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Judith Ellen Light (born February 9, 1949) is an American actress. Her television roles include Angela Bower on the sitcom Who's the Boss?, and Claire Meade on ABC's TV series Ugly Betty and Judge Elizabeth (Liz) Donnelly on Law & Order Special Victims Unit.

Early life

Light was born in Trenton, New Jerseymarker, 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, now Doane Academy, in Burlington, New Jerseymarker.

After graduating from Carnegie-Mellon Universitymarker 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 Broadwaymarker to star in A Doll's House in 1975. Light also acted for medium size theatre companies including the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsinmarker.


She first found television fame 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, winning her first Daytime Emmy Award for "Lead Actress in a Daytime Drama Series" in 1980; 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 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 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.
at the Governor's Ball following the 1989 Annual Emmy Awards
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-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 she 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, 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.

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.

Personal life

Light is a gay rights activist and helped former Who's the Boss? co-star Danny Pintauro to come out of the closet. 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. Also, she sits on the board of the 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.

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.


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