Pamela Suzette Grier
May 26, 1949
|Alma mater||Metropolitan State College|
The L Word
|Height||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)|
Pamela Suzette Grier (born May 26, 1949) is an American actress. Described by Quentin Tarantino as cinema's first female action star, she achieved fame for her starring roles in a string of 1970s action, blaxploitation, and women in prison films for American International Pictures and New World Pictures. Her accolades include nominations for an Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Satellite Award, and a Saturn Award.
Grier came to prominence with roles in the films Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974); her other major films during this period included The Big Doll House (1971), Women in Cages (1971), The Big Bird Cage (1972), Black Mama, White Mama (1973), Scream Blacula Scream (1973), The Arena (1974), Sheba, Baby (1975), Bucktown (1975), and Friday Foster (1975). She starred as the titular character in Quentin Tarantino's crime film Jackie Brown (1997), and subsequently starred in Jawbreaker (1999), Bones (2001), Just Wright (2010), Larry Crowne (2011), and Poms (2019).
On television, Grier portrayed Eleanor Winthrop in the Showtime comedy-drama series Linc's (1998–2000), Kate "Kit" Porter on the Showtime drama series The L Word (2004–2009), and Constance Terry in the ABC sitcom Bless This Mess (2019–2020). She received praise for her work in the animated series Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (1999).
Grier was born on May 26, 1949, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the daughter of Gwendolyn Sylvia (née Samuels), a homemaker and nurse, and Clarence Ransom Grier, Jr., who worked as a mechanic and technical sergeant in the United States Air Force. She has one sister and one brother. Grier has stated that she is of mixed ancestry, namely of African-American, Hispanic, Chinese, Filipino, and Cheyenne heritage. She was raised Catholic and later baptized as a Methodist.
Because of her father's military career, the family moved frequently during her childhood to various places such as England before eventually settling in Denver, Colorado, where she attended East High School. While in Denver, she appeared in a number of stage productions, and participated in beauty contests to raise money for college tuition at Metropolitan State College. While in college, she was date raped.
Grier moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967, where she was initially hired to work the switchboard at American International Pictures (AIP). She is believed to have been discovered by director Jack Hill, who cast her in his women-in-prison films The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972). While under contract at AIP, she became a staple of early 1970s blaxploitation movies, playing big, bold, assertive women, beginning with Jack Hill's Coffy (1973), in which she plays a nurse who seeks revenge on drug dealers. Her character was advertised in the trailer as the "baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!" The film, which was filled with sexual and violent elements typical of the genre, was a box-office hit. Grier is considered to be the first African-American female to headline an action film, as protagonists of previous blaxploitation films were males. In his review of Coffy, critic Roger Ebert praised the film for its believable female lead. He noted that Grier was an actress of "beautiful face and astonishing form" and that she possessed a kind of "physical life" missing from many other attractive actresses.
Grier subsequently played similar characters in the AIP films Foxy Brown (1974), Sheba, Baby, and Friday Foster (both 1975). With the demise of blaxploitation later in the 1970s, Grier appeared in smaller roles for many years. She acquired progressively larger character roles in the 1980s, including a druggie prostitute in Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981) and a witch in Something Wicked this Way Comes (1983).
Grier returned to film as Steven Seagal's detective partner in Above the Law (1988). She had a recurring role on Miami Vice from 1985 to 1989 and made guest appearances on Martin, Night Court, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She had a recurring role in the TV series Crime Story between 1986 and 1988. Her role in Rocket Gibraltar (1988) was cut due to fears by the film's director, Daniel Petrie, of "repercussions from interracial love scenes." She appeared on Sinbad, Preston Chronicles, The Cosby Show, The Wayans Brothers Show, and Mad TV. In 1994, Grier appeared in Snoop Dogg's video for "Doggy Dogg World".
