Pam Grier

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Pam Grier
Pamela Suzette Grier, 2012 (cropped).jpg
Grier in 2012
Pamela Suzette Grier

(1949-05-26) May 26, 1949 (age 72)
Alma materMetropolitan State College
Years active1970–present
Known forCoffy
Foxy Brown
Sheba, Baby
Friday Foster
Jackie Brown
The L Word
Height5 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,[1] 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).

Early life[edit]

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.[2] Grier has stated that she is of mixed ancestry, namely of African-American, Hispanic, Chinese, Filipino, and Cheyenne heritage.[3] She was raised Catholic and later baptized as a Methodist.[4]

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.[5]


Grier moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967, where she was initially hired to work the switchboard at American International Pictures (AIP).[6] She is believed to have been discovered by director Jack Hill,[7] 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.[8]

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).

In 1985, Grier made her theater debut in Sam Sheppard's Fool for Love at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.[9]

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."[10] 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".

Grier with moderator Jarrett Crippen during a Q&A session at the 2013 Wizard World New York Experience

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.[11]

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.[12]

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.[13] The museum named its first garden in honor of Grier in 2011.[14]

In January 2018, Grier revealed a biopic based on her memoir is in the works, entitled Pam.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Grier lives on a ranch in Colorado.[15]


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.[16] 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.[17][18]

Grier met comedian Freddie Prinze while promoting her film Coffy in 1973. They began a relationship and considered marriage.[17][18][19] Prinze wanted her to have his baby, but she was reluctant due to his history of depression and drug addiction.[11][20] 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.[5]

Grier met comedian Richard Pryor through her relationship with Prinze, but they did not begin dating until they were both cast in Greased Lightning.[17] She helped Pryor learn to read and tried to help him with his drug addiction.[5][11] After six months of sobriety, he relapsed.[17] 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.[21] 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.[20] Pryor married another woman while dating Grier in 1977.[22]

Grier was formerly romantically linked to Jimmie “Big Wheel" Wheeler, a famous boxing promoter, Soul Train host Don Cornelius[23] and basketball player Wilt Chamberlain.[24]

In 1998, Grier was engaged to RCA Records executive Kevin Evans, but the engagement ended in 1999.[25]


Grier was diagnosed with stage-four cervical cancer in 1988, and was told she had 18 months to live. Through vigorous treatment she made a recovery and has been in remission.[26]



Year Title Role Director(s) Notes Ref.
1970 Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Partygoer Russ Meyer [27]
1971 The Big Doll House Grear Jack Hill [27]
Women in Cages Alabama Gerardo de León [27]
1972 The Twilight People Ayesa Eddie Romero [27]
Cool Breeze Mona Barry Pollack [27]
The Big Bird Cage Blossom Jack Hill [27]
Hit Man Gozelda George Armitage [27]
1973 Black Mama White Mama Lee Daniels Eddie Romero [27]
Coffy Nurse Flower Child 'Coffy' Coffin Jack Hill [27]
Scream Blacula Scream Lisa Fortier Bob Kelljan [27]
1974 The Arena Mamawi Steve Carver [27]
Foxy Brown Foxy Brown Jack Hill [27]
1975 Sheba, Baby Sheba Shayne William Girdler [27]
Bucktown Aretha Arthur Marks [27]
Friday Foster Friday Foster Arthur Marks [27]
1976 Drum Regine Steve Carver [27]
1977 Greased Lightning Mary Jones Michael Schultz [27]
Twilight of Love Sandra Luigi Scattini [28]
1981 Fort Apache, The Bronx Charlotte Daniel Petrie [27]
1983 Something Wicked This Way Comes Dust Witch Jack Clayton [27]
Tough Enough Myra Richard Fleischer [27]
1985 Stand Alone Cathryn Bolan Alan Beattie [29]
1986 The Vindicator Hunter Jean-Claude Lord [29]
On the Edge Cora Rob Nilsson [27]
1987 The Allnighter Sgt. McLeesh Tamar Simon Hoffs [27]
1988 Above the Law Detective Delores 'Jacks' Jackson Andrew Davis [27]
1989 The Package Ruth Butler Andrew Davis [27]
1990 Class of 1999 Ms. Connors Mark L. Lester [27]
1991 Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Ms. Wardroe Peter Hewitt [27]
1993 Posse Phoebe Mario Van Peebles [27]
1996 Original Gangstas Laurie Thompson Larry Cohen [27]
Escape from L.A. Jack 'Carjack' Malone / Hershe Las Palmas John Carpenter [29]
Mars Attacks! Louise Williams Tim Burton [29]
1997 Fakin' da Funk Annabelle Lee Timothy Chey [29]
Jackie Brown Jackie Brown Quentin Tarantino [27]
1999 No Tomorrow Diane Master P [29]
Jawbreaker Det. Vera Cruz Darren Stein [29]
In Too Deep Det. Angela Wilson Michael Rymer [29]
Holy Smoke! Carol Jane Campion [29]
2000 Snow Day Tina Chris Koch [29]
Fortress 2: Re-Entry Susan Mendenhall Geoff Murphy [29]
Wilder Detective Della Wilder Rodney Gibbons Alternate title: Slow Burn [29]
2001 Ghosts of Mars Commander Helena Braddock John Carpenter [27]
Bones Pearl Ernest Dickerson [27]
Love the Hard Way Linda Peter Sehr [29]
2002 The Adventures of Pluto Nash Flura Nash Ron Underwood [29]
2005 Back in the Day Mrs. Cooper James Hunter [29]
2010 The Invited Zelda Ryan McKinney [29]
Just Wright Janice Wright Sanaa Hamri [29]
Machete Maidens Unleashed! Herself Mark Hartley [29]
2011 Larry Crowne Frances Tom Hanks [29]
Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel Herself Alex Stapelton [29]
2012 Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day Detective Barrick Neema Barnette [27]
Mafia James Womack Ryan Combs [29]
The Man with the Iron Fists Jane RZA [29]
2017 Bad Grandmas Coralee Srikant Chellappa [29]
Being Rose Lily Rod McCall [29]
2019 Poms Olive Zara Hayes [29]


