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October 18, 2019

Judith Light: Inside the 'Who's the Boss?' Star's Three-Decade-Long Marriage

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Award-winning actress Judith Light not only achieved career success on stage, television, and film but also in her personal life. Married to the actor Robert Desiderio for almost four decades, the two share an unconventional union that fits them like a glove.

The New Jersey native started her acting career on the stage in 1970 before she made her Broadway debut in a revival of "A Doll's House" five years later. 

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Judith's onscreen debut in television came with her casting in the daytime soap, "One Life to Live," as Karen Wolek, which aired from 1977 until 1983.

The actress never planned on starring in a soap opera, or a comedy - which followed with her casting as Angela Bower in "Who's the Boss?" in 1984, nor did she know she would fall for her co-star, Robert Desiderio on "One Life to Live."

“I just have a very valuable memory of the entire experience," Judith said of her time on the daytime soap. "I never wanted to do a soap opera. And I never wanted to do a sitcom, so I mean those are things that I never thought I would do in my career."

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The couple started dating, and Robert wanted Judith to leave the daytime soap and move with him to California, but she liked New York. Judith prefers rain and snow over everyday sunshine while Robert is the opposite. 

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However, the couple didn't let distance stand in their way after Robert left New York for California, and the pair tied the knot on January 1, 1985, after four years of dating.

Despite living in different cities, their acting commitments often had them travel to either California or New York, which enabled them to spend months together at a time. But the arrangement also made room for them to spend time alone.

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“There’s a solid, different kind of intimacy that comes about out of this and the support for each other and each other’s lives,” Judith told PEOPLE in 2017. “I think people need alone time. I know I’m one of those people that needs that.”

One of the reasons Judith and Robert managed to navigate their relationship long-distance is because of their open communication, but the couple also found inspiration from the relationship between their longtime managers, who have been married for over three decades.

"I think if you have somebody that you model yourself after if you see what works and then you apply it to your own relationship, I think that’s really one of the keys that you have people outside of you that support you and can help you in terms of your relationship,” Judith added.

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Even though their marriage is different than most, it also works because the one would never ask the other to give up their wants and needs for the other, which includes children.

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The couple never had children because Judith felt that she would have to give up her career to become a full-time mother, and she couldn't give up a part of herself she feels passionate about.

“It’s been the best,” Judith said. “I highly recommend it. He loves California, and I would never ask him to leave there, and he would never ask me to leave here.”

And so the couple gave each other space to build their careers as they saw fit. While Robert last appeared onscreen in the film "Liberal Arts" in 2012 and the series "Modern Family" and in "Life in General," Judith still regularly appears on television and in films.

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While Judith became known for her role in "Who's the Boss?" which aired from 1984 until 1992, the actress became a regular face on television again years later in "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and as Claire Meade in "Ugly Betty" for four years until 2010.

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After a short stint on "Dallas" in 2013 and 2014, Judith landed the role of Shelly Pfefferman in "Transparent," which aired for five seasons until 2019.

Judith regards her casting as Shelly in "Transparent" as one of her career highlights, and she even had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend that co-starred with her in the short television series.

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"This cast is extraordinary and my old friend from many years ago when I started in the theater, Jeffrey Tambor, plays my ex-husband, and he’s transitioning from a man to a woman," Judith said. "We feel so proud of it. I think it’s one of the highlights of my entire career.”

Through the years, Judith also starred in a myriad of movies that include "Digging for Fire," "Last Weekend," "We'll Never Have Paris," and, most recently, the 2019 films "Before You Know It" and "Ms. White Light."

Although Robert hasn't recently starred in any productions, there is little difference between him and Judith's television and film credits.

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With Robert's 56 acting credits and one award nomination to date, he is not far behind Judith's 67 acting credits. However, the actress's twelve awards and a further twenty-one nominations during four decades of acting sets a high bar for any actor.

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At the premiere of Judith's film, "Before You Know It" in New York City in August 2019, the actress not only looked stunning in her white suit, but she also had the support of a dear friend, the "White Collar" star Matt Bomer, who showed up on the red carpet in a stylish suit. 

Judith co-stars with the likes of Alec Baldwin, Mike Colter, and Jen Tullock in the comedy-drama directed by Hannah Pearl Utt, and was released in the US on August 30. Movie fans across the pond in the UK will have to wait for its release in December 2019.

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