Pam Grier doesn’t look back that often. If she did, she said this week from New Mexico, “I’d be drinking.”
But when Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz called to ask if she’d consider being the focus of the new season of his podcast “The Plot Thickens,” she knew she had to do it. She’d listened to and loved the previous season that explored the career of Peter Bogdanovich and had an idea of what it would entail. But the main reason she wanted to do it? Her death. Really.
“You never know when you’re going to kick the bucket,” Grier said.
At 72, Grier is not ready to call it quits quite yet. She’s in the new “Pet Sematary” prequel as well as a thriller with Damon Wayans and is hard at work getting an adaptation of her 2010 memoir, “Foxy: My Life in Three Acts” off the ground. She said it's likely to now be a miniseries as opposed to a film and she already has some exciting people ready to direct episodes.
But she is interested in thinking about her career with the wisdom and perspective she’s picked up along the way. After all, it’s been 49 years since she became a star and a trailblazer with “Coffy,” Jack Hill’s 1973 Blacksploitation classic about a nurse out to get revenge against the men who turned her niece into a drug addict. Full of violence, nudity and action, the low-budget pic became a hit and even managed to unseat James Bond from the top spot at the box office.
She remembers getting a call from a theater chain owner at the time saying that, “People are going to be mad at you, Pammy. Your movies make a lot of money. They stay in the theaters too long, they can’t get them out."
The theater owner told her that the theaters were full of college students, military types, white people, Black people, fathers, sons, mothers and daughters, and that people were coming back multiple times.
“The word ‘iconic’ is overused in this industry, but Pam has been a true revolutionary regarding the depiction of Black women in Hollywood,” Mankiewicz said. “Pam’s characters are unapologetic, tough and fiercely independent, just like she was when she started in Hollywood five decades ago and remains to this day.”
To prepare for their talks, Grier rewatched some of her early films and while she can look back fondly on what she accomplished, she’s also baffled by one aspect: “The fact that I did all those stunts, running and jumping without a sport bra,” she said.
Grier had her ups and downs in an industry that despite the early, unambiguous success, didn’t seem to know what to do with her. The podcast, which debuts this fall, promises to cover it all from “Foxy Brown” to her big comeback in “Jackie Brown” and beyond.
“It’s going to be off the hook,” Grier said. “I covered everything. Everything.”
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr