Skip to main content


In August of 1973, an unknown Black actress named Pam Grier knocked James Bond out of the number one spot at the box office.  Pam was the lead in Coffy, a blaxploitation film with nudity, violence, and a low budget.  Pam was just 24.  Her only prior acting experience was in a few “women in prison” exploitation movies, where she was hired more for the way she looked than her craft.

Pam didn’t care why she was hired – she didn’t even want to be an actress.  She was saving money for college, planning to become a doctor.  But that changed when Coffy became the #1 movie in America.  Pam Grier was suddenly Hollywood’s first female action hero.

Pam’s characters were unapologetic, tough and sensual.  Audiences were captivated, but Hollywood executives were dismissive of Pam.  She called out studio hypocrisy and pushed for meaningful roles that had depth.  When Hollywood would get too toxic, she’d leave town.  Turns out the movies needed Pam Grier a lot more than Pam Grier needed the movies.

Today, Pam lives on a ranch in New Mexico with four horses and three dogs.  She’s a child of “The Black West,” and she’s survived violence, a terminal cancer diagnosis, and Hollywood during the drug-fueled 1970s.  In her private life, she loved – and left – some of the most famous men in America.  Twenty-five years after her first movie role, Quentin Tarantino revived Pam’s career when he wrote Jackie Brown in her honor.  At 48, she was back on top.

In this season of The Plot Thickens, Pam Grier shares her remarkable life story with host Ben Mankiewicz.  It’s an intimate and unflinching, firsthand account of what it took to survive Hollywood’s greatest decade.  Her story takes us to Wyoming, Los Angeles, ancient Rome, the Deep South, the Bronx, and the typhoon-soaked Philippines.  This is the story of Pam Grier, as only she can tell it.


Foxy: My Life in Three Acts Pam Grier with Andrea Cagan (Springboard Press, 2010)
An Actor Prepares Constantin Stanislavski, translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood (Routledge, 1989)
"Baad Bitches" & Sassy Supermamas: Black Power Action Films Stephane Dunn (University of Illinois Press, 2008)
Becoming Richard Pryor Scott Saul (HarperCollins, 2014)
Black City Cinema: African American Urban Experiences in Film Paula J. Massood (Temple University Press, 2003)
Blaxploitation Cinema: The Essential Reference Guide Josiah Howard (FAB Press, 2008)
Brown Sugar: Over One Hundred Years of America's Black Female Superstars Donald Bogle (Continuum, 2007)
Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World Wil Haygood (Alfred A. Knopf, 2021)
Divas on Screen: Black Women in American Film Mia Mask (University of Illinois Press, 2009)
Flying Through Hollywood by the Seat of my Pants Sam Arkoff with Richard Trubo (Birch Lane Press, 1992)
Framing Blackness: The African American Image in Film Ed Guerrero (Temple University Press, 1993)
The Freddie Prinze Story Maria Pruetzel (Master's Press, 1978)
Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him David Henry, Joe Henry (Algonquin Books, 2013)
Giant Steps Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Peter Knobler (Bantam Books, 1983)
Hollywood Black: The Stars, The Films, The Filmmakers Donald Bogle (Running Press & TCM, 2019)
Jack Hill: The Exploitation and Blaxploitation Master, Film by Film Calum Waddell (McFarland, 2009)
Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American '70s Charles Taylor (Bloomsbury, 2017)
Pryor Convictions, and Other Life Sentences Richard Pryor with Todd Gold (Random House, 1995)
Reflections on Blaxploitation: Actors and Directors Speak David Walker, Andrew J. Rausch, and Chris Watson (Scarecrow Press, 2009)
Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films Donald Bogle (Continuum, 1989)
Underground Film: A Critical History Parker Tyler (Da Capo Press, 1995)
What It Is... What It Was! The Black Explosion of the '70s in Words and Pictures Gerald Martinez, Diana Martinez, and Andres Chavez (Hyperion, 1998)
Women of Blaxploitation: How the Black Action Film Heroine Changed American Popular Culture Women of Blaxploitation: How the Black Action Film Heroine Changed American Popular Culture Yvonne D. Sims (McFarland, 2006)