Grier moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1967, where she was initially hired as a receptionist at the American International Pictures (AIP) company. She was discovered by director Jack Hill, who cast her in his women in prison films The Big Doll House (1971), and The Big Bird Cage (1972).
While under contract at AIP, she became a staple of early 1970s blaxploitation movies, playing big, bold, assertive women, beginning with Jack Hill's Coffy (1973), in which she plays a nurse who seeks revenge on drug dealers; her character was advertised in the trailer as the "baddest one-chick hit-squad that ever hit town!" The film, which was filled with sexual and violent elements typical of the genre, was a box-office hit, and Grier was noted as the first African-American female to headline an action film, as protagonists of previous blaxploitation films were males. In his review of Coffy, film critic Roger Ebert praised the film for its believable female lead and noted that Grier was an actress of "beautiful face and astonishing form" and that she possessed a kind of "physical life" missing from many other attractive actresses. Grier subsequently played similar characters in the AIP films Foxy Brown (1974), Friday Foster, and Sheba, Baby (both 1975).
With the demise of blaxploitation Grier appeared in smaller roles for many years. She acquired progressively larger character roles in the 1980s, including a prostitute in Fort Apache the Bronx (1981), a witch in Something Wicked this Way Comes (1983), and Steven Seagal's detective partner in Above the Law (1988). She had a recurring role on Miami Vice from 1985–1989, and has made guest appearances on Martin, Night Court and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and also had a recurring role in the TV series Crime Story between 1986 and 1988. Her role in Rocket Gibraltar (1988) was cut due to fears by the film's director, Daniel Petrie, of "repercussions from interracial love scenes.". She also appeared on Sinbad, Preston Chronicles, The Cosby Show, The Wayans Brothers Show, and Mad TV. In 1994, Grier appeared in Snoop Dogg's video for "Doggy Dogg World".
In the late 1990s, Grier was a cast member of the Showtime series Linc's. She again appeared in 1997 with the title role in Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown, a film that partly paid homage to her '70s blaxploitation movies.
Grier appeared on Showtime's The L Word, in which she played Kit Porter. The series ran for six seasons and ended in March 2009.
Grier occasionally guest-stars in such television series as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (where she is a recurring character).
In 2010, Grier began appearing in a recurring role on the hit science fiction series Smallville as the villain Amanda Waller, also known as White Queen, head agent of Checkmate, a covert operations agency. She recently appeared as a friend and colleague to Julia Roberts' college professor in Larry Crowne.
Also in 2010, Grier wrote her memoir, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, with Andrea Cagan.
Read more about this topic: Pam Grier
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