As one of the most iconic actresses of all time, the beautiful Pam Grier of "Foxy Brown" fame, has most recently been seen on TV hits like "The L Word" and "Law & Order: SVU." Most famous for portraying powerful, serious characters, Grier is currently playing a more lighthearted role in her new Hallmark Channel TV movie, "Ladies of the House," which premiered in October and will be repeated on January 15.
"Ladies of the House" is the story of three friends, the always loud and comical Birdie (Grier), down-to-earth Rose (Florence Henderson), and the wealthy and successful Elizabeth (Donna Mills), who are asked by their pastor to renovate a run-down house that was donated to church-- the proceeds of the sale would allow the church to keep its daycare center open. In addition to learning how to fix up the house (none of them has any experience in home improvement), each woman has their own marital issues at home to deal with.
Grier is excited about this new role because it allowed her to embrace her comedic side. Although she loves comedy, she was often typecast and asked to play a strong, sexy character. In addition, the new film allows Grier to play a more spiritual character, which the actress can really identify with.
"Through [the women's] spirituality they are open to each other's everyday lives and intimacies," said Grier. "We support each other and talk about where we've come from—we never had before until this house. And because of this house we're looking at our own house, how we've disconnected [from it] and how our own homes need renovation. They all need not flipping, they need enhancement. "
This new spiritual role is not a far cry from Grier's real life. She says she's been spiritual from a very young age.
"You have to be spiritual. Because if you're not, you cannot embrace your womanhood and you can't embrace the universe," said Grier.
"If you love yourself as a woman, you'll love the world. And you're able to be open to others and other religions and dogmas and churches and people. You hear them differently when you're spiritual—you're not passing judgment. You're listening on a different level. You're hearing how they speak, how they move, how they eat.
"I've always been spiritual, even as a little girl because my family is multi-racial, multi-cultural. It's First Nation, it's African-American, it's Pilipino, which is Chinese and Spanish, it's Romanian-Gypsy. It's all these cultures that I grew up in."
"Ladies of the House" is primