Wednesday, February 3, 2010

50 Greatest Soap Actresses: #6 Judith Light

NAME: Judith Light
SOAP ROLES: Claire Meade, UGLY BETTY (2006-present); Karen Wolek, ONE LIFE TO LIVE (1977-1983)

2008 Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
2008 TV Land Award nomination for Mad Ad Man (or Woman) of the Year
2007 Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
2007 Prism Award win for Performance in a Comedy Series
2007 TV Land Award nomination for The "She Works Hard for the Money" Award (Favorite Working Mom)
1998 GLAAD Meida Award Vision Award recipient
1981 Daytime Emmy win for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series
1980 Daytime Emmy win for Outstanding Actress in a Daytime Drama Series
1980 Soap Award win for Outstanding Actress
1979 Soap Award win for Outstanding Actress

Mimi Torchin: No one who ever saw Judith's work as the long-suffering Karen Wolek is likely to forget it, especially her Llanview-shaking admission on the witness stand that she was a prostitute. Daytime's rafters shook. Light went on to prime time and film fame, but this Emmy-winning actress never shunned her daytime roots, always acknowledging where she began with pride and grace. Judith's outspokenness and her support of AID's research and gay rights before it was fashionable shows that she isn't only a brilliant actress, but she's also a woman of substance.

Alan Carter: And not just for the courtroom scene. Although the classic courtroom scene would be enough. She was THE hooker with a heart of gold...she had the audience aching every time she made a bad move. When hired she wasn't what most soap women looked like...and she commanded the audience's attention with her talent and not her hair.

Lynn Liccardo: Another name I saw and wondered how I could have forgotten those iconic courtroom scenes.

Roger Newcomb: She was so memorable on ONE LIFE TO LIVE and one of those actresses that people continue to talk about her soap work long after she's left daytime. On UGLY BETTY she has been able to show her incredible range from dramatic sequences to broad comedy.


  1. In 40 years of watching soaps, Judith Light's courtroom admission is the single best piece of soap acting I've ever seen. Her confession was gut-wrenching; you could not take your eyes off of the screen. You could literally feel this woman's life being ripped to shreds. For this scene - and her other brilliant work as Karen Wolek - Judith Light is Number One on my list.

  2. Very cool. I was trying to guess who else was still left that had to make the list and I completely blanked on Judith Light, but in retrospect, of course. I grew up watching Who's the Boss and her character was like a second mother to me. But then, seeing some of her work from One Life when ABC reaired those old episodes after Loving was canceled (and a little more on YouTube in recent years) was a revelation. I truly wish I'd been alive to watch this show when Judith Light's Karen was running around Llanview turning tricks and switching babies. She definitely deserved her Emmy, and all the success she's had since leaving daytime. The fact that she never forgot where she came from makes her all the more lovable.

    And now, as you said, she's come full circle on Ugly Betty. Which was, ironically, a hybrid soap opera and sitcom that at its best was like what the daytime soaps should have evolved into in the 21st century, and in which Judith got to play the kinds of material that actresses of her generation in daytime should be getting. By the time Ugly Betty got really bad, my friend and I would start to watch an episode and if Judith Light wasn't on in the first five minutes, we'd turn it off.

    I can't wait to see what she does next in her career.

  3. I was lucky enough to watch Judith Light on OLTL leading up to that climatic courtroom scene. Her character was doing bad things behind good guy Larry Wolek's back, but Judith played her like a wounded animal and you just felt for her.

    Great triangle with sister Jenny and Brad Vernon. Played by Brynn Thayer (Matlock) and Jameson Parker (Simon and Simon)

    Marco Dane (Gerald Anthony)-what great characters! Memory lane...

    She was good on the sitcom Who's the Boss playing straight woman with a touch of pathos. Not to mention TV movies, Law & Order, Ugly Betty.....daym! this woman is just watchable in everything.

  4. There is something about Judith Light in her performance of Karen, that makes me think of how Judy Garland delivered a song. Judith told a story. To just look at her is to see something that is truly alive. She is COMPLETELY human - so in touch with the elements in fact... that the effect in unreal and mesmerising. Her empathy is Christ-like. Her willingness on that stand to go into the putrid bowels of hell in order to bring out the essential truth makes her a GENUINE martyr for storytellers evrytwhere.

    Judith Light is one of the valiant soldiers of this medium - fighting for Imagination to the bitter end.

  5. re that courtroom scene, w/wolek having to admit her "hooking" to get vicki off the hook, don't forget: herb was also masterful as the D.A. from hell. also, you knew it was a matter of time b4 marco went nuts on that goddam brad. those were the days...the johnny fever (oh,by the way, when they tried to morph todd manning into some other dude), i started watching "as the world". the original todd can now be found on that show. tuns out he was a good pick-up for an already pretty good show.-thejohnnyfever @ [email protected]

  6. I love Judith Light's skills as a SOAP star,sitcom star,and comedian, but I think a lot of people also recognize Judith as a woman who embodies heart.She is an insperation to those who struggle in their career, and those who just need a romodel.She is like a a friend that it seems like you've known all your life even though you have never really met them in person. Words cannot describe how amazed I am with Judith's skills as a person. She was and always will be a romodel to me. She has taught me that women can do anything you set your mind to,even if your only thirteen!!Lol.She has made me see that one person can touch so many hearts with just their voice. And she has also shown me that women are more powerful than even they think. So, I would like just to say, Thank Mrs.Judith Light. You have really touched my heart and soul! I will forever be greatful of your insperation.

  7. should be #1 not #6