Pam Grier stars in Prime Video's horror series Them: The Scare

Prime Video
i love lucy

Grier once met the star of I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball, and thanked Ball for her work


Carla (Rhea Perlman) is one of Grier's favorite characters on Cheers

the l word

Grier was a key member of The L Word's ensemble cast

Fill 1
Fill 1
April 22, 2024
Online Originals

My 7 Shows With Them: The Scare's Pam Grier

The legendary actress on meeting Lucille Ball and why she loves The Big Bang Theory.

Pam Grier isn't 100% certain, but she has a theory as to why Them: The Scare creator and executive producer Little Marvin asked her to be part of the second season of his harrowing anthology. "I said to him, 'Are you trying to break me down because you heard I'm a badass?!'" she recalls.

To be fair, her reputation truly does precede her. Grier was not only at the center of "Blaxploitation" films in early 1970s such as Foxy Brown, she became the first Black woman to headline an action flick — 1973's Coffy. She then enjoyed a career renaissance after playing the no-nonsense title role in Quentin Tarantino's 1997 crime caper Jackie Brown. (Offscreen, Grier also survived stage-four cervical cancer.) But she calls Them: The Scare "the most unbelievable challenge."

In the seven-episode Prime Video thriller (streaming on April 25), Grier plays the much-put-upon mother of LAPD Detective Dawn Reeve (Deborah Ayorinde) — who, once again, encounters sinister forces while investigating a gruesome murder in 1991. "Athena, my character, has to deal with deep secrets about the family, serious medical issues and the paranormal stuff!" she says. "The trajectory of all the emotional strains and waves and connections was no joke. It was a lot for me to take in." During production of the season's last episode, Grier adds, "I got a nosebleed from all the anxiety."

Maybe that's why Grier says that, while home on her ranch in New Mexico, she loves to watch escapist comedies such as The Office. And though her extensive list of TV credits (dating back to 1979) also includes Roots: The Next Generation, The L Word, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Smallville and This Is Us, the actress especially points out her turn on Miami Vice with the exclamatory "hoo-hah!" (She also shares that she turned down a role on Abbott Elementary because she didn't want to move to L.A.)  Below, she lists her Seven Shows for The Television Academy.

I Love Lucy (1951-57, CBS)

I am Lucy. I'm stomping grapes in a barrel. I'm trying to eat tons of candy on a conveyor belt. My friends are helping me. I've tripped up and created chaos. And I love Lucille Ball! That voice and that red hair! Many years ago, I got to meet her at an event at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I was sitting at a table and was brought over to her. I said to her, "You know, I think I've watched probably every episode that you've ever done, and you're like a master class to me, because I didn't get to go to acting school. You're so pure in your work, so thank you." She just looked at me and said, "Thank you." Then she took my hand and squeezed it.

Sky King (1952-59, NBC, ABC)

Sky King [Kirby Grant] was a rancher and a detective. And he lived on the ranch with his niece, Penny [Gloria Winters], and their dog. And whenever [Sky] had to go look at a case, she jumped on the plane and went flying with him to investigate. I watched the episodes and just loved it because my dad was in the Air Force. I was fascinated by aeronautics and airplanes — and the fact that young Penny was so nosy and wanted to join her uncle was just wonderful.

Cheers (1982-93, NBC)

I loved the camaraderie and community, especially with how everyone was supportive of each other's idiosyncrasies. Rhea Perlman as Carla the waitress was so funny. But all the characters at the bar — I'm thinking of Ted Danson and Shelley Long, going way back to the beginning — were unique. And I do think all the actors brought a lot of themselves to their work, which was so great, because it's hard to do. As actors, we have so many other things that are going on in our lives!

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (1999-Present, NBC)

I watched it before I was on the show [in 2002-03], which is why I said, "Okay, I can do this." I loved the cases and all the characters and the actors and the guest stars who brought their cultural personas to their roles. When I was on the set [playing an Assistant U.S. Attorney General], I studied a book about how the first Attorney General invented the Witness Protection Program. The executive producer said to me, "Pam, you're the only actor who read about their role." But I've always been very interested in law. Everything is law. Life is based on law logic.

The L Word (2004-09, Showtime)

For six years, I got to learn about the various levels and societies within the gay world. It was enlightening, and I needed that. I remember people would ask me about working with a community that I wasn't familiar with — I think they were fearful of it and not comfortable. And I was able to present them with a picture of a family. Everyone is very much the same. Everyone is a sister, a daughter, a mother. Ossie Davis played my dad, and I loved it when he was lying on the floor doing his scenes. I would sit there with him, and we just talked about the Black theater scene and the Harlem Renaissance. He had so much wisdom.

The Big Bang Theory (2007-19, CBS)

I watched that entire run because of the scientists and Penny [Kaley Cuoco]. I had been a Penny! I just thought it was charming that these contemporary kids were navigating society where they didn't have a dime to squeeze, but they made the most out of it. They used their intellect and their genius to do great things. [They were] happy and put together a career. I also loved that Sheldon [Jim Parsons] started to spread his wings and be more mature. He had depth.

Yellowstone (2018-Present, Paramount+)

My grandparents grew up in that environment in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and I got to spend summers with them and learn about the Black West and the real richness of the Western culture. In this show, you see how man is still trying to protect his land in the modern world. I love the fact that I can hear the characters speak and smell the dirt — and smell the horse manure! Kevin Costner is like my granddad [...] but his family members are like, "Let's not get high on the horse!"

Them: The Scare premieres April 25 on Prime Video.

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

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