saw that.” I think we all weep when we see some­one go be­yond their lim­i­ta­tions or their big­gest fear and we cheer for them, be­cause we know what it costs. I think that’s what makes great art. We are all weep­ing for our­selves and how many times we closed our­selves down.

I would like to see the rest of “To Shell and Back.”

I think a lot of peo­ple would — for maybe five min­utes!

You did a very graphic bath­tub scene in Sea­son 2, which Soloway has re­ferred to as a revo­lu­tion­ary mo­ment in terms of show­ing an older woman’s sex­ual plea­sure. How much did you dis­cuss that be­fore you shot it?

Oh, my God, where to be­gin? When I saw it in the script, I said, “I can’t do this.” What I meant was: I don’t know how I’m go­ing to get my­self to this place. But I knew how im­por­tant it was in the grand scheme of things. How many times in tele­vi­sion have we been told, “No­body wants to see that.” It was like, “Oh, yeah?” So it was free­ing to see that scene. It kicked down a door.

And the [shoot it­self] felt so safe, it was Jill and Jef­frey [Tam­bor] and me — and then cine­matog­ra­pher Jim Frohna, who was ac­tu­ally in the tub with us, shoot­ing it.

You re­cently fin­ished shoot­ing Sea­son 4. What can you tell us?

You’re go­ing to see deep psy­cho­log­i­cal dy­nam­ics come into play. Each per­son’s process is new and dif­fer­ent, and some of it is re­ally out there…. It is our most po­lit­i­cal sea­son, but it is also about un­der­stand­ing all sides of the is­sues. We want to get rid of that “oth­er­ness” that comes about be­cause one group of peo­ple needs to feel su­pe­rior to an­other.

How did you first con­nect with Soloway?

I was do­ing a play in New York, and we had this 45-minute Skype call where we ba­si­cally just talked about our ad­vo­cacy for the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

So she knew about your his­tory as an ac­tivist?

Yes, I had been in­volved since the early days of the AIDS pan­demic, when it was dev­as­tat­ing the the­ater com­mu­nity. I said, “This com­mu­nity is in­spir­ing, is coura­geous. They can teach all of us how to be that kind of hu­man be­ing.” … And now the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity — that com­mu­nity has been so shunted aside. To this day [they suf­fer] such hate crimes. And again, you look at them and they rise. They are liv­ing ex­am­ples of what it means to be your true self, to be the per­son you know you were made to be.

Kirk McKoy Los An­ge­les Times

JU­DITH LIGHT says her “Trans­par­ent” char­ac­ter has a se­cret to re­veal.

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