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Judith Light Details Her Decision To Depart OLTL, And How Overcoming Fear Led To An Impressive Career In TV, Film, and Theatre!

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

When you put together a list of the Best of the Best Actresses, Judith Light is certainly right at the top of the list.  Her decades of brilliant, emotional, and riveting work stands the test of time whether it be in film roles, television, or in the theatre where she has won two Tony Awards.

And to think, if it wasn’t for her difficult decision to exit her powerhouse role as Karen Wolek on One Life to Live, things may have turned out differently.  This, according to Light herself, in a piece written by her, and published this week in the New York Times.

Judith is currently starring in Amazon’s Transparent with its new season bowing on September 22nd.  This coming Sunday night, September 17th, Light is in the running for the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Shelly Pfefferman at the Primetime Emmys.

In the Times “First Time” section, the article called Judith Light: The First Time I Quit My job, gives insight into what went on behind the scenes that led to Light stepping away from her iconic daytime drama role as Llanview’s prostitute with a heart of gold.  Judith won two Daytime Emmys for her performance, and as we have mentioned countless times, but never too often, Karen’s courtroom confession stands among one of the all-time most memorable moments in television history.

Light recounts how she was at a low point in her acting career, when she landed the role of Karen on One Life: “I took the job, thinking it would give me some time and a cushion of money to think about what I really wanted to do. The writers asked me if I knew the film Belle de Jour starring Catherine Deneuve. ‘I love it!’ I told them. They wanted to create a similar storyline on the soap: A woman married to a very wealthy man is a prostitute on the side. So Karen became the wife of a good doctor, but was forced into selling her body in secret by an old lover.”

Judith went on to say: “Day after day there were emotional scenes filled with tension and terror as my character tried to escape her double life, navigate a web of lies and deal with brutal johns. The story line went on for a year and a half, culminating in a powerful scene on the witness stand that led to my first Emmy.”

While Light was at One Life to Live, she met her eventual husband, Robert Desiderio, who played Steve Piermont.  Judith recalls, “The producers and writers saw real chemistry between us, and they started writing for it. Robert was only on the show for a short time before leaving to work in Los Angeles, but our relationship had already been cemented on screen and off.  So as my five-year anniversary on the soap approached, Robert said he thought it was a good time for me to leave, that I should move to Los Angeles too.”

Next, Judith relates her fears at making the leap out of the world of soaps saying to Desiderio: “What!” “Why?” I exclaimed, frantic and filled with fear at the thought. He simply said, ‘I think you will work out there.’ So on a gorgeous fall day in September, my hand was shaking as I sat in the producer’s office, terrified that by signing an exit contract I was jumping off a cliff. Voices in my head were saying, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ ‘This is a huge, stupid mistake!”’

She went on to say that after consulting with her agents and managers at the time, they agreed it was time for her to venture to Los Angeles, where she eventually landed her leading role on Who’s The Boss for eight seasons opposite Tony Danza.

Light concludes her piece: “What followed was a fulfilling theater, television and film career, and a life that I could never have imagined that day I left One Life to Live. I still have to remind myself sometimes that fear never needs to control my choices. Something powerful rises up in me whenever I put the fear aside and move ahead in spite of it.”

So, what did you think of Judith’s real-life story in her decision-making process to exit One Life to Live? Have you overcome fears in your own life that led to something rewarding, and that led you to fulfillment and happiness?  Let us know in the comment section below!

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KansasGuestJamesj75jaybird369Violet Lemmdmr Recent comment authors
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Debra m
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Debra m

That scene of Karen on the witness stand admitting she was a prostitute was and still is one of the best, most memorable scene on any soap. Judith is an amazing actress.

PennySoap
Guest
PennySoap

That was literally the first time that I watched OLTL! I was working at Prudential Property and Casualty (Oak Brook, IL) and people had it on the TV in our cafeteria . From that day, I was hooked on Judith and OLTL…

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

that picture above “captures” her stunning good look

2-3 things right out of the gate

1. she respects this genre
2. she readily speaks about this genre.. with ease
3. her advocacy for LGBT, along with so many other endeavors

this speaks volume about her fan base.

We never left her

Steve
Guest
Steve

A superb actress who excels at both drama and comedy. The trial scenes still resonate today.

I did wish that she would have put in a cameo in the last months the show was on ABC, but accepted it as she has always spoke well of OLTL.

