Here's an article about Judith's work on Ugly Betty - taken from theage.com.au.
A new dynasty
May 15, 2008
Ugly Betty echoes the supersoaps of the '80s. By Michael Idato.
COMING soon to a demonstration near you: Ugly Betty star Judith Light. The actress, who plays Claire Meade in the hit comedy/drama, is not just a working actress (One Life to Live, Who's the Boss?), she is also an activist who supports a range of gay causes and AIDS charities.
"Both come from passion," Light says. "My passion is acting; my passion is taking a character and creating it in a way that people understand the psychology of who this person is, who she is, so they can relate to her individually or through someone they know.
"As far as activism is concerned, I feel very passionate. I have been involved with the AIDS fight for many years, which led me to my work with the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered) community because I saw how many people were being discriminated against and I have a real passion against that kind of injustice."
Light is a woman who plays emotions in big riffs. In the long-running American daytime soap opera One Life to Live she played Karen Wolek and her performance, in particular one courtroom scene in which she confessed to leading a double life as a wife and prostitute, is regarded as one of the most compelling performances in the genre's history. In Ugly Betty she plays a similarly broad line. Claire is the ex-wife of magazine magnate Bradford Meade (Alan Dale) and the mother of his children: Daniel (Eric Mabius), who publishes the company's flagship title Mode (inside which the series is set), and the transgendered Alexis (Rebecca Romijn).
The visual and thematic tone of the series — lavish clothing, glamorous secret lives and the battle to control a corporate empire — echoes the 1980s "supersoaps" Dynasty and Dallas, an era when "shoulder pads ruled the world".
Light believes those glamorous, excessive "novels for television" are popular once more because contemporary audiences, like '80s audiences before them, are looking for escapes.
"We're at a place — culturally, nationally and internationally — where people are longing for something which takes them away from the life that is not feeling so great to them," she says. "There are people in our country right now who feel very disenfranchised, they feel at a loss, frightened, alone. (Ugly Betty) takes them to another place, to a place of fantasy, humour and wish fulfilment. I feel that we're in a service business, and we're being a service to people in that way."
One of the most engaging elements of the series is Claire's rivalry with the magazine's high-profile former creative director Wilhelmina Slater (Vanessa Williams). One is fair, righteous and blonde, the other is dark, scheming and brunette. Comparisons to Dynasty's long-standing nemeses Krystle (Linda Evans) and Alexis (Joan Collins) are easy.
"Just as we saw in Dynasty, you have these two women who very much want the same things, but each of them go about it in different ways," Light says. "People like to see that, they like to see energy between people, and what they love is that Vanessa gets to do these sinister things and get away with it, and that we both say and do things people would love to say and do."
Light says a highlight is working with Australian Alan Dale: "I just adore him and I adore working with him. I think he's extraordinary."
The show's second season contains some major twists for both characters and Light is understandably coy about how it plays out. "I can't tell you too much because then I would have to kill you, but the real truth of it is there are some very exciting things this season."
One of the show's strongest themes is inclusion. It's central character, Betty Suarez (America Ferrera), has slowly woven herself into the fabric of life at Mode magazine, but Light and Ferrera agree a delicate balance is needed to maintain her perspective as an outsider.
"A lot of the first season was about Betty being introduced to this world and trying to find her place in it," says Ferrera. "And even though people accept her, she's still finding her way. Amanda and Mark (Betty's rivals) can have moments with Betty where you feel they could be friends for a second, but then it goes back to no, she's Ugly Betty with the clumsy shoes, crazy hair and the crazy clothes."
Ferrera believes Betty's attitude will always make her an outsider in the shallow, selfish world of glossy magazines.
"Not because of how she looks or what she wears, but because she challenges people around her to be their better selves."