I remember Judith Light from her days on “One Life to Live,” when she brought the character of Karen Wolek from prostitution to the witness protection program in Canada, where, I imagine, she continues to thrive.
Since those days, Light has done all kinds of material, from the flimsy — “Who’s the Boss?” and the “Dallas” reboot — to the formidable, including the stage show “Wit” in 1999 and a pair of back-to-back Tony-winning performances in Broadway shows in 2012 and 2013. Lately, I’ve loved her in “Transparent,” as Shelly Pfefferman.
On Wednesday night, Light delivers yet another remarkable performance, in FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” alongside Mike Farrell. She is Marilyn Miglin, the wife of Farrell’s Lee Miglin, a Chicago real estate tycoon. One weekend, when Marilyn is out of town filming an infomercial for her successful line of cosmetics, the closeted Lee has Andrew Cunanan over to their deluxe apartment for a date. It doesn’t end well, as you can imagine, with Farrell (who absolutely must play Joe Biden someday) winding up dead on the garage floor surrounded by gay magazines carefully placed there by Cunanan.
Marilyn returns to the crime scene, and her denial about her husband only escalates. Watching Light play out this powerful woman’s refusal to take in the truth is heartbreaking. She gives us a spouse waging a quiet, stoic war against her loss and her humiliation. She has roused all of her strength in service of their social reputation.
This tense series goes deep on Cunanan, but it simultaneously makes the victims — and, in this case, their family — into full human beings.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.