In the late 1990s Grier was a cast member of the Showtime series Linc's. She appeared in 1996 in John Carpenter's Escape from L.A. and 1997 with the title role in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, films that partly paid homage to her 1970s blaxploitation movies. She was nominated for numerous awards for her work in the Tarantino film. Grier appeared on Showtime's The L Word, in which she played Kit Porter. The series ran for six seasons and ended in March 2009. Grier occasionally guest-stars in such television series as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (where she is a recurring character).
In 2010 Grier began appearing in a recurring role on the hit science-fiction series Smallville as the villain Amanda Waller, also known as White Queen, head agent of Checkmate, a covert operations agency. She appeared as a friend and colleague to Julia Roberts' college professor in 2011's Larry Crowne.
In 2010, Grier wrote her memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, with Andrea Cagan.
Grier received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2011. That same year, she received an honorary Doctorate of Science from Langston University.
She founded the Pam Grier Community Garden and Education Center with the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum. The purpose is to teach people about organic gardening, health and nutrition among other things. The museum named its first garden in honor of Grier in 2011.
In January 2018, Grier revealed a biopic based on her memoir is in the works, entitled Pam.
Grier lives on a ranch in Colorado.
Grier has never married but has had several high-profile relationships.
She met basketball player Ferdinand Lewis (Lew) Alcindor before he became a Muslim; soon after they began dating, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar proposed to Grier, but gave her an ultimatum to convert to Islam. He said, "If you don't commit to me today, I'm getting married at 2 this afternoon. She's a converted Muslim, and she's been prepared for me," adding, "once you become Muslim, you might appreciate another wife." Grier declined, so he got married that day.
Grier met comedian Freddie Prinze while promoting her film Coffy in 1973. They began a relationship and considered marriage. Prinze wanted her to have his baby, but she was reluctant due to his history of depression and drug addiction. They remained in touch after she left him. She was one of the last people Prinze spoke to before he fatally shot himself in 1977.
Grier met comedian Richard Pryor through her relationship with Prinze, but they did not begin dating until they were both cast in Greased Lightning. She helped Pryor learn to read and tried to help him with his drug addiction. After six months of sobriety, he relapsed. In her memoir, Grier described how her sexual relationship with Pryor caused cocaine to enter her system. During an appointment, she was informed that she had a "buildup of cocaine residue" around her cervix and vagina that her doctor called an "epidemic" in Beverly Hills. He asked her if Pryor might have put cocaine on his penis to sustain his erection; she was unsure. He then asked if her mouth went numb while performing oral sex on Pryor, and she said it did. The doctor linked it to the Novocaine-like effects of cocaine. Grier confronted Pryor about protecting her health, but he refused to use a condom. Pryor married another woman while dating Grier in 1977.
|1979||Roots: The Next Generations||Francey||Episode: "Part IV (1917–1921)"|
|1980||The Love Boat||Cynthia Wilbur||2 episodes|
|1985||Badge of the Assassin||Alexandra Horn||Television film|
|1985–1990||Miami Vice||Valerie Gordon||3 episodes|
|1986||Night Court||Benet Collins||2 episodes|
|1986–1988||Crime Story||Suzanne Terry||7 episodes|
|1987||The Cosby Show||Samantha||Episode: "Planning Parenthood"|
|1988||Frank's Place||Neema Sharone||Episode: "Frank's Place – The Movie"|
|1989||Midnight Caller||Susan Province||Episode: "Blood Red"|
|1990||Knots Landing||Lieutenant Guthrie||2 episodes|
|1991||Monsters||Matilde||Episode: "Hostile Takeover"|
|1992||Pacific Station||Grace Ballard||Episode: "My Favorite Dad"|
|A Mother's Right: The Elizabeth Morgan Story||Linda Holman||Television film|
|1994||In Living Color||Herself||Episode: "Mrs. Ikefire"|
|The Sinbad Show||Lynn Montgomery||2 episodes|
|The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air||Janice Robertson||Episode: "M is for the Many Things She Gave Me"|
|1995||The Marshal||Marshal Vanetta Brown||Episode: "Rainbow Comix"|
|Martin||Herself||Episode: "All the Players Came"|
|1996||Sparks||Ms. Grayson||Episode: "Pillow Talk"|
|The Wayans Bros.||Erica||Episode: "Goin' to the Net"|
|1998||Mad TV||Host||Episode: "#3.25"|
|Pinky and the Brain||Julie Auburn (voice)||Episode: "Inherit the Wheeze"|
|Family Blessings||Mrs. Quincy||Television film|
|1998–2000||Linc's||Eleanor Winthrop||Main role; 35 episodes|
|1999||The Wild Thornberrys||Mother Springbok (voice)||Episode: "Stick Your Neck Out"|
|Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||The Empress' Nightingale (voice)||Episode: "The Empress' Nightingale"|
|Hayley Wagner, Star||Sam||Television film|
|For Your Love||Brenda||Episode: "The Sins of the Mother and... the Boyfriend"|
|2001||The Feast of All Saints||Suzzette Lermontant||Television film|
|3 A.M.||George||Television film|
|2002||Night Visions||Dr. Lewis||Episode: "Switch"|
|Justice League||My'ria'h (voice)||2 episodes|
|2002–2003||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Asst. US Attorney Claudia Williams||2 episodes|
|2003||First to Die||Claire Washburn||Television film|
|2004–2009||The L Word||Kit Porter||Main role; 70 episodes|
|2008||Ladies of the House||Roberta "Birdie" Marchand||Television film|
|2010||Smallville||Amanda Waller||3 episodes|
|2015||Cleveland Abduction||Nurse Carla||Television film|
|2018–2019||This Is Us||Grandma||2 episodes|
|2019–2020||Bless This Mess||Constance Terry||Main role; 26 episodes|
|2019||A Christmas Wish||Mary||Television film|
|2013||Grand Theft Auto V||Radio Presenter||DJ on in-game radio station 'The Lowdown 91.1'|
|2017||Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare||Herself||Shaolin Shuffle DLC|
|1994||"Doggy Dogg World"||Snoop Dogg||Foxy Brown|
- "Long Time Woman" (1971, from the film The Big Doll House)
- Communication by Bobby Womack (1971, backing vocals)
- Understanding by Bobby Womack (1972, backing vocals)
- 1998: San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress — Jackie Brown
- 1999: Acapulco Black Film Festival Career Achievement Award
- 2000: Csapnivalo Award for Best Female Performance — Jackie Brown
- 2001: High Falls Film Festival Susan B. Anthony 'Failure is Impossible' Award
- 2003: Special Achievement in Film Trumpet Award
- 2008: RiverRun International Film Festival Master of Cinema Award
- 2018: 20/20 Award for Best Actress — Jackie Brown
- 2018: Catalonian International Film Festival Time-Machine Honorary Award
- 2018: Tallgrass International Film Festival Ad Astra Award
- 1997: Awards Circuit Community Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role — Jackie Brown
- 1998: Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress — Jackie Brown
- 1998: Empire Award for Best Actress — Jackie Brown
- 1998: Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy — Jackie Brown
- 1998: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture — Jackie Brown
- 1998: Online Film & Television Association for Best Drama Actress — Jackie Brown
- 1998: Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy — Jackie Brown
- 1998: Saturn Award for Best Actress — Jackie Brown
- 1998: Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role — Jackie Brown
- 1999: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series — Linc's
- 2000: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series — Linc's
- 2000: Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program — Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child
- 2002: Black Reel Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture — Bones
- 2002: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special — 3 A.M.
- 2002: Black Reel Award for Best Actress in Network/Cable Series — 3 A.M.
