Has Pam Grier retired from acting?
—Collette Brown, Hastings, Nebraska
Pam Grier, whose career will be the focus of an episode of TV One’s “Unsung Hollywood,” has definitely not given up acting. Rather, she took a break to do theater — and she realizes when she does that, she is not as visible.
An example is the four years she spent onstage in ‘Frankie and Johnny in Clair de Lune’ and ‘Fool for Love,’ which she very much enjoyed but, which also, kept her from being in front of a camera.
“I was inspired by seeing ‘A Soldier’s Story’ at the Negro Ensemble for the last year that it was established in New York City, and I just decided to do the boards for four years, but people dismiss it because it’s not film,” she says. “Not everybody wants to do theater. It’s scary. You don’t get a take two.”
Grier did star in three films in 2012 — “Mafia,” “The Man with the Iron Fists” and “Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day — but, of course, she is best known for her early roles as tough women in the genre films “Coffy,” “Foxy Brown” and “Drum,” and then, more recently, for the Quentin Tarantino film “Jackie Brown.”
“Basically the first feminist in my family and my life was my grandfather, Daddy Ray. He wanted all the girls to do everything the boys did. So he taught me hunting and fishing, shooting, riding a tractor, and driving. It was equality that was the real purpose for me. And I translated that to film. What I wanted to do with film at the time, because Gloria Steinem was my mentor and there was the sexual revolution, is that I brought a political voice to sexuality for women.”
After four decades in Hollywood, the Winston-Salem, N.C.-born actress, 64, wrote “Foxy: My Life in Three Acts,” a memoir which reveals some of the most intimate and painful events of her life, and talks about the choices she made.
“When I did ‘Coffy,’ women didn’t want to do “Coffy,” she says. “It was written for a Caucasian woman to do stunts, hold a gun, a heavy form of Karate, or kung fu, or jiu-jitsu, or Aikido, or whatever they’re going to do. I learned that on a military base. So I brought a lot of my own narrative to the work, which propelled me, but it probably inspired a globe of women to be themselves, which is great, because they can walk with confidence and not be judged as, ‘Oh, you do stunts, so you must be a lesbian’… I just think we’ve come a long ways to be liberated. I can’t say that I am the result of that. I had a lot to do with it.”