Judith Light wants you to have empathy for Shelly Pfefferman from “Transparent”



Judith Light has a couple of requests: The “Transparent” actress asks fans to have some empathy for her character, Shelly Pfefferman, and she wants everyone to get their flu shot. 

Before diving into her take on the show, Light focused on this important health issue. She has partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) to spread the word on flu vaccination.

Light, 68, told CBS News she hopes people 65 and over, in particular, will heed doctors’ advice. 

“It’s something that’s preventable and it’s something that people don’t have to suffer through,” she said. “I think it’s important to remind people. If you are 65 or older, there is a flu vaccine that is right for you and you have to talk to your health care provider about it or your physician, but a lot of people don’t know that.” The NFID says that people over 65 make up 78 percent of all flu-related hospitalizations and people over 65 are six times more likely to die from the flu and related complications compared to all other age groups combined. 


Light said she wanted to spread the word to help others stay in good health. 

“There’s an expression in the Jewish faith that is called tzedakah, which means service, and so I’ve always come from a place of that and wanting to do something not only for other people, but also for myself,” she said. “I walk a lot, I do yoga, I meditate, I do a thing called reiki and I try to eat well and sleep as much as I can, drink water. It’s all those things that our mothers all tell us, but do you do them or do you not? And I try to do them as much as I possibly can.” 

As far as mothers go, Light acknowledges that her character, Shelly, is quite a handful, but says she understands why she acts the way she does. 

“Any behavior that seems difficult to absorb or take in is coming from a root cause of something else,” said Light. “This is a woman who had a very disastrous experience when she was a young girl and she shoved down her true self and she acts out of that. Her need to be the focus of attention, the center of attention, to not know what boundaries are or what’s appropriate or not appropriate is not only devastating for people around her, but also for her as she watches herself move through the world not knowing how to really be.” 

Light wants fans to watch Shelly and learn to have more empathy for people they know who are like her. 

“I think they can understand other people in their lives out of seeing that in them,” said Light. “Watch somebody and see what their need is and how great their need is to be acting out of something that isn’t actually their true self.” 

“Transparent” just released its fourth season in September, and Light says viewers will get to see a traumatic incident that is the root of Shelly’s behavior while also watching her grow on her own through improv classes and living a single life after breaking up with her boyfriend, Buzzy. 

“She’s looking to find the voice that got shut down so long ago, that she shut down,” explained Light. The actress also added, “This is the first time Shelly is without a man in her life, in a relationship, which I think is really healthy for people. I think that having time alone for oneself is really valuable.”

Light said one of the joys of working on “Transparent” is getting to know transgender staffers on the show and learning from them about authenticity. 

“I’ve witnessed something quite remarkable that I always knew about and didn’t have the kind of direct experience I’m having now,” she said. “The courage, what it means to have an authentic life. What it means to be true to oneself.”

Light said her transgender colleagues inspire her. She said, “I remind myself to live truthfully and authentically as best I can off of being around my trans friends.”

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