Judith Light’s Shelly Pfefferman was already one of the most enjoyable parts of “Transparent” season one, and the Amazon dramedy’s second season only gave Light more room to explore the lovably meddling mama. But her standout moment came — excuse the pun — early, when Shelly and her ex, Maura [Jeffrey Tambor], share a steamy encounter in the bathroom. On the page it looked like a daunting task, but the intimacy was crucial to the story. As usual, Light pulls the scene off with aplomb. “It took so much for me to get there not only personally and internally,” Light says. “The support that I got was so huge and so incredible.”
Season 2 ep. 2, “Flicky-Flicky Thump-Thump”
Written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster; directed by Jill Soloway
JUDITH LIGHT: “Jill Soloway is a visionary. She creates dynamics and brings to the fore things people have not seen or talked about. One of them is mature women and their sexuality.
“People said, ‘Young people don’t want to see that’ and yet what you find, particularly with young people, is they say, ‘Wait, you’re giving us a view into another portion of our society … the way we think about people who are mature. They’re not dead, they have passion and connection and complication.’ They see there is life after being 25.
“[When I read the scene] I said, ‘Oh my god, I can’t do this. I can’t do this.’ I said to my manager Herb Hamsher, ‘I don’t think I can do this. How can I do this?’ He said, ‘You have to do this. You must do this.’ There was no question about it. I knew, of course, that I would do it because it was Jill.
|“Jill cleared the set. She got rid of everybody. There was nobody in video village. She was the one who brought the bubbles in to cover me.”|
“Jill doesn’t ever do anything for display or to make a splash, everything is organic and from the heart. Everything is a conversation that needs to be had. I knew it wasn’t, ‘Let’s do something salacious.’ I respect and honor her so much
“And Jeffrey Tambor and I have been longtime friends. We all talked about everything together. I told Jill how scared and nervous I was, how nervous I was. She listened, she heard me, she talked about what they could do to make me feel comfortable and safe. This was just as complicated for Jeffrey as it was for me. This was an intimacy we were portraying together on the screen. He and I talked a lot about it and what we were each nervous about.
“Jill cleared the set. She got rid of everybody. There was nobody in video village. She had the people make the bubbles for the bubble bath to cover me up, but she was the one who brought the bubbles in to cover me. Including Jim Frohna, our brilliant DP, there were four of us on the set. That was it.
“I talked to Amy Landecker and Gaby Hoffmann and Kathryn Hahn and Jay Duplass, and I told them I was nervous. They were so incredibly supportive because they had done a lot of sex scenes on the show. They were such champions like, ‘We’re gonna be there for mom!’ When it was done they wrote me and said, ‘That was so beautiful.’ That’s the kind of working circumstance we have.
“Jeffrey texted me afterward and I believe the text was something like, ‘It doesn’t get any better than this and thank you.’ Thanking me. He’s the most remarkable man. I’ve known for forever how incredibly talented he is. But this really just allows him to shine in a way he has long deserved. For my friend, I rejoice. He was there for me every single second of that scene. We were so present for each other and I think it comes across in the scene.
“I think Jill creates the safest environment that could possibly be had and I also think she has chosen her people –her Pfefferman family and extensions of that — wisely. My audition for her was a conversation on Skype when I was in New York doing a play and she was in Los Angeles and we talked about our commitment to LGBTQ activism. It was about a personal connection.
“Our casting people are brilliant. Jill knows if Eyde Belasco brings someone to her that person can act. She wants to know that energetically we’re connected, because of the way she works. If you don’t have people who will be flexible, who will throw themselves in fully to the work… She knows her people, and she knows what she can ask of her people.
“Jill showed [the scene] to me and said, ‘I want you to see it, I want to make sure you’re OK with it.’ The care of that is what I think true mothering is — the kind of nurturing that is often so rare in our lives and we all long for.”