InTheLigt
Guest
InTheLigt

Judith is a force of nature, I remember the day the One Life announcer said, “The part of Karen Wolek will now be played by Judith Light…” and instantly, I could not get my eyes off this enigmatic young woman. To follow her choices over the years–from how she plays a part so uniquely to what roles she takes on, has been a continued revelation. She follows her heart…but backs it with great talent, discipline and ultimate joy. And yes, this article just gave me the courage to make a move, thank you Ms. Light and kudos to this column!

nancy dillingham
Guest
nancy dillingham

An exemplar of true professionalism and dedication to her craft. Her scenes as Karen on OLTL were indelible, gut-wrenching, and simply wonderful.

Charday
Guest
Charday

Would love to see her on GH–Monica Q’s long lost sister?

brian
Guest
brian

great call ! 2 thumbs up !!

Llanviewer717
Guest
Llanviewer717

I have loved Judith Light since the first day I saw her on One Life to Live. She is absolutely brilliant. I am always impressed how proudly, and rightfully so, she discusses her time on One Life to Live. She truly respects the genre. I am very proud to be a fan who truly loves and respects her.

jeffrie
Guest
jeffrie

Amazing actress …..i will never forget those courtroom scenes to this day that holds the bar as the most powerful moment i ever watched on that great show!!!!!Beyond brilliant and she continues to act the hell out of every part she plays!!!

Iakovos
Guest
Iakovos

Many of us of a certain age do recall the strong emotion and power of those OLTL courtroom scenes with Miss Light at the center. AMAZING! Younger folk should check them out on YouTube just to appreciate this woman who has gone on to excel in so many roles (even weaker vehicles), not to mention her real-life role in advocacy of social issues. I am inspired by her NYTimes piece. Sometimes you have to take a step into the unknown to discover what life has in store for you.

dmr
Guest
dmr

Daytime television was so different in the late 70’s and 80’s. I miss that era of daytime television. I was not alive to “witness” the courtroom scenes when they first played out; however, I do remember watching the episode on ABC’s “A Daytime to Remember,” and I have watched it on YouTube. I remember watching beautiful love stories unfold, friendships prevail, the build-up of important stories-social economic issues, and cliff-hanger Fridays. We are left with bare bones nothing, today. It’s just so sad.

Maureen
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Maureen

Count me in- loved her since OLTL- those were the days on the soaps- the acting, writing-and they had bigger budgets and the courtrooms were always packed. Just adore Judith Light- Who’s the Boss, Ugly Betty-love love love the Lifetime movie where she plays Audrey Hilley- Wife, mother, murderer- it is on youtube. Also love her on Law and Order SVU. I started watching the reboot Dallas when I saw she was on the show. Love Judith Light.

dmr
Guest
dmr

YES! I remember watching that movie when it was a “Made for TV Movie!” She was incredible as Audrey Hilley-and INCREDIBLE on Dallas!

fginaspy
Guest
fginaspy

My feeling previously has been that JL has hasn’t always been favorable to daytime serials. I can’t recall her touting the genre while on Who’s The Boss or Ugly Betty. I noticed her positive responses on The View for OLTL’s farewell and this was the first ever I had seen her speek of OLTL up to that date. She had won her first Tony and what did she have to lose at that point. I even thought her appearance on The View then was really about her promoting her stage work. No doubt her courtroom confession is a top daytime… Read more »

dmr
Guest
dmr

I remember watching Lifetime’s “Intimate Portrait” and Ms. Light speaking fondly of her time in daytime. Also, I recall reading a “soap buzz” (somewhat) recently on this site with Ms. Light, talking about her time on Dallas, and her time on OLTL. You are right, she is a powerhouse actress and has quite the resume-daytime television, sitcoms, evening programs, stage work, etc., and has been recognized for her tremendous talent. She is truly a gem!

dramafan
Guest
dramafan

I am afraid that this interview plays to the cliche that an actor has to leave daytime in order to have a respectable career. I don’t believe this is correct. Just look at the countless actors and actresses that have made their career in daytime.

Yes, she does seem to speak favorably about OLTL but it’s all in the context about how quitting the show was the best and most empowered thing she has done and that if she had stayed there she would’nt have the career that she has.

