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Judith Light: 'I Wasn't Courageous Until I Met the Gay Community'

Judith Light in Transparent
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

The actress, a longtime LGBT advocate, was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in Transparent.

This morning TV and stage actress (she's currently starring on Broadway opposite Keira Knightley in Therese Raquin) was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role as Shelly Pfefferman in Transparent, a high-strung Jewish mother who shows love and compassion for her ex, a trans woman named Maura (played by Jeffrey Tambor). In a recent interview with PrideSource, she spoke about her LGBT advocacy and what playing the role means to her.

On the surprise success of Transparent:

"We literally had no idea. We hoped that it would be something that people would support, that people would love. This is (show creator) Jill Soloway's parent. It's her story. So we all hoped, but we didn't know. We weren't sure. We just knew that all of us -- Jill, the writers and the whole entire team; I'm talking about Amazon and everyone else - hoped that it would be something that would educate and elevate the culture, but we didn't know. We didn't have any idea. Then when the success happened, we were all so grateful for it that we had to make sure when we came back for the second season that we were as responsible as we could possibly be. We feel very responsible to do the right thing."

On how she 'wanted to be like the gay community':

"This is something that I have looked toward for such a long time. It was the LGBTQ community that inspired me to be the kind of person I wanted to be. I wanted to be authentic and courageous, and for so long I wasn't. When I began doing a lot of advocacy work in the early '80s for HIV and AIDS, I saw the community and the way the community was operating against all odds, against a world and a culture and country that gave them nothing and denigrated them. ... I looked at this community and said, 'This is breathtaking. This is the kind of world and people I want to be around. These are the kind of people I want to be working with.' "

I said, "We have to tell the truth about what's really going on here." My friends and the community were dying in droves and two presidents wouldn't even say the word AIDS:

"It was reprehensible to me. It was the opposite of the way you started this interview. It was the lack of compassion, the lack of humanity and the pretending that this was something else that it wasn't. It was sheer unadulterated homophobia and I couldn't ... I didn't... I wanted to be like the community."

On being an HIV /AIDS activist when so few celebrities were:

"You didn't think about it. It wasn't a thought process. It was an emotional human response to an epidemic where there was no help forthcoming. And I mean, who's more creative than the gay community? So everybody got together and said, 'OK, we're gonna put on a show and raise money, and we're gonna create the AIDS rides like Dan Pallotta did and we're gonna raise millions and millions of dollars because this is our family.' I took my lead from the community. They were the leaders. To me, they're still the leaders."

Read the full interview at

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