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.