Judith Light
Judith Light
General Information
Born: (1949-02-09) February 9, 1949 (age 70)
Birthplace: Trenton, New Jersey, U.S.
Career Information
Occupation: Actress
Appeared on/in
(or involved with):
Dallas (second series)
Appeared as: Judith Ryland

Judith Light (born February 9, 1949) is the actress who plays Judith Ryland on the TNT series Dallas. She is best known for playing Mom & businesswoman Angela Bower on ABC's Who's the Boss? with Tony Danza.

Early lifeEdit

Light was born in Trenton, New Jersey, the daughter of Pearl Sue (née Hollander), a model, and Sidney Light, an accountant. Light graduated from high school in 1966 at St. Mary's Hall-Doane Academy, now Doane Academy, in Burlington, New Jersey. She graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University with a degree in drama. She recalled the university as "rigorous" and "amazing". Afterwards, she started out on stage, making her professional debut in Richard III at the California Shakespeare Festival in 1970, before moving to Broadway to star in A Doll's House in 1975. She also starred in the 1976 Broadway play Herzl. Light also acted for such theatre companies as the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and the Seattle Repertory Theatre. In the late 1970s, Light went through a real crisis after a period of not landing any parts. Broke, she almost quit acting, because she felt that she was not contributing to the theater.


In this period, Light was called by her agent to audition for an understudy role in the ABC soap opera One Life to Live. Never wanting to be attached to a soap opera or a sitcom, she initially rejected the idea, until she was told that she would have a daily salary of US$350. At the audition, she realized that "the format reaches a lot of people", and that she could thereby "make a difference" and "make money" at the same time. Instead of landing an understudy role, she was recast in the role of Karen Wolek, a role that had previously been portrayed by actresses Kathryn Breech and Julia Duffy. This role was quite lucrative for Light and spawned one of the show's most-remembered storylines; Light's character became a prostitute after she became bored with her life as a housewife.

On trial, Karen saved her friend Viki Lord Riley (Erika Slezak) from being convicted of killing Karen's pimp, Marco Dane (Gerald Anthony) by admitting to the entire town, including her faithful husband, Dr. Larry Wolek (Michael Storm), that she had been a prostitute. In 1980, this won Light her first Daytime Emmy Award for "Lead Actress in a Daytime Drama Series"; the scene in which she confessed her guilt in court is held in such high esteem that it is used in acting classes to the current day. Light recalled:

"I was scared before those courtroom scenes. I was afraid to put myself out that much. With the agony of pulling it out piece by piece and having the prosecutor stick the knife in her gut, I couldn't help but let everything spew out of her."

Light won another Emmy in the role in 1981. She appeared in an episode of St. Elsewhere in its first season, called "Dog Day Hospital", in which she played a housewife who became pregnant for the 9th time even though her husband claimed he had a vasectomy. In an effort to punish the doctor who botched the job she took an operating room hostage though it was later revealed that her husband had not had the procedure.

After this success on daytime, she landed the role of assertive advertising executive Angela Bower on the ABC-TV sitcom Who's the Boss. Co-starring Tony Danza, who played her housekeeper (and eventual lover), the show ran for eight seasons from 1984 to 1992. TV Guide has Who's the Boss? ranked as the 109th best sitcom of all time.

Light spent most of the 1990s starring in made-for-TV and feature films such as Men Don't Tell and 1997's Too Close to Home, which co-starred Rick Schroder. She also starred on the sitcom Phenom, which ran for only one season (1993–1994) before being canceled.

In 2000, Judith received critical acclaim when she starred on stage as Dr. Vivian Bearing in "Wit", Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about an academic dying from ovarian cancer.

Since 2002 to 2010, she has had a recurring role on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where she plays Judge Elizabeth Donnelly, who served as a Bureau Chief ADA in the Manhattan District Attorney's office before being appointed to the bench in Season 7. In 2006 she landed the recurring role of Claire Meade, the alcoholic mother of Daniel and Alexis Meade, on ABC's Ugly Betty. The role earned her an Emmy nomination.

Light appeared in a May 2006 episode of Family Guy ("Untitled Griffin Family History") wherein she voiced a cartoon version of herself obsessed with former co-star Tony Danza and making out with a constructed dummy of Tony in her house. She also recently appeared in an episode of the NBC sitcom Twenty Good Years.

In 2007 Light starred as a radical Christian woman in Save Me an independent film. Light's character, Gayle, runs a Christian ministry known as Genesis House, which works to help gay men recover from their 'affliction.' She is challenged by the arrival of Mark, an ill gay man who reminds Gayle of her dead, gay son, and the movie chronicles the challenges of the two as they learn to accept each other as they are.

In 2010-2011, Judith appeared on Broadway in the play Lombardi and received a nomination for the Tony Award, Featured Actress in a Play. She appears in the play Other Desert Cities (2011) and won the Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Play for her role as Silda.

In 2012, she was cast as Judith Ryland, Harris Ryland's evil mother in the TNT drama series Dallas.

Personal lifeEdit


Light is Jewish. She has been married to television actor Robert Desiderio since 1985, when they met while co-starring on One Life to Live. They have no children. She speaks French fluently.


Light is a gay rights activist and helped former Who's the Boss? co-star Danny Pintauro in coming out. She has done work for many LGBT charities. She sits on the board of the Matthew Shepard Foundation and spoke at the 1993 March on Washington. In 1998, she had a library named after her at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

She is also a prominent AIDS activist and played Ryan White's mother in the 1989 TV movie on his life The Ryan White Story. Also, she sits on the board of Point Foundation, a LGBT organization that provides financial support, mentoring, leadership training and hope to meritorious students who are or feel marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

On April 1, 2010, Judith Light joined Cyndi Lauper in the launch of her Give a Damn campaign to bring a wider awareness of discrimination of the GLBT community as part of her True Colors Fund. The campaign is to bring straight people to stand up with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered community and stop the discrimination. Other names included in the campaign are Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Mraz, Elton John, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Kardashian, Clay Aiken, Sharon Osbourne, Kelly Osbourne and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.

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