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Forever Foxy: The Pam Grier Interview with Dallas South News

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By Lorrie Irby Jackson

She’s a ground-breaking, game-changing actress whose talents became etched in cinematic history more than thirty years ago, thanks to her portrayals of gorgeous, gun-toting sisters like Coffy and Foxy Brown. Those characters rocked courage as well as they did high-heeled shoes and refused to let a man play them like dizzy dames. Now, as a 61-year-old icon and cancer survivor, Ms. Pam Grier has recently added ‘author’ to her long list of accomplishments, penning an informative, entertaining and revelatory memoir entitled Foxy: My Life In Three Acts, which will be promoted in Ft. Worth during their Leaders for Literary Luncheon event on Friday and signed on both Friday evening and Saturday during meet-and-greets at Ft. Worth’s The Dock Bookshop and Dallas’ South Dallas Cultural Center, respectively.

Before visiting the Lone Star State, Ms. Grier spoke with Dallas South News from her ranch home in rural Colorado, revealing her hard-won personal triumphs, life trials, political savvy, her hope for a better America and even some surprisingly easy tips that she employs to keep herself, like her best-selling book, staying super-foxy.

LORRIE IRBY JACKSON- It’s an honor to speak with you today Ms. Grier, how are you?

PAM GRIER- It’s a heat wave! (laughing)  It’s almost 108, and where I live in the country, they started building these little patches of McMansions and didn’t upgrade the power grid like they promised they would, so these huge mansions are now running the a/c for 7K, 8K, 10K square foot homes. Can you imagine?

LIJ- That’s messed up.

PG- We had a black-out yesterday, no air, and we had another black-out this morning. I have a generator hooked up to the gas line and its coming on, going off, going on, coming off. The trees help, but the dogs aren’t moving and the horses are standing right under the trees.

LIJ- Well, living in Texas, I can definitely relate. I have to confess that before I spoke with you and read the book, I watched the film Jackie Brown again and marveled at the prowess you displayed in that role.

PG- Thank you!  It’s really interesting for someone to invest 2 years of their life, a pop culture director and writer, who doesn’t have to write about a black woman. Whenever I watch it, I see so many interesting nuances in those four different story lines, and having to shoot them out of sequence.

I remember how hard it was and that I wanted to make them all proud that I could do the work. Quentin (Tarantino) did say, because I’d done theater for so many years (Fool For Love, Something Wicked This Way Comes) and was so dedicated to it, that he felt that I would be able to execute Jackie Brown with the finesse that he had written about. I was exhausted, because you have to repeat certain things over and over with such exactness, and it’s hard to repeat reality. He was so thorough that he painted her apartment six times to look good with her uniform and her skin color.

LIJ- Wow! How did you personally prepare for becoming Jackie Brown?

PG- I researched everything, even the jail to see what it was like. I wanted to see how I would look, how’s my hair gonna look, how am I gonna look and feel and smell. I really had to have my body movement, my walk from jail, I wanted it all to be very authentic. I wanted to show the energy of how she felt when she got back to the house.

And the scene when Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson) comes…..he staged that scene for 3 days!  Quentin said to me ‘Pam, I don’t want you to drop a line,  I want this to be a long-running 15 min scene like out of the movies in the 70’s,’ when we couldn’t afford cutting and post-production. I choreographed it from point A to point B and tried to stay on the mark. And to see me get through the rigors of that scene…how is she gonna move around, go to the refrigerator, get the ice out, get the vodka out, get the juice out, go turn on the record player, light the cigarette, get the gun, put it in the back of her skirt without him seeing it? I had to practice. He said ‘Pam, there are no special effects. You have to do it as if this is your life.’

LIJ- It was a modern masterpiece in my opinion. Will you two work together again in the near future?

PG- I don’t know yet, but other filmmakers are looking at my book as a film, he might be the perfect director for that.

LIJ- Speaking of your memoir Ms. Grier, I wanted to thank you for writing a book that was so honest and so candid about the abuse and the trials that you endured on your way to the top. It’s inspiring and makes the conviction you display in your roles that much more incredible to witness.

