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Judith Light (born Judith Ellen Licht on February 9, 1949) is an Emmy Award-winning American actress. She is best known for her role as Angela Bower on the sitcom Who's the Boss?, and is now starring as Claire Meade on ABC's Ugly Betty.
Light was born in Trenton, New Jersey of Jewish heritage, the daughter of Sue and Sidney Light. After graduating from Carnegie-Mellon University with a degree in drama, 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.
Light first found fame on television after being recast in the role of Karen Wolek on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live. (The Karen Wolek role 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 from being convicted of killing her pimp by admitting that she had been a prostitute to the entire town, including her faithful husband. Light won Daytime Emmy Awards in 1980 and 1981.
She appeared in a St. Elsewhere episode during season one called "Dog Day Hospital" in which she played a housewife who became pregnant for the 11th 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 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-television films, such as the 1997 film "Too Close to Home" co-starring Rick Schroder. She also starred in the sitcom Phenom, which ran for one season 1993-1994.
In 2000 she received critical acclaim when she starred on stage as Dr. Vivian Bearing in WIT, Margaret Edson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Essentially a one woman show, Light's performance earned her considerable credibility as a serious dramatic actress.
Since 2002, she has had a recurring role on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, where she plays Judge Elizabeth Donnelly, who served as an EADA and Bureau Chief 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. In the 2007-2008 season, she was promoted to cast regular and is currently part of an ongoing storyline about Claire Meade's escape from prison and determination to win back her ex-husband Bradford, who later dies from a heart attack after the two reconciled. Her life as a murderer would turn out to be a plot that went wrong when it was learned that Fey Sommers, the person she was accused of murdering, actually caused her own demise after Claire used a poisoned perfume that was actually created by Fey so it would kill Claire instead. Claire would later be acquitted of Fey's murder. In 2007, Light's performance resulted in her first Primetime Emmy Award nomination, for Guest Actress in a Comedy, which she lost to Elaine Stritch.
Light was also recently in an episode of Family Guy where she played a cartoon version of herself obsessed with 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.
Light is a gay rights activist and helped former Who's the Boss? co-star Danny Pintauro to come 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 a 1989 TV movie on his life.
She has been married to television actor Robert Desiderio since 1985, when they met while co-starring on One Life to Live.
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