- 2003: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
- 2004: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
- 2005: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — The L Word
- 2006: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — The L Word
- 2008: NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — The L Word
- "Pam Grier". Wizard World. Archived from the original on April 10, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
- Mal Vincent (January 6, 1998). "She's Back, And She's Ready To Kick Butt. Pam Grier Is Baaaaaad, And Was not very nice The Man Who Doesn'T Take Notice". The Virginian-Pilot Archives. Norfolk, VA. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
- John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer (September 18, 2010). "Pam Grier, queen of 1970s blaxploitation films, speaks in Cleveland on her book tour". cleveland.com. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
- Baumann, Minerva. "Film festival workshop examines diversity in industry". Las Cruces Sun-News. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
- Fleming, Mike (January 16, 2018). "'70s Screen Icon Pam Grier Speaks On Sex Harassment & Her Biopic With Jay Pharoah Playing Richard Pryor". Deadline.
- Robinson, Louie (June 1976). "Pam Grier: More Than Just a Sex Symbol". Ebony. pp. 33–42 – via Google Books.
- Dixon, Wheeler Wixon (March 1, 2005). "Filmmaking "for the fun of it": An Interview with Jack Hill". Film Criticism. 29 (3): 46–59.
- "RogerEbert.com". Coffy. Retrieved May 11, 2006.
- "Pam Grier Makes Debut In Stage Production". Jet: 62. October 21, 1985.
- "JerryattheMovies". Foxy Brown and Elmer Gantry? Nay, nay. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
- Lee, Felicia R. (May 4, 2010). "Pam Grier's Collection of Lessons Learned". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
- Walker, Yvette (October 16, 2011). "Dionne Warwick, Pam Grier receive honorary doctorates from Langston University". NewsOK.
- Nash, Suzi (February 26, 2015). "Pam Grier: Growing awareness through education, activism". Philadelphia Gay News.
- "National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame - Dallas/Ft. Worth". National Multicultural Western Heritage.
- Foxy (28 April 2010) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxnK-W5hlBA Hachette Book Group - via YouTube
- Marchese, David (September 15, 2019). "Pam Grier on Maintaining Her Independence and Identity in Showbiz". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
- Getlen, Larry (April 18, 2010). "Foxy: my life in three acts". New York Post.
- "The Illest Na Na". Vibe Magazine. February 1998. Retrieved June 11, 2018 – via Google Books.
- "Freddie Prinze". Vibe Magazine. February 1998. Retrieved June 11, 2018 – via Google Books.
- Grier, Pam (2010). Foxy: My Life in Three Acts. Springboard. ISBN 978-0-446-54850-2.
- Munzenrieder, Kyle (April 26, 2010). "Pam Grier: 'Cocaine? In My Vagina?'". Miami New Times. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
- Summers, Chris (August 25, 2013). "The demons that drove Richard Pryor to make us laugh". BBC.
- Blount Danois, Ericka (2013). Love, Peace, and Soul: Behind the Scenes of America's Favorite Dance Show Soul Train: Classic Moments. Backbeat Books. ISBN 978-1-4803-4101-2.
- "People Are Talking About..." Jet. August 16, 1973. Retrieved June 11, 2018 – via Google Books.
- "Pam Grier Talks About Her: Engagement To A Younger Man, Booming Career, Surviving Cancer, Plans To Have A Baby". Jet: 36–39. April 13, 1998.
- Shaitly, Shahesta (December 10, 2011). "Pam Grier takes raunch to the ranch". The Guardian.
- "Pam Grier Filmography". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Los Angeles, California: American Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 10, 2020.
- "Vintage posters for La notte dell alta marea aka Twilight of Love starring Pam Grier". May 19, 2019. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
- "Pam Grier Filmography". AllMovie. Archived from the original on February 4, 2020.
- "Turner Broadcasting Announces 2003 Trumpet Awards Honorees". WarnerMedia.
- "Trumpet Awards Honorees Include Destiny's child, Spike Lee, Pam Grier". Jet: 14–15. February 24, 2003.
- "9th Annual 20/20 Award Winners Announced | 20/20 Awards | Films that have stood the test of time".
- Sims, Yvonne D. (2006), "Here comes the queen", in Sims, Yvonne D. (ed.), Women of blaxploitation: how the black action film heroine changed American popular culture, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, pp. 71–92, ISBN 978-0-7864-2744-4.
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