Pam Grier has been working in the entertainment industry for more than three decades. And, much like the famous characters she’s known for portraying, she has no problem speaking her mind.
The AJC spoke with the “Foxy Brown” actress recently about her work with the organization Dining out for Life, and her thoughts on the gender pay gap and diversity discussions that are taking place within the film and television industry.
Grier said much of the controversy surrounding diversity and a gender pay gap in Hollywood stems from a lack of understanding.
“People are generalizing and it’s confusing,” she said.
A major problem regarding diversity in the inudstry, she said, is a lack of funding from the community and banks for productions that are marketed towards minority audiences.
“The film industry is almost private,” she said. “If we want more diversity, we have to pay for that.”
Grier cited “Straight Outta Compton” as a recent film that did a great job delivering “great dynamics and storytelling” and “[finding an] audience to support it.”
When asked about her thoughts regarding what many perceived to be a snub from the Oscars regarding the film and its cast, Grier attributed the lack of nominations to competition.
“You’re up against a lot of other films,” she said. “You could lose by one vote.”
An Academy member’s voting decisions can be influenced by emotion, age, politics and other factors, she said.
As a member of the Academy, Grier said she’s gained an insight into the voting process that others might not have.
Known for starring as strong female characters in Blaxploitation films such as “Foxy Brown” and “Coffy,” as well as Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown,” Grier shared her perspective on women and wages in the industry, too.
Regarding recent talk about a gender pay gap in Hollywood, Grier said if an actress is doing just as much work as her male counterpart, it is up to the agent representing the actress to negotiate a fair wage on her behalf.
She acknowledges that men don’t have to tell their female co-stars how much they’re making, but she still encouraged them to ask for equal pay on their behalf.
The actress realizes that this might not happen in every instance, however.
“It’s gangster out there,” she said. “People don’t stand together.”
Grier said she has a passion for discussing the inner workings of the film industry. Because of this, she wants her legacy to be about how she’s inspired and educated others in the industry and not just the roles she’s played.
Her passion for educating goes beyond her work in entertainment, too.
While acting in the series “The L Word,” Grier was approached by “Dining out for Life.”
An annual fundraising event that takes place in many cities throughout the U.S., “Dining out for Life” was created by ActionAIDS volunteers in Philly in 1991.
More than 3,000 restaurants donate a portion of their proceeds during the designated day of the annual fundraiser, helping to raise more than $4 million each year for local organizations such as Atlanta’s Open Hand, according to the Dining out for Life website.
Grier has been working with the organization for five years, sharing personal stories, debunking myths and providing education regarding AIDS, and, occasionally, visiting local restaurants and encouraging patrons to donate. Sometimes, she said, she’s even had dessert with people who agree to contribute.
“I had such a pleasant smile that they couldn’t throw food at me and ask me to go away,” she said.
Grier is currently working on a biopic about her life. The film will be based on her autobiography, “Foxy: My Life in Three Acts.”
While conversations about casting have already begun, she doesn’t know when filming will start.
“It will be a movie about enlightenment and the ironies of life,” she said.