Judith Light on Her Decades-Long Friendship with Transparent Costar Jeffrey Tambor — And if They Ever Dated

Judith Light met her Transparent co-star Jeffrey Tambor long before her debut as Shelly Pfefferman.

The 68-year-old actress opens up about her decades-long friendship with the actor — and reveals whether or not their friendship blossomed into a romance.

“We did theater together,” Light tells PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle in this week’s issue. “We started out at the Milwaukee repertory theater in 1971 together. I mean, I remember the day that I did the theater communications group auditions and Jeffrey was there in Chicago … that day they said to me, ‘Well, there’s this guy and he’s got all these people that want to talk to him about going there for the following season,’ I said, ‘What’s his name?’ They said, ‘Jeffrey Tambor,’ and the name just always stuck in my head.”

She adds, “We became friends in 1971 when we were at the Milwaukee rep, and then I left and he stayed there. Then, I played his girlfriend on a show several years ago that he and John Lithgow were doing called Twenty Good Years for NBC.”

But, did the duo every date in real life?

“No, he was married,” she says. “We have this really strong friendship and really big heart connection. He’s just amazing!”

Meanwhile, Light’s been maintaining a long-term (and long-distance!) relationship with her husband of 32 years, Robert Desiderio.

For years, Light — who currently lives in New York — and Desiderio — who resides in California — have navigated a long-distance marriage.

“It’s been the best,” she 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.”

  • For more from Light, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

“Now, mind you, I go back and I shoot Transparent and I’m there four or five months, so I’m there all the time, so then when I’m done there, I come back here and he’s flying here today, so we’re going to be together for a few days and then I’ll go back to California, so it really is this kind of supportive … we’re on each other’s team,” Light shares.

Though Light acknowledges that her marriage is different from most, she says it’s beautiful in its own way.

“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,” she says. “I think people need alone time. I know I’m one of those people that needs that.”