Judith Light pens essay about quitting OLTL: "I learned some powerful lessons"

Posted Wednesday, September 13, 2017 5:03:40 PM
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Judith Light pens essay about quitting OLTL: "I learned some powerful lessons"

One Life to Live star Judith Light (ex-Karen Wolek) reminisces about her soap opera days and the crazy thing that happened when she walked away from her comfort zone.

The first and only job Who's The Boss star Judith Light ever quit was One Life to Live. The Emmy-winning actress was on top of her game as Karen Wolek, loved by fans and not even remotely ready to walk away from the cushy world of daytime. But prompted by her husband, Robert Desiderio (who played OLTL's Steve Piermont), she took the bold step and cut ties with the ABC soap. And she admits it was the hardest thing she's ever done -- but also the best.

In an essay penned for the New York Times, Light delves into the feelings she had about landing a daytime job as a young actress (which, funny enough, were completely negative) and how her decision to leave the genre she grew to love came about.

"I had once sworn I would never do a soap," she begins. "As far as I was concerned, the only kind of career that an actress should want was in feature films and theater. Not only was I clueless about how challenging the work on soap operas could be, I thought I was above it. I would soon learn some powerful lessons."

Light goes on to detail that extreme financial duress prompted her to finally give in and accept the role. After all, her unemployment was on the verge of running out, and she was nearly broke.

"Despite my earlier protestations, I took the job, thinking it would give me some time and a cushion of money to think about what I really wanted to do," she recalls. "The writers asked me if I knew the film Belle de Jour starring Catherine Deneuve. ‘I love it!' I told them. They wanted to create a similar story line on the soap: A woman married to a very wealthy man is a prostitute on the side. So Karen became the wife of a good doctor, but was forced into selling her body in secret by an old lover."

"Day after day there were emotional scenes filled with tension and terror as my character tried to escape her double life, navigate a web of lies and deal with brutal johns," she continues. "The storyline went on for a year and a half, culminating in a powerful scene on the witness stand that led to my first Emmy."

Light admits she grew to not only love her role on OLTL, but also to love the familiarity and sense of family that came along with it. So when her husband suggested she leave it all behind and try her luck in Los Angeles, she was flabbergasted.

"'What!' ‘Why?' I exclaimed, frantic and filled with fear at the thought. He simply said, ‘I think you will work out there,'" the actress recalls." So on a gorgeous fall day in September, my hand was shaking as I sat in the producer's office, terrified that by signing an exit contract I was jumping off a cliff. Voices in my head were saying, ‘What do you think you're doing?' ‘This is a huge, stupid mistake!' After all, I was doing exciting creative work and living in New York, my favorite city in the world. The writers and directors were fabulous, the cast had become my family and the fans were incredibly supportive. The idea of leaving what was a success on so many levels was anathema to me. My agents and managers agreed with my husband that leaving for Los Angeles was a good, ambitious idea. Somewhere deep in my heart, I knew they were all correct; I had to take the chance. And beneath all the terror, I could feel a tiny glimmer of excitement. I moved."

What happened next literally changed the course of Light's life (and no, we're not talking about the herpes film she landed immediately after leaving daytime). Her choice to stare fear in the face and leave her comfort zone led to an incredible career -- not to mention an incredible essay that just may inspire Soap Central readers to make bold choices in life, as well.

For Light's full essay, titled Judith Light: The First Time I Quit a Big Job, check out the New York Times.

What do you think about Light's essay? How do you feel about the way she came to the decision to leave OLTL? What are your thoughts on the way she discusses the ABC soap? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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