Lisa Z
Guest
Lisa Z

I totally agree with your comment. What she routinely says in interviews is how smart a decision it was to leave OLTL. This is a little offensive to long time viewers and the other actors and workers on the show. It seems like a major put down to the genre of soaps. “Who Is The Boss” was not exactly high brow tv. I have not seen her other work. I think Erika Slezak was a better actress and more likeable and sympathetic on screen ,and I am glad that she stayed until the end.

KansasGuest
Guest
KansasGuest

Well, that’s true – Light would not have hit the heights of acting success that she’s had if she had remained on OLTL. That’s not spin. That’s a fact. She’s starred on Broadway, won Tony Awards, starred on TV, won Emmy Awards – that won’t happen unless an actor takes a risk and walks away from a steady job. Daytime is a respectable gig. Some actors don’t want more. But, if an actor wants to play a variety of roles, sticking with the same character for 20 years is not going to fulfill that desire – no matter how many… Read more »

Chaz
Guest
Chaz

I was fortunate enough to see her live in a play “All the Ways to Say I Love You” at a small theater in NYC – the Lucille Lortel – last year. It was a one woman play and we had second row seats. She was powerful and amazing. A great talent I have followed since her first appearance on OLTL.

Jamesj75
Guest
Jamesj75

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again: Judith Light is the gold standard of acting. I don’t feel any daytime actor or actress has exceeded the performances of Ms. Light while on OLTL, especially the infamous courtroom scenes. I lament the fact that, as of this writing, there are not many posts related to this feature, but I realize that most of the posters at this site might not be directly familiar with her daytime work. Many weren’t even alive then. But I was… And I can tell you: Light was riveting and formidable. The fact that this versatile… Read more »

jaybird369
Guest
jaybird369

James…oh, I agree…Judith Light is DEFINITELY the gold standard of acting!!!!! To me, here’s why…

1. She has ALWAYS RESPECTED the soap industry.
2. She is A WONDERFULLY AND BRUTALLY HONEST human being.
3. As an actress, the woman can do ANYTHING!!!!!
4. She makes acting look so EASY AND EFFORTLESS.
5. Most of all, soaps…the stage…TV movies…TV series…the woman knows how to do it ALL!!!!!

To me, that’s why Judith Light WILL ALWAYS BE AN A+ CLASS ACT in my book!!!!!

Later, Brother.

Jamesj75
Guest
Jamesj75

Glad we’re on the same page, Jay! You have outlined Light’s accomplishments and attributes perfectly! Take care, Brother.

Charday
Guest
Charday

She was great on DALLAS!

Violet Lemm
Guest
Violet Lemm

Judith Light, is an has always been one of the best actresses on TV. Not only the Soaps, but all her nighttime accomplishments. Loved her in Who’ s The Boss, and a number of dramas, banging that gavel as a judge. The role I loved the most was her time spent on Dallas, giving the ‘ole boys a run for their money, especially the one who played her son, and his daughter. Can’t remember the names now, but am sure anyone that watched the last Dallas series, will know who I am talking about.

Breaking News

AW and OLTL Alum, Robyn Griggs Dead at 49

In more heartbreaking soap news this weekend, Robyn Griggs had lost her battle with cancer.  The actress, best-known to daytime viewers as Stephanie on One Life to Live and Maggie on Another World, passed away at age 49.

The news came on Saturday via Griggs’ official Facebook posted, where in a statement it noted: “Hi everyone, With a heavy heart, I am saddened to announce Robyn’s passing. However, she is no longer suffering and would want us to remember that and the good memories. I will never forget how open she was to telling her story, and accepting of me helping her tell it. She wanted to help people and spread the word of her story to do it. I was honored to do so. RIP my friend, I love you and smile when I think of you.”

Photo: RGriggsFacebook

From 1991-1992, Griggs found her first soap success playing the part of One Life’s Stephanie Hobart.  Later, in 1993-1995, she played AW’s Maggie Cory.  Robyn was also a singer and signed a recording deal with RCA Records.

Robyn had been battling stage 4 Endocervical Adeno cancer.  Back on July 7th, Griggs had taken a turn for the worse, sharing on Facebook, “Unfortunately, I have 4 new tumors …2 new tumors on my liver, one on the abdominal muscle, and a large one on the right side lymph node.” On August 11th, her father shared Robyn was put into hospice care.

Share your remembrances and condolences for Robyn Griggs Riley and her loved ones in the comment section below.

