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Judith Light On The Return of One Life to Live, Karen's Courtroom Testimony, DALLAS & Her New Play!

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Two-time Daytime Emmy winner and Tony winner, Judith Light spoke with On-Air On-Soaps Michael Fairman for a very special interview for! 

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]

Photo Credit: Joe Marzullo

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!

Click to comment


  1. Iakovos

    April 3, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I adore this woman. Judith Light is a delight to watch. I remember so very well that OLTL testimony. Amazing stuff. It is good to know she regards this aspect of her career well and recalls it fondly for and with her fans. Thank you!

    • Tali

      April 3, 2013 at 10:48 am

      I too remember – it was iconic! Loved her on “Who’s the Boss” and her new role on Dallas. Hope she’ll grace the tv screen more often. She’s been great!

      • Joliefan Forever

        April 3, 2013 at 7:12 pm

        I loved her as District Attorney/Judge Elizabeth Donnelly on Law and Order SVU

  2. Carole

    April 3, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I love her as udith and can’t wait to find out what is really going on with her and Harris!

  3. Llanviewer717

    April 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Bravo Judith Light. Magnificent as always.

  4. ethel

    April 3, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    judith light = awesomness – loved her ever since was karen wolek on oltl!

  5. GertieGal

    April 3, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    In regards to Dallas, am I understanding her correctly??? Is she saying that she was just a child when she had Harris??? Was she raped by her father maybe and that is why she is the way she is???? Sounds delicious….

  6. Edna Barefoot

    April 3, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    I love Judith Light. I have watched her in OLTL on the witness stand several times. Each time I cry again. It was heart wrenching. Haven’t seen Dallas so I can’t say. I loved her in Who’s the boss. She can play any part & make you believe it. It is good to hear that the stars recognize all we the fans did to get our soaps back. And we did that because the stars are so talented that they feel like family to us. Thank you Michael for the article. I really enjoy your writing.

  7. Jamie

    April 4, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Judith is so amazing. I’m intrigued to know the story about her and Harris’ relationship on Dallas. Judith Light is truly a delight to watch on everything she does. She makes the viewers feel what she feels. Wish I could go see her play.

  8. nancy

    April 4, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I just love Judith and have followed her since her days on OLTL. When I saw she had been cast on Dallas I practically jumped up and down with glee. 🙂

  9. Fakeer Raheem

    December 12, 2013 at 6:51 am

    The lyrics to the rap tune dedicated to Judith Light is absolutely fabulous and totally accurate: She IS so good she can’t be miscast! Truer words were never spoken about any performer in my lifetime.

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All My Children

ABC and PEOPLE’s ‘The Story of Soaps’: What Was Your Review Of It?

Tuesday’s night airing of ABC and PEOPLE’s two-hour special The Story of Soaps featured many notable daytime and primetime soap stars, past and present, clips from backstage to classic memorable moments, and some participants who were providing commentary on the erosion of the daytime soaps in our culture.  Still others, maintained and realized that everything today is serialized from the news we watch, to some of Netflix’s most binge-watchable series, and of course, the birth of reality-programming.

Throughout the airing of the special, The Story of Soaps was trending on Twitter and social media either at the #2, #3 or #4 spots for the entire duration of the broadcast presentation, and the cancelled and beloved All My Children was also at one point trending.

However, known soap writers, journalists, ardent fans, and actors of the genre, were all on Twitter last night live-tweeting their thoughts as the special went down, and there was definitely mixed reactions and reviews, when all was said and done.

What the special did not shy away from, but tackled, was Luke’s rape of Laura at the campus disco on General Hospital. and how that moment now, as Genie Francis (Laura), so eloquently put, would be considered as ‘date rape’ in our culture.  The series even included a pivotal moment where Laura addresses Luke (Tony Geary) about the rape years later, after helping Elizabeth (Rebecca Herbst) through her rape ordeal.

John Stamos (Ex-Blackie Parrish, GH) got a bevy of “Right On’s!” for his comment that the soaps do not get the credit that they deserve and clearly came through as one of the soaps greatest supporters, as did former The Doctors and Knots Landing star, Alec Baldwin.

However, throughout the two-hours, Andy Cohen’s commentary was thread throughout; mostly citing soap’s demise and the creation of reality-programming and his “Real Housewives” franchise, that the special touted as the new soap operas.  It continued on the narrative that people preferred to see real-life drama then made-up drama on a fictional soap.  And while, that has been a trend in American culture for decades, the commentary came off as often out of place in a celebration of the soaps; and bringing in a lot of negativity to the special that soap fans were tired of hearing.

