Judith Light has picked up some hardware during her acclaimed four-decade career. Light, who made her Broadway debut in the 1975 revival of A Doll’s House and gained fame during a six-year stint as Karen Wolek in One Life to Live, has a pair of Tony’s and Daytime Emmy’s to her name. She’s also long been a supporter of the LGBTQ community and was honored with the Vision Award by GLAAD in 1998.
But at 67, the actress shows no signs of slowing down professionally or in terms of activism. Light plays the role of Shelly Pfefferman, a mother of three whose ex-husband Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) opens up about identifying as a woman, in season 3 of popular Amazon Video show Transparent. Earlier this month, she returned to the stage to star in Neil LaBute’s All the Ways to Say I Love You, and is now speaking out about the importance of the 65-and-over crowd getting a flu shot.
Transparent premiered last week. What can you tell us about season 3?
I don’t want to give anything away but it’s a very moving season as people who have gotten to see it have reported. I have not gotten a chance to see it because I’ve been so busy doing this off-Broadway show.
Transparent has been groundbreaking in that it delves into transgender issues during a time when there is a lot of dialogue happening about the community, including bathroom laws. What’s the most important conversation you hope it starts?
The conversation that Jill Soloway had with me when I first talked to her. She said, “I want to change the world. I want to change the culture. I want to end bigotry and divisiveness particularly in this case towards the transgender community which has been shoved into the shadows for far too long. I want to change the whole conversation for the LGBTQ community.” That was what she felt was important and that’s what I think is happening. When people are educated, they relate to something differently. In the transgender community and with Transparent, you think that what we’re talking about is one humanity, one body of human beings.
In the one-woman show All the Ways to Say I Love You, you play Faye Johnson, a high school English teacher and guidance counselor who recounts her time with a favored student and realizes hidden truths about her life and marriage in the process. What types of emotions does Faye experience?
There are a lot of ups and downs and a great deal of intensity in less than an hour. Neil LaBute is one of our greatest playwrights in this country and the world and Leigh Silverman is an extraordinary director. It’s a very moving piece and a very touching piece.
You’re involved in the Flu + You campaign with the National Council on Aging’s Center for Healthy Aging. What prompted you to join the cause?
I really want to make sure everyone is taking care of themselves. We’re all so busy. I saw a statistic that was very compelling to me: 90 percent of flu-related deaths happen to people 65 and older. I’m over 65. When I heard the statistic I said, “Wait a minute. This is something I don’t know about. This is something I can educate people about.” There is a higher dose vaccine available for people in that age range. This is preventable. You do not have to die from the flu.
Between your work with the LGBTQ community and now this, it seems educating the public is important to you. Have you always been into activism?
One of the things I first said to my manager 36 years ago when we first started working together was, “I want to find a way, if I ever get any kind of celebrity, to talk about things in culture or change people’s minds to people.” I’m not a doctor but I’m someone who can introduce things to somebody. I’ve always wanted to make a difference.