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Breaking News

Anne Heche, ‘Another World’ Alum and TV and Film Star, Dead at 53

Following a catastrophic brain injury from crashing her car into a home last week and suffering severe burns, actress Anne Heche has been declared brain-dead at the age of 53.

In a statement from a rep for Heche’s friends and family, they expressed: “Today we lost a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother, and a loyal friend.  Anne will be deeply missed but she lives on through her beautiful sons, her iconic body of work, and her passionate advocacy. Her bravery for always standing in her truth, spreading her message of love and acceptance, will continue to have a lasting impact.”

Heche is legally dead according to California law, although her heart is still beating she has not been taken off life support in order to allow for organ donations to take place and to find the right recipients.

 

Photo: AHInstagram

Anne’s eldest son, Homer 20, said in a statement to PEOPLE on his mom’s passing:  “My brother Atlas and I lost our Mom. After six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings, I am left with a deep, wordless sadness. Hopefully my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom. Over those six days, thousands of friends, family, and fans made their hearts known to me. I am grateful for their love, as I am for the support of my Dad, Coley, and my stepmom Alexi who continue to be my rock during this time. Rest In Peace Mom, I love you.”

The talented actress is best-known to soap opera fans for her Daytime Emmy-winning dual roles as twins, Vicky and Marley Hudson on Another World.  She had two sons, Homer with her ex Coley Laffoon and Atlas, 13, with actor James Tupper.

Throughout her career Heche appeared on TV shows and films includingL Men in Trees, If These Walls Could TalkDonnie BrascoI Know What You Did Last SummerSix Days, Seven Nights, and Gus Van Zant’s 1998 remake of Psycho. Back in 2020, Anne became a celebrity contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.

Heche’s stormy relationship with Ellen DeGeneres made headlines throughout her career, and today, DeGeneres shared: “This is a sad day. I’m sending Anne’s children, family and friends all of my love.”

Michael Fairman chatted with Anne back in 2020, in a memorable conversation for You Tube’s Michael Fairman Channel touching upon her career start on Another World, being a champion for the LGBTQ community, her relationship with DeGeneres, the ups and down in her career, and her demons and childhood past.

You can watch the conversation below.

Now, share your thoughts, condolences, and remembrances for Anne Heche via the comment section.

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Breaking News

Anne Heche ‘Not Expected to Survive’; Suffered Severe Brain Injury From Fiery Crash

In just heartbreaking news, Daytime Emmy-winner, Anne Heche (Ex-Vicky/Marley, Another World), is not expected to survive after days in the hospital following being severely burned in a fiery car crash when her vehicle struck a home in Mar Vista, California last Friday.

According to family and friends of the motion picture and television star in a statement, “Unfortunately, due to her accident, Anne Heche suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and remains in a coma, in critical condition. She is not expected to survive. It has long been her choice to donate her organs and she is being kept on life support to determine if any are viable.”  Deadline notes, the actress will be taken off life-support.

The statement went on to say, “We want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers for Anne’s recovery and thank the dedicated staff and wonderful nurses that cared for Anne at the Grossman Burn Center at West Hills hospital.  More than her extraordinary talent, she saw spreading kindness and joy as her life’s work — especially moving the needle for acceptance of who you love. She will be remembered for her courageous honesty and dearly missed for her light.”

There are plans for Heche to get an Honor Walk, which is a hero’s goodbye donor patients receive by hospital staff as they are wheeled into the operating room in their final journey.

Heche will be featured on Lifetime’s Girl in Room 13, set to premiere this fall in September. Lifetime’s Executive VP  and head of programming, Amy Winter, revealed earlier this week at the TCA press tour, “As many of you know, Anne remains in critical condition and all of us here at Lifetime are deeply concerned for her and everyone affected. This project is important to Anne, along with each and every one of us. We all sought to make a film that would bring attention to this appalling issue of human sex trafficking.”

In addition, TMZ had reported that following toxicology reports, Cocaine was found in Heche’s system following the crash. They also found fentanyl. However,  sources say fentanyl can often be used as a pain medication in hospitals, so there is no confirmation that it was in Anne’s system at the time of the crash.

Anne was an amazing actress with such a tortured life.  We send thoughts and prayers to all her loved ones during this difficult time.  Share your thoughts on the latest update on Anne in the comment section below.

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