In a lighting rod moment, Cohen stated: “I know Susan Lucci doesn’t agree with me, but I think that the Housewives have replaced soap operas because truth is stranger than fiction. Soaps became kind of unnecessary because you could do it with real people, and they’re writing the drama themselves.”

The special did also address the cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Live, (which many were not sure they were going to do – given this special was airing on ABC), where One Life’s leading lady and six-time Daytime Emmy winner, Erika Slezak (Ex-Viki) said what we all wanted to sa ywhen the ax fell on the towns of Llanview and Pine Valley, “People were horrified”.

Clearly, OJ Simpson and his murder trial and reality-programming were also given a chunk of time to show where the once mighty landscape of daytime soaps which once had 13 shows on the air, dwindled town to 4.  But, it would have been nice to see more time spent on how in this day and age, the people in this current landscape of the genre work so hard to get episodes done at an unbelievable pace, and how in that climate the performers still deliver gut-wrenching performances.

Photo: ABC

Former Loving, OLTL and Breaking Bad star, Bryan Cranston, did point out how the once powerful soaps, just don’t have the dollars they used to, and need to, to help with production costs and their taping schedule.

Viewers were reminded of soaps’ socially relevant storylines including hankie-inducing moments from: Robin (Kimberly McCullough) and Stone’s (Michael Sutton) HIV/AIDS storyline on General Hospital, to Billy Douglas being a gay teen coming out on One Life to Live, played by a young Ryan Phillippe.

There also did not seem time spent on the contributions of William J. Bell; one of the most prominent writers of the soap genre of all-time.

For many commenting on social media last night, there seemed to be a feeling of some glaring omissions of participants who could speak on this genre, who have been in the trenches as soap producers, soap writers, pundits, actors, and more, who were not included in the special.

So, what was your review of The Story of Soaps? How would you grade it? Do you feel it accurately reflected the history of the genre?  Were you happily surprised,  or when it came to the end where you over it, or somewhere in between? Sound off in the comment section below.  Below are some tweets from notables who have worked as an actor, a writer, and a journalist in the soaps.  

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DALLAS Online Reunion Coming With Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and More

Time to revisit Southfork during the coronavirus pandemic, with news on Friday that some of the cast from the original CBS primetime soap, Dallas will be participating in an online virtual chat next week!

According to Deadline, confirmed thus far are: Patrick Duffy (Ex-Bobby), Linda Gray (Ex-Sue Ellen), Charlene Tilton (Ex-Lucy) and Steve Kanaly (Ex-Ray).

They will all be part of the conversation on Friday, April 24th beginning at 8 p. m. EST.  The stars are taking part in the Stars in the House livestream series to raise money for The Actors Fund’s COVID-19 relief efforts.

Hosted by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, who have been bantering with cast members of several former and beloved shows, you can watch the virtual chat up on the Stars in the House website and on YouTube.

Since the first Stars in the House episode on March 16, the series has raised approximately $209,600 to benefit The Actors Fund.

So, will you be checking out the Dallas reunion next Friday? Comment below.

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Breaking News

‘Dallas’ star Ken Kercheval Dead At Age 83

Sad news to report for fans of the iconic primetime soap, Dallas.  Ken Kercheval, who played the thorn in J.R. Ewing’s (Larry Hagman) side, Cliff Barnes, has passed away.   The actor was 83 and died at his home in Indiana on Sunday.   The cause of death is under wraps.  He had been previously open about being a lung cancer survivor after years of smoking.

Kercheval was on Dallas for its entire run on CBS from 1978 to 1991, and returned to the TNT reboot from 2012 to 2014 to reprise his signature role.

On Dallas, Cliff Barnes was always the perennial loser when he went toe to toe with ruthless J.R, but in the final season, Cliff beats J.R at his own game and takes over Ewing Oil.  Cliff was also hopelessly in love with Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray) and was the brother to Pam Barnes, played by Victoria Principal.

As for Ken’s first big acting breaks, that came on daytime soap operas when early in his career he appeared on Search for Tomorrow and How to Survive a Marriage.

Later, he appeared on episodic dramas such as Starsky & Hutch, and Crossing Jordan.  His final role was in a movie, 2019’s Surviving in L.A. said to be a comedy/drama in which he plays the business manager of a former teen sitcom star who trashed her life through drug abuse and is fresh out of rehab.

Share your thoughts on the passing of Ken Kercheval in the comment section below.   But first, watch him as Cliff Barnes in this scene from TNT’s Dallas when he sees J.R. for the first time in years!

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Video du Jour

B&B’s Heather Tom talks with Michael Fairman immediately following her record-tying win in the Lead Actress category during the 47th annual Daytime Emmy Awards.  Heather and Erika now hold the most wins for an actress with 6! Leave A Comment

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Airdate: 5-19/20-2020