Pamela Suzette Grier
May 26, 1949
|Alma mater||Metropolitan State College|
The L Word
|Height||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)|
|Relatives||Rosey Grier (cousin)|
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 her titluar 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 portrayed the title character in Quentin Tarantino's crime film Jackie Brown (1997), and also appeared in Escape from L.A. (1996), Jawbreaker (1999), Holy Smoke!, (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.
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).
In 1985, Grier made her theater debut in Sam Sheppard's Fool for Love at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.
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.
Grier was formerly romantically linked to Jimmie “Big Wheel" Wheeler, a famous boxing promoter, Soul Train host Don Cornelius and basketball player Wilt Chamberlain.
In 1998, Grier was engaged to RCA Records executive Kevin Evans, but the engagement ended in 1999.
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.
|1970||Beyond the Valley of the Dolls||Partygoer|||
|1971||The Big Doll House||Grear|||
|Women in Cages||Alabama|||
|1972||The Twilight People||Ayesa|||
|The Big Bird Cage||Blossom|||
|1973||Black Mama White Mama||Lee Daniels|||
|Coffy||Nurse Flower Child 'Coffy' Coffin|||
|Scream Blacula Scream||Lisa Fortier|||
|Foxy Brown||Foxy Brown|||
|1975||Sheba, Baby||Sheba Shayne|||
|Friday Foster||Friday Foster|||
|1977||Twilight of Love||Sandra|||
|Greased Lightning||Mary Jones|||
|1981||Fort Apache, The Bronx||Charlotte|||
|Something Wicked This Way Comes||Dust Witch|||
|1985||Stand Alone||Cathryn Bolan|||
|Badge of the Assassin||Alexandra Horn||TV Movie|
|On the Edge||Cora|||
|1987||The Allnighter||Sgt. McLeesh|||
|1988||Above the Law||Detective Delores 'Jacks' Jackson|||
|1989||The Package||Ruth Butler|||
|1990||Class of 1999||Ms. Connors|||
|1991||Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey||Ms. Wardroe|||
|1992||A Mother's Right: The Elizabeth Morgan Story||Linda Holman||TV Movie|
|1996||Original Gangstas||Laurie Thompson|||
|Escape from L.A.||Jack 'Carjack' Malone / Hershe Las Palmas|||
|Mars Attacks!||Louise Williams|||
|Fakin' da Funk||Annabelle Lee|||
|Jackie Brown||Jackie Brown|||
|1998||Family Blessings||Mrs. Quincy||TV Movie|
|1999||Jawbreaker||Det. Vera Cruz|||
|In Too Deep||Det. Angela Wilson|||
|Hayley Wagner, Star||Sam||TV Movie|
|Fortress 2: Re-Entry||Susan Mendenhall|||
|Wilder||Detective Della Wilder|||
|Love the Hard Way||Linda|||
|Ghosts of Mars||Commander Helena Braddock|||
|The Feast of All Saints||Suzzette Lermontant||TV Movie|
|2002||The Adventures of Pluto Nash||Flura Nash|||
|Baby of the Family||Mrs. Williams|
|2003||First to Die||Claire Washburn||TV Movie|
|2005||Back in the Day||Mrs. Cooper|||
|2008||Ladies of the House||Roberta "Birdie" Marchand||TV Movie|
|2010||Just Wright||Janice Wright|||
|Machete Maidens Unleashed!||Herself|||
|Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel||Herself|||
|2012||Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day||Detective Barrick|||
|The Man with the Iron Fists||Jane|||
|2015||Cleveland Abduction||Nurse Carla||TV Movie|
|A Christmas Wish||Mary||TV Movie|
|1979||Roots: The Next Generations||Francey||Episode: "Part IV (1917–1921)"|
|1980||The Love Boat||Cynthia Wilbur||Episode: "Kinfolk/Sis & the Slicker/Moonlight & Moonshine/Too Close for Comfort/The Affair: Part 1 & 2"|
|1985–90||Miami Vice||Valerie Gordon||Recurring Cast: Season 1-2, 5|
|1986||Night Court||Benet Collins||Episode: "Hurricane: Part 1 & 2"|
|1986–88||Crime Story||Suzanne Terry||Recurring Cast|
|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||Recurring Cast: Season 12|
|1991||Monsters||Matilde||Episode: "Hostile Takeover"|
|1992||Pacific Station||Grace Ballard||Episode: "My Favorite Dad"|
|1994||In Living Color||Herself||Episode: "Mrs. Ikefire"|
|The Sinbad Show||Lynn Montgomery||Episode: "The Telethon"|
|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"|
|1998–00||Linc's||Eleanor Winthrop||Main Cast|
|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"|
|For Your Love||Brenda||Episode: "The Sins of the Mother and... the Boyfriend"|
|2001||Strange Frequency||Episode: "Time Is on My Side"|
|2002||Night Visions||Dr. Lewis||Episode: "Switch"|
|Justice League||My'ria'h (voice)||Recurring Cast: Season 1|
|2002–03||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Asst. US Attorney Claudia Williams||Episode: "Disappearing Acts" & "Pandora"|
|2004–09||The L Word||Kit Porter||Main Cast|
|2010||Smallville||Amanda Waller||Recurring Cast: Season 9|
|2018–19||This Is Us||Grandma||Episode: "This Big, Amazing, Beautiful Life" & "The Dinner and the Date"|
|2019–20||Bless This Mess||Constance Terry||Main Cast|
|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|