PG- Well, I was fortunate, I wanted to keep my family intact and one doesn’t know how they’re going to overcome, or how their life is going to be, but I have lifelines of people and work, books and ideas and things that just guided me and told me, ‘you don’t need to die, you don’t have to go.  You can teach and show people.’ I could’ve drowned in waves of despair, just waves, but it’s uncessessary. I want people to be like, ‘okay, we can stop this. this child is suddenly silent, let’s go seek some therapy, let’s talk about it so that this child and other children don’t continue to do these types of things for the rest of their lives or to their children and their children.’ We don’t have to be mad and crazy, it can be a choice.

LIJ- I cannot imagine enduring sexual assaults and Jim Crow-era racism, that must have been just unbearable.

PG- It wasn’t fair in the 50s and 60s, it was painful. And to see our parents stand there with integrity in the face of racism, suffering, but they stood there with dignity and a smile saying ‘we saved our children, it’s a new day.’

LIJ- And when we African-Americans started to emerge as a people on the other side of the Civil Rights Movement, you were one of the symbols of a bolder and better image of African-American women, how do you feel about having had that type of impact on popular culture?

PG- Well, all I knew going in that there was a segment of society that wouldn’t buy our image any other way. My mom was Coffy, my aunt was Foxy Brown. She drove a Harley and was a gorgeous, gorgeous lady. That’s what we saw, but society wasn’t seeing that beauty and strength on a larger scale because we were so segregated.

Roger Corman, who cast me in The Big Dollhouse, liked the fact that I had broken that mold and believed that it was time for America to see the wide spectrum of black women in all phases of life. I’m sure that it was the same song that black men and women were singing that were already a part of the film industry, but do they control Hollywood? No. But for Roger Corman, who had general and artistic thinking, it was time.

LIJ- Amen! What film projects are you working on now?

PG- Tom Hanks cast me in his new movie. It’s called Larry Crowne and it’s a story where he loses his job and goes back to school to get his business degree, where he meets the character played by Julie Roberts, and I play her best friend. I haven’t been asked to play a superstar’s best friend ever. Still, Julia is not afraid to have a black friend, so that’s great.

LIJ- Congratulations Ms. Grier!

PG- I just love Tom Hanks! He wrote it and directed it, and his neighbors across the street are Cedric the Entertainer and his wife is Taraji P. Henson, so he’s really inclusive. He loves stories, from Forrest Gump to Philadelphia, and he puts his own money on the line. He’s so authentic and accurate and loves people, we need to just clone him! (laughs)

LIJ-When is that film coming out?

PG- It’s a summer-themed movie, so I can’t imagine it coming out in the winter or anything. Maybe the spring.

LIJ- Before we wrap it up Ms. Grier—

PG- You don’t have to call me ‘Ms. Grier,’ you can call me Pam.

LIJ- …yes Ma’am. Well, Pam, I hope I look as half as good as you do when I get to be your age. Are there any beauty tips you’ll share with us?

PG- Practice yoga and your body will change. You’ll need certain food that will not put weight on you and you’ll have more energy. If you have excess weight on your body, then you also have excess weight around your heart. You’ll get diabetes and develop heart issues. You’ll be carrying the weight of the world and that gives you nothing. I recommend reading Yoga Journal and Heart & Soul, those magazines are fabulous. If you want your hair to grow, eat a little avocado and olive oil, and keep your dairy down. Eat just a little yogurt with the probiotics, which will give you energy. I drink coconut water, which is cleansing, gives you energy and is very, very healthy.

LIJ- Thanks for everything Pam, you’re a multi-faceted woman and I’m looking forward to your appearance in Dallas.

PG- Well thank you Lorrie, I enjoyed it. It’ll be great seeing you.

  • Michelle London-Bell

    Lorrie – yet another fantastic interview and article. We are all waiting with bated breath for your next expose’!

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