Pam Grier on How The L Word Changed the World

BY Diane Anderson-Minshall

December 19 2011 5:56 PM ET

Like we’re going to have in California.
Hey, it should be all across the country. It should be in college. Some families and cultures can't comprehend ... junior high school people can't communicate with their families and they're committing suicide and have other issues. It is so unnecessary. If they can have a course on slavery, the Holocaust, Native Americans and how this was the first nation to suffer a holocaust when sailors and voyagers came to this country and conquered a people already existing — if they can have all of these classes and courses on that, finally catching up, why can't they have a gay studies class? And should be an option, of course, because of religious background with people and their cultures, but it should be there. I bet they would be very successful. I know they have the sex courses in junior high, which already makes people nuts: “I don't want someone telling my son where his genitals are. I want to do it.” Well, when are you? We should have courses in junior high school, high school, and in college; obviously in college it’s a different level of study and investigation and political and social discourse, so it should be. Like I said, small steps, little steps, small acts.

Absolutely.
Overall, if you hit them over the head, if you pontificate and you scream at them, they back away and they fear it. So you have to do it, it's not on the sly, it’s just in a very more subtle, gentle way. Because the courses for junior high would be different than high school, and of course the courses from high school would be different than college.

That’s sort of the thing that television allows you to do as well, to bring ideas to people in a more subtle way.
Absolutely, and I think not only is it through television, but now you have junior and high school students having clubs and organizationd to support themselves and their families. And I think that is really, really important.

I know you got a great deal of feedback from viewers during your time on The L Word. Was there a common thread that stood out to you?
Well, the common thread was from a certain community, the African-American community, asking why would I want to be in a show about lesbians. And I said, “Oh, well, it’s a community and it’s well written — it’s just about people.” And they would be like, “Aren’t you afraid people are going to think you are a lesbian?” And I am like, “Is that fear? I should be afraid that people might think I'm a lesbian? You should really ask yourself, Why would I be afraid? Who do I have to fear?” It’s not like you can put on a shirt and you would suddenly be a lesbian. But I said, “I need to know about other people, other communities, other cultures. If I had a gay child, I would want to help them, guide them, and I’d want them to be the best person they could be because life isn't going to be as easy. It could be, I don’t know, we'll have to navigate. And I have friends who are gay, I have to know how they feel. They’re just people. It’s you guys who are the fearmongers, the ones who create this distinction. Everyone else is comfortable.”

It’s amazing how race affected how people reacted to the show.
But that was a question from the black community: Why and was I afraid? There were some black actresses who had signed on to do the show and had a problem playing a love interest to some of the cast members. So they backed out because they were afraid of ridicule by their peers or family and how they felt uncomfortable kissing another human being.

It’s amazing how some actresses get hung up on the kissing scenes.
I think I kiss my dogs a whole lot more on the lips than I think I do [anyone else], and they have tongue-kissed me. My beagle has whipped his tongue out on occasion. [Laughs] And it’s just as warm and human as anybody else’s. So I'm like, What's the big deal? I never got a disease where I started growing fur overnight or howling at the moon.

What other issues were different for you?
I wanted to have more weight. Because everyone was a size 2, everyone was a skinny Minnie, I was like, “Let’s show some badonkadonk here.” Let’s show some real women, not everything is perfect. No hair and makeup one day. I just wanted to look less [perfect] than I normally look, as a size 4 at 117 pounds, a skinny, modelly person. I’ll let the other girls do it. I wanted my character to be curious. I wanted her to sustain. I wanted her to ask questions, because she’s from another generation than her sisters. Using my political legacy, I wanted to invite people to see the show, to see the stories and let them resonate, let people think, not people preaching. 

 

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