SXSW 2019 VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Judith Light & Zachary Spicer On ‘Ms. White Light’
The actress sat down with uInterview exclusively alongside her Ms. White Light co-star Zachary Spicer — who is also a producer on the movie — at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
“The film revolves around Roberta Colindrez‘s character Lex Cordova,” Spicer explained. “She is a woman who has a unique ability of connecting with people who are terminally ill and who are on their way out. But she has difficulty connecting with anybody in their everyday life.”
Ms. White Light is written and directed by Spicer’s friend Paul Shoulberg, whom Spicer explained has a deeply personal connection to and inspiration for the film.
“[Shoulberg’s] father passed away a couple of years ago, and my grandfather also passed away a couple years ago, so we had both been dealing with the world of hospice and of letting go, and what that means for the past two years,” Spicer said. “So he came up with this gorgeous script in which this very talented lady plays one of the women who is on her way out,” he added, motioning to Light, a Golden Globe and Emmy nominee.
Light described her character Val as a “very feisty, truthful and in-your-face kind of person.”
“It is her relationship with Lex that really pushes Lex to another place in the way she’s relating in her life,” Light added. “That’s sort of the service of that character.”
“What was really most valuable and deepest and most potent to me [in making this film] is that we all have to face death,” she said. “We don’t like to know that and we don’t like to be uncertain, [although] life is nothing but uncertainty.”
“So it gives a picture of humor and grief and loss and puts it in another context. And I think that’s something people are going to really appreciate about the film and about the characters we all play.”
Light and Spicer also both stressed that despite the heavy subject matter, there is a substantial amount of humor in the film, and that using their comedic chops came naturally to them. Spicer also revealed that contrary to what many people might believe, several hospice care workers have a great sense of humor despite their near-constant proximity to people who are dying.
“They are some of the funniest people you are ever going to meet in your entire life, because they have this unique perspective on life and everything we have right now that’s directly in front of us,” he said.
Spicer also talked about how one of his favorite lines from the film is one spoken by Light’s character: “you have to earn someone” before you die.
“It’s a movie that surrounds death, but it’s [also] about the closeness of the relationships between all of these characters,” he added.
Full interview transcript below:
Q: What’s the plot of the film?
A: [Zachary Spicer]: “Well, uh the film revolves around Roberta Colindrez’s character uh Lex Cordova and uh she is a woman that has a unique ability of connecting with people who are terminally ill uh, who are on their way out. But uh she has difficulty connecting with anybody in their everyday life uh and it comes from a brilliant script written by my buddy Paul Shoulberg uh who wrote and directed it uh- Paul and I both, his father passed away a couple of years ago and my grandfather passed away a couple of years ago and so we had both been dealing with um the world of hospice and the world of letting go and what that means. Um for about the past two years so, uh he came up with this gorgeous script ([Judith Light]: “Gorgeous”) uh in which this very talented lady plays one of the uh women who is on her way out.”
Q: Who’s your character in the film?
A: [Judith Light]: “A very feisty um truthful, uh in your face kind of person and it is her relationship with Lex that really pushes Lex to another place in the way she’s relating in her life. Um and that’s sort of, that’s sort of the service of that character. In working on this, the thing that was really, uh I guess most valuable and deepest and most potent to me was that we all have to face death and we don’t like to know that and we don’t like to be uncertain and life is nothing but uncertainty and so it gives a, a picture of humor and um grief and loss and puts it in another context. And I think that’s something that people are gonna really appreciate about the film and about the characters that we all play.”
Q: What was your favorite scene?
A: [Zachary Spicer]: “I mean the one wi- the one with Judith um honestly, like sitting down and being able to have Roberta kind of like yell at me uh in the cafeteria. There’s this cafeteria scene uh that’s in the middle of the movie and she yells at me specifically for wearing a henley which is- I’m currently wearing right now. Um, so uh ([Judith Light]: “Are you embarrassed?”) no, no no no I did it out of spite ([Judith Light]: “you owned it ok”) yeah, this was my actual henley and it was my actual henley in the film as well thank you very much and that was an improvised line so uh you know it- that came from a real point of truth sp yeah, that was, that was a really great moment for me.”
[Judith Light]: “I really, you know I sound like I’m you know, new to the business I really liked all my scenes. Tha- that’s not what I mean th- it was the, the the thread of all of the scenes that I got to do um with Roberta. Each one had another step and another level in the process of the dying uh- I, I think maybe the last one, that last one when I sort of push her and confront her I would say that really, that touched me deeply.”
Q: What was the message of the film?
A: [Judith Light]: I think th- the context of this film is.. so many different things. The content is the story and it’s a great story but it really talks and makes us wake up to how are we gonna live. Not only how are we gonna die but how we live so that we don’t have regret on our death bed, how do we maintain relationships of kindness and graciousness and generosity. It’s not that it’s a message and it’s not that the film is didactic or preachy in any way, it’s that it carries with it this, if you’re open to it what does it mean to live in the now and what does it mean that we are all biodegradable.”
[Zachary Spicer]: “Haha. You actually, you have one of my favorite lines in the movie um… when she talks about uh I hope and I’m not giving it away but that uh uh that you have to go out and you have to earn somebody and this idea of what is it that you’ve earned, you know this life that you’ve earned and, and th- the every single day you know you’re earning the people that live in your life. You’re earning your friends, you’re earning your family um and that unique perspective of, of being able to appreciate all of the people in your life like that.”