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Emmy Winner Judith Light Talks New Movie The Young Wife

May 29, 20249 Mins Read

ComingSoon spoke with Emmy award winner Judith Light about her role in the new drama The Young Wife.

Directed and written by Tayarisha Poe, it stars Kiersey Clemons, Leon Bridges, Kelly Marie Tran, and Michaela Watkins, with Sheryl Lee Ralph. Republic Pictures (a Paramount Pictures label) will make the drama movie available digitally on May 31, 2024.

“On her wedding day, all that stands between a young woman (Kiersey Clemons, Dope) and marital bliss with her soon-to-be husband (singer/songwriter Leon Bridges) is surviving the chaos and expectations of family and friends, each intensifying her spiraling panic in the film,” says the synopsis.

The Young Wife | Official Trailer | Paramount Movies

Tyler Treese: What drew you to The Young Wife? It is tackling a lot of interesting themes, and it’s very artistic.

Judith Light: Yeah, absolutely. I agree with you. It has all of those components to it that it’s almost magical realism. The way she shot it and the lighting and all of those effects. It was Tayarisha. I knew her work from before, and we had a meeting, and I wanted to work with her, and I read the script, and I said, “I wanna do this.” It’s not often that you have somebody who’s written and directed something really understanding, and in connection with you around how this will play out.

I was gonna get to work with Kiersey Clemons, and I knew that too, and, of course, Leon Bridges, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and Michaela Watkins. Friends, people I’ve known. So there were new people, and the way Tayarisha talked about it and the way she was gonna be directing it, it was compelling, and it made me wanna do it.

What really blew me away about The Young Wife was just the sense of style that Tayarisha has as a director. What was most unique about the production? Because there’s not a normal shot in this. She’s always going for something, and it’s such a visual delight.

Yeah, I totally agree with you. I’m so glad you’re speaking to that because all of those aspects of what she did are other characters in the film. It’s almost as though you’re seeing through a whole different prism and filter. This could be a very standard “Let’s talk about somebody getting married” film, and it is anything but that. But it is one of the cultural norms that we all go through in terms of weddings. What does it mean and how does the bride feel, how does the groom feel, and how does the family feel? But it is nothing ordinary in any way, as you have articulated.

You have this wonderful scene late in The Young Wife where you’re talking to Kiersey Clemons, and you say, “You keep yourself whole. Let him choke if you must.” What did you like most about that sequence? Because it was one of my favorites in the entire film.

Mine too. Mine too. The way Tayarisha had articulated that and what she knew and understood about how often women turn themselves, and men do it too. I don’t mean to exclude the men, but it’s primarily, culturally, women are taught to behave and be well-liked and not do things that will make people uncomfortable. That’s what Cookie, the character that I play, is expressing to her. Like, don’t do that. Stay whole, be true to yourself. But she says it in such a beautiful, unusual way that I think that’s gonna resonate for a lot of people.

You have so many great scenes in this with Kiersey, and she also had a role in Transparent. What really stood out about her as a scene partner because you both go back and forth so well?

We felt connected to each other. I had known her before, as you say, from Transparent, but when we first started working on this, we knew where we could live with each other and how safe we could be with each other. Sometimes, you work with people, and they’re not present. They’re not like right now. Because that’s all you have. She is one of those people. It was the nowness of her presence that had us connect the way that we do in the film.

I was curious what you liked most about Cookie as a character, because she has a very sort of eccentric style and wardrobe to her. It seems like a fun role to play

All of that. I mean, you’ve really hit on all of those things that are actually the things that were really powerful for me. Tayarisha really wanted her to look the way that she looks. There are these, uh, she’s, she’s almost a prophet. She’s in those robes. And if you look at the shoes, the shoes are the, the shoes that ground to the earth, even as she is making her process to possibly leave this life. And so the dichotomy, the paradoxes of all of that, uh, were very powerful to me.

I mean this in the greatest sense of the word, of what we have come to almost hold pejoratively, which is the crone, the wise woman … You are this giver and transporter of guidance and wisdom and passing on the torch and leaving a legacy to this. Giving the wisdom that has been garnered and gained through experience. And it was just a very, very powerful archetypal character to me, as well as a very emotional character. So playing both of those things, having all of that going on was very potent and powerful for me.

One Life To Live. Karen Wolek (Judith Light) on the stand during Vicki's trial. OLTL.

You’ve had such a wonderful and lengthy career. Your breakthrough was on One Life to Live. The recording schedule for soap operas is so intense. Did that really help your career in terms of just getting that work ethic? Or what was your biggest takeaway from those early experiences?

Great, great question. I never wanted to do a soap opera. It was just like, “What is this?” And then, when I went there, I started seeing all the great actors that were there and the kind of work that they were doing, and what it took for the writers to write an hour of programming every single day. It is, in the best way, relentless. So it teaches you a tremendous amount, and this was, for me, of discipline, of awareness of the audience and how connected the fans are to this kind of work and the story. They live with you every single day. So the responsibility, I held it as a very profound and important responsibility. I learned how to memorize lines. Sometimes I would have long monologues every day that I had to learn.

So it’s like the discipline of that and how to do that and how to work with everybody and how to speak, how to be emotionally connected, how to work with the crew, how to work with the cameras. I would recommend that every young actor do it. It’s like the greatest training you can possibly have.

I had been to Carnegie Mellon University and studied there, and I had gone into Repertory Theater for four years. But it was One Life to Live that began to put all of those things together. The directors who were on One Life to Live, David Pressman, Peter Miner, and Norman Hall, they were all theater directors. So they were able to coalesce all the theater work that I understood and put it to me in terms of television. So it’s a great question. It was brilliant. Really important.

Judith Light wins the Emmy for Poker Face beating Taraji P Henson

You got an Emmy for Poker Face, which was very well deserved. For you to still be getting such interesting roles and such fulfilling work decades into your career, what does that mean for you that these opportunities still exist? Because it is really great to see you doing some of your best work now.

Thank you for that observation. I deeply appreciate it. It means a lot to me. It means that people are aware, they’re watching, they have belief in me. A lot of people in the early days didn’t give me things that were different from the things I had been doing, but I had to show, and that was incumbent on me. I had to show that I could do other things. So people now see the level of different kinds of characters that I do and can do, and that people are interested in seeing.

Cookie is nothing like Who’s the Boss or, let’s say, Blanche Knopf in the Max series Julia, or the character in Shining Veil that I played, Courteney Cox’s mother. So people know that about me, and they are willing to give me these roles and choose me for these roles. I am incredibly grateful for that. They’re watching, they know they have faith, and that means everything to me.

That incredible. I’m very excited for Before, your show with Billy Crystal coming up. So I can’t wait to watch that.

Wait till you see it. I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna give it that thing like, “Oh my God, blah, blah, blah.” But Billy Crystal is just about everything. He’s remarkable, and this story is remarkable. You’ve never seen anything like this on television. I mean it literally and figuratively of another world, and I don’t mean the soap opera. I mean, this is something that is just so incredibly special. We had such great writers on it. And of course, it comes from the writer. It’s always from the writer, and then to the director, and then to the rest of the cast, and then out to somebody like you who wants to talk about something, which I very much appreciate.

Thanks to Judith Light for taking the time to talk about The Young Wife.

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