In 1970, Judith Light started off her acting career on stage, making her debut in ‘Richard III’ at the California Shakespeare Festival. Five years later, she made her Broadway debut in ‘A Doll's House,’ followed by her role in the Broadway play ‘Herzl’ in 1976.
Despite getting such a good beginning to her career, she was completely out of acting assignments for a few years in the 1970s. Almost on the verge of being broke, she was toying with the idea of quitting her dream career—acting.
The year 1977 proved to be a lucky one for her as she was called to audition for a role in a soap opera titled ‘One Life to Live’, to be aired on ABC. Judith was confused about accepting the offer as she never wanted to act in soap operas or sitcoms and get typecast. Eventually, the attractive pay package that was attached to it lured her to accept the offer.
She played the role of Karen Wolek on ‘One Life to Live’, and according to her, it was one of her most-remembered roles and shows of her life, which made her a household name for the next six years. This role helped her to get some significant guest appearances on a number of television series like ‘St. Elsewhere’ and ‘Family Ties’.
In 1984, she landed another important role in her career in ‘Who's the Boss?,’ a show that lasted for eight seasons. On the popular sitcom, she portrayed Angela Bower, an uptight advertising executive and a divorced mother. The role gave her the opportunity to do some comedy, and the romantic tension between the characters Angela and Tony was really enjoyed by the viewers as well as the critics.
Around this time, she also did some television films such as ‘Stamp of a Killer’ in 1987, the biographical drama ‘The Ryan White Story’ in 1989, and ‘Wife, Mother, Murderer’ in 1991.
After the show ‘Who's the Boss?’ ended in 1992, she took up some TV movies and a few television series. During this period, she did ‘Phenom’ in 1993, ‘Men Don't Tell’ in 1997, and ‘The Simple Life’ in 1998.
Realizing how much she missed the stage, she returned to it in 1999, in ‘Wit’, an off-Broadway production. However, she didn’t stay away from the television as well, and in 2002, she starred in ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’, where she played the role of a tough and outspoken judge.
As she had enjoyed playing a comedy role in ‘Who's the Boss?’, she took up another dramatic comedy role in ‘Ugly Betty’, where she portrayed Claire Meade, a heavy drinking wife of a publishing giant. She continued in the show till the last episode in 2010.
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During the 2000s, she acted in a few significant films like the romantic comedy film ‘Ira & Abby’ in 2005 and ‘Save Me’ in 2007, where she played the role of a radical Christian woman who headed a Christian ministry called Genesis House.
In 2010-11, she did another witty role of an alcoholic Marie Lombardi in the play ‘Lombardi’. In 2011 she did two television pilots, which did not do well. The first was ABC's sitcom ‘Other People's Kids’, and the other one was USA Network’s drama ‘Eden’.
In 2013, she was featured in the television series ‘Dallas’ as an evil and sharp-tongued mother. She also returned to Broadway in the play ‘The Assembled Parties’.
In 2014, she took up a challenging role in the Amazon series ‘Transparent’, which earned her critical acclaim and garnered her first Golden Globe nomination. Light portrayed Shelly Pfefferman, the ex-wife of a transgender, played by Tambor. Around the same period, she appeared in two films ‘Last Weekend’ and ‘We'll Never Have Paris’.
In 2015, she took up the role of Madame Raquin, an overprotective mother in director Evan Cabnet's Broadway production ‘Thérèse Raquin’.
Awards & Achievements
Judith Light won the Soapy Award in the Outstanding Actress category in 1979 for ‘One Life to Live’. The next year, she bagged the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, and another Soapy Award for ‘One Life to Live’.
In 1998, she was given the GLAAD Media Award.
She received the Prism Award for Best Performance in a Comedy Series for ‘Ugly Betty’ in 2007.
In 2012, she won a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award for the play ‘Other Desert Cities’.
In 2013, she once again received a Drama Desk Award, and a Tony Award for the Play ‘The Assembled Parties.’
Her role as Shelly Pfefferman on ‘Transparent’ netted her an Emmy nomination.