Pam Grier on How The L Word Changed the World
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
December 19 2011 4:56 PM ET
There are few women in Hollywood hotter than Pam Grier. The legendary actress who broke barriers with her turn as the blaxploitation superstar in the 1970s in films like Coffy, Foxy Brown, and Sheba, Baby has long been heralded as the first female action hero. Grier’s performances have defined every film she’s starred in, including Fort Apache the Bronx and Jackie Brown. But her role in the groundbreaking Showtime series The L Word brought her a whole new audience. She’s done plenty since the show stopped taping in 2009 (turning up as a villain on Smallville and Julia Roberts’s bud in Larry Crowne, and releasing a tell-all memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts). But as Grier reminds us, The L Word isn’t really over, nor is it off the air: It currently airs on Logo and in 46 different countries that have syndicated it, its spin-off reality show The Real L Word is prepping season 3, and the entire glorious series, a cast reunion, and several rarities from the iconic show have been released on the The L Word Complete Series DVD Collection.
For Grier, the show was a catalyst for LGBT activism. The actress has shown up at fund-raisers, celebrations, and protests in support of LGBT rights, and often acts as a bridge between straight African-Americans and the LGBT world. In recent months she was awarded the Entertainment AIDS Alliance Visionary Award and appeared in support of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (“I really support them because they really fight for injustices. They go down there and they really kick ass,” she says of NGLTF). She’s also a spokeswoman for Dining Out for Life, a project that involves restaurants and their customers in raising money for AIDS service organizations. We caught up with her to talk about TV badonkadonk, Twitter, and how The L Word changed the world.
The Advocate: So The L Word was one of the all-time highest-rated shows on Showtime.
Pam Grier: It was? Past tense?
No, it is.
[Laughs] There you go!
What impact do you think the show had on the world?
It is still continuing. In education, it’s a formidable tool of information, for families from diverse backgrounds, cultures, class — it's still resonating, it's still very, very popular. And the fact that so many women — and because of its overall theme, and men, gay men, bisexual and transgender men — have been able to be more authentic with themselves and more comfortable, and people who were ignorant or not knowing would find a comfort zone.
It brought up issues we hadn’t seen on TV.
Even myself, I had no idea of the many injustices in the gay community, whether it’s the adoption of children, marriage, benefits, [or] estates. But a lot of it was the assumption in the hetero world, in the straight world — my mother and I, we just assumed that gay people received automatically, by birthright, the same benefits as us.
You said your mother and her friends discussed the show.
My mom, being 82 and being very wise and cultural, she often assumed that there shouldn't be a problem [with being gay]. My mom is an academic and she wants to go back to school at 82 because of [her love of] information. But I was relaying this to her and her friends who had gay children and still didn't have an idea of how to approach them or let then know it was OK [to reconnect] after they kicked them out 15 years ago. How did they reconcile the fact that they are more tolerant and they understand and that it is OK now? As a matter of fact, you know that is your child. It used to be that these people, my mom's generation, would sit and have discussions ... about how so many people haven’t been able to or are uncomfortable or will not be ever ready to come out and just be themselves. So to have 82-year-old women discuss that is great.