Year Title Role Notes
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

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
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

Music videos[edit]

Year Title Artist Role Notes
1994 "Doggy Dogg World" Snoop Dogg Foxy Brown



  • 2010: Foxy: My Life in Three Acts (ISBN 9780446548502)





  1. ^ "Pam Grier". Wizard World. Archived from the original on April 10, 2016. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer (September 18, 2010). "Pam Grier, queen of 1970s blaxploitation films, speaks in Cleveland on her book tour". Retrieved September 15, 2013.
  4. ^ Baumann, Minerva. "Film festival workshop examines diversity in industry". Las Cruces Sun-News. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d Fleming, Mike (January 16, 2018). "'70s Screen Icon Pam Grier Speaks On Sex Harassment & Her Biopic With Jay Pharoah Playing Richard Pryor". Deadline.
  6. ^ Robinson, Louie (June 1976). "Pam Grier: More Than Just a Sex Symbol". Ebony. pp. 33–42 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ Dixon, Wheeler Wixon (March 1, 2005). "Filmmaking "for the fun of it": An Interview with Jack Hill". Film Criticism. 29 (3): 46–59.
  8. ^ "". Coffy. Retrieved May 11, 2006.
  9. ^ "Pam Grier Makes Debut In Stage Production". Jet: 62. October 21, 1985.
  10. ^ "JerryattheMovies". Foxy Brown and Elmer Gantry? Nay, nay. Retrieved March 15, 2012.
  11. ^ a b c Lee, Felicia R. (May 4, 2010). "Pam Grier's Collection of Lessons Learned". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  12. ^ Walker, Yvette (October 16, 2011). "Dionne Warwick, Pam Grier receive honorary doctorates from Langston University". NewsOK.
  13. ^ Nash, Suzi (February 26, 2015). "Pam Grier: Growing awareness through education, activism". Philadelphia Gay News.
  14. ^ "National Cowboys of Color Museum and Hall of Fame - Dallas/Ft. Worth". National Multicultural Western Heritage.
  15. ^ Foxy (28 April 2010) Hachette Book Group - via YouTube
  16. ^ Marchese, David (September 15, 2019). "Pam Grier on Maintaining Her Independence and Identity in Showbiz". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.
  17. ^ a b c d Getlen, Larry (April 18, 2010). "Foxy: my life in three acts". New York Post.
  18. ^ a b "The Illest Na Na". Vibe Magazine. February 1998. Retrieved June 11, 2018 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ "Freddie Prinze". Vibe Magazine. February 1998. Retrieved June 11, 2018 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ a b Grier, Pam (2010). Foxy: My Life in Three Acts. Springboard. ISBN 978-0-446-54850-2.
  21. ^ Munzenrieder, Kyle (April 26, 2010). "Pam Grier: 'Cocaine? In My Vagina?'". Miami New Times. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  22. ^ Summers, Chris (August 25, 2013). "The demons that drove Richard Pryor to make us laugh". BBC.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "People Are Talking About..." Jet. August 16, 1973. Retrieved June 11, 2018 – via Google Books.
  25. ^ "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.
  26. ^ Shaitly, Shahesta (December 10, 2011). "Pam Grier takes raunch to the ranch". The Guardian.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af "Pam Grier Filmography". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Los Angeles, California: American Film Institute. Archived from the original on March 10, 2020.
  28. ^ "Vintage posters for La notte dell alta marea aka Twilight of Love starring Pam Grier". May 19, 2019. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y "Pam Grier Filmography". AllMovie. Archived from the original on February 4, 2020.
  30. ^ "Turner Broadcasting Announces 2003 Trumpet Awards Honorees". WarnerMedia.
  31. ^ "Trumpet Awards Honorees Include Destiny's child, Spike Lee, Pam Grier". Jet: 14–15. February 24, 2003.
  32. ^ "9th Annual 20/20 Award Winners Announced | 20/20 Awards | Films that have stood the test of time".

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]