Judith Light Interview: ‘Transparent: Musical Finale’
“There was this creation that came out of ‘what do we do?’” explains Judith Light. She is referring to “Transparent: Musicale Finale,” the epic musical sendoff for the Pfefferman clan of Amazon’s Emmy-winning “Transparent.” Creator Jill Soloway and her songwriter sibling Faith Soloway had always tinkered with the idea to turn the series into a musical. The departure of lead actor Jeffrey Tambor marked the perfect opportunity for such a bold shift, and provided Light’s Shelly Pfefferman with zippy showtunes and emotional catharsis. Watch the exclusive video interview above.
Light had previously delivered a touching rendition of Alanis Morissette’s “One Hand in My Pocket” in the Season 3 finale, but the requirements of this musical movie were much more involved. There was “great preparation,” she notes, though the actual shoot was accomplished in just one month.
Shelly performs one of the most grandiose showstoppers, titled “Your Boundary Is My Trigger,” complete with a Broadway quality set and backup dancers. She calls the rehearsal process “daunting,” but adds that “Jill has always pushed me in the most exciting, frightening, kind of ways. This was one of them.” She joined in a dance rehearsal just after learning the vocals and was suddenly confronted with how much energy would be required to pull off the number. The unique challenges immediately made the actress think to herself: “this is one of the greatest opportunities of my life!”
She praises Soloway as the reason why all the moving pieces came together. As Light describes, the showrunner “creates a very safe space to express.” During the entire time she was dancing and belting her way through songs both touching and comical, Light gushes “I felt lifted up by the whole family.”
That supportive, expressive space yielded fantastic results with the actresses’ co-stars as well. It’s no secret that Shelly and her family suffer from a heavy dose of narcissism. “People would come up to me and say ‘I cannot bear you,’” Light says with a laugh. That makes one moment of reconciliation with her three adult children all the sweeter, as she finally learns to put their needs first. “You watch a progression” of your character, describes Light, “and ultimately you long for a transformation at some level.” That transformation finally arrived in this “Musicale Finale,” and Light once again credits Soloway for her “awareness and sensitivity” in bringing all of the characters’ arcs to a beautiful conclusion.
Light has amassed a robust resume during her impressive career, and it gives her plenty to be thankful for. She won two consecutive Daytime Emmys (Drama Actress for “One Life to Live” in 1980 and 1981) and two consecutive Tonys (Featured Actress in a Play for “Other Desert Cities” in 2012 and “The Assembled Parties” in 2013). “Listen I could make some sort of silly cute remark about it,” she says of her awards run, but “the truth is I am really appreciative and grateful for the support of the communities that I work in.”
Of course one of those communities is also the LGBTQ community, for whom she has been an activist and ally for decades (the Tonys awarded her the Isabelle Stevenson Award for this activism last year). As the transgender community grew in visibility while “Transparent” aired, Light states that she is proud to have taken part in a show that grew with the conversation. “I came as part of a group of people who were longing to be part of that dialogue and part of that transformation.”