Two-time Daytime Emmy winner and Tony winner, Judith Light spoke with On-Air On-Soaps Michael Fairman for a very special interview for FrontiersLA.com!
The in-depth conversation spotlighted Light’s career in the theatre, primetime television and film, and of course, her now iconic as Karen Wolek on One Life to Live, and her latest role as the twisted Judith Brown Ryland on TNT”s Dallas! In addition, Light, who is one of the leading advocates and friends to the LGBT community, weighed in on the issues of equality for all, and how she became an activist.
Judith is currently in previews for the new dramatic Broadway play, The Assembled Parties which is set to have its opening night on April 17th, which also stars ATWT favorite, Jake Silberman! Here are few very interesting excerpts from the interview for all One Life to Live and Dallas fans!
The show that gave you your start One Life to Live was canceled in 2011, and went off the air in January of 2012; only it has a second life to live! One Life is coming back online with all new episodes on April 29. What are your thoughts that his iconic soap is literally coming back from the dead?
JUDITH: I think it is so fantastic, and I am so happy for everyone. I am not just happy for the people on the show, because it was something that they had devoted themselves to for such a long time, but also the fact that the fans are the ones who really demanded it! They were the ones that put themselves on the line and put themselves out there, and they got what they wanted and what they deserved. It makes me so happy. You want for people to want what they have longed for, and what they have been devoted to. This is a demonstration of the power of the people.
A few weeks ago, the internet was abuzz again with posting the clips and scenes of the 34th anniversary of the ultimate soap opera performance of you as Karen Wolek in the Daytime Emmy winning courtroom scene on One Life to Live from 1979! What do you think about that performance, when you look back at it today?
JUDITH: I think dynamically for the culture, as we were talking about before, what it demonstrates is the need to have the courage to come out. When people see that they are moved by it, because against all odds, against every secret, against ever knowing that she will be rejected by her community, her husband, her friends, everyone in her life just about, she knows that she has to tell the truth about what she had done. And in doing so, it sets her free. I think at a deep profound level which we all know and can feel, there is that oneness and connectedness. Karen’s omission on the witness stand is an ionic moment, because everyone understands that at a very deep profound level. It’s not only that performance; it’s what the moment in time symbolizes … something that everyone can recognize as a kind of bravery to support a friend that simply has to be done. It doesn’t just free the friend; it frees the person who was doing it, as well. You also have to understand, that was a year and a half of putting every piece of that story in place. When I came on OLTL they said to me, “We want to do the story from the movie Belle de Jour with Catherine Deneuve.” It was the story of this woman who was a prostitute during the day and was married to this man, and that was her life. They said, “What do you think of this story?” I said, “I think it’s brilliant.” So they carefully laid in the pieces of that, and you have to look at the level of writing! People say, “Ech, Soap Operas!” Look at what they created! I believe it is one of TV Guide’s Top 100 Moments in Television. It is for the depth of the story, the writing of the story, the year-and-a-half of placing it in real time, and then having the courtroom scene being the culmination of it. I think that is why people still relate to it.
Let’s now talk about your fantastic new role on TNT’s Dallas reboot! Why did you choose to play Judith Brown Ryland on Dallas? She is so creepy! [Laughs]
JUDITH: If you saw the character description, you don’t say “No.” We read the character description, and went, “Oh, my God!” The first writing sample was so exciting and thrilling to work on. The reason that I choose the way that I choose, is not only to satisfy my own creative interests. Certainly that is there, there is no question about it. But to me, theater, television and film, and art in general, are a way in for people to view their own psychology. Subsequently, I think it’s a way to talk about the culture, and who we are as human beings. Now I know those are lofty things to talk about, but I try to talk about them in a way people can relate to them. I can go do Judith Brown Ryland in my bathroom and it won’t make any difference. [Laughs] In people seeing a character like Judith Brown Ryland, who is so controlling and so angry, and needs to make the world the way she wants it, and the sorrow and the reaction that comes from that, maybe someone will say, “I see myself in that, or I see a relative of mine in that, and I want to make it be different.”
That Texas drawl of an accent you have as Judith Brown Ryland is subtle but so delicious! I am sure you are aware that everywhere on the internet, Dallas and Judith Light fans are screaming, “She is too young to play Harris’ mother! Judith and Mitch Pileggi (Harris) are not that far apart in age!”
JUDITH: All I want to say to people is: look at the film Manchurian Candidate. Angela Lansbury was only three years older than Lawrence Harvey when she played that part. I think people are forgetting and not understanding how young Judith Brown Ryland was when she had Harris. I know everyone is saying she is too young, and everyone is talking about this. I want to say to people don’t just look at it at the surface … go a little deeper as to why Harris and Judith are not that discrepant in age. It will educate the public to what this is really all about. And, why they in fact, chose me to play his mother, and why the dynamic between the two of us is so infinitely off balance. I appreciate that people think I look good, that’s so nice! [Laughs]
You were just honored a few weeks ago by the MCC (Manhattan Class Company) for your career in stage, film and television at their annual Miscast Gala in New York City! It was quite a turnout, and looked like a fun night! Were you shocked at all the stars and accolades bestowed upon you?
JUDITH: First off, they did a rap of my entire career! You have to hear this rap! It’s completely stunning. It starts with my career on One Life to Live. It’s brilliant and off the charts. My mouth was hanging open, and someone said to me finally, “You better close your mouth. They are taking pictures.” [Laughs] It was truly one of the highlights of my entire life. I truly don’t know how to describe it, and it was beyond words.
Now below check out the promotional video for Judith’s new role as Faye in The Assembled Parties. For ticket information click here!
Then, Let us know what you thought of Judith’s comments on the fan support bringing back One Life to Live? Her one-of-a-kind performance when Karen confessed all on the witness stand on One Life? Her new role on DALLAS as Judith Brown Ryland? And, what did you think of the rap (check the link in the final question) which payed homage to her sterling career starting with One Life to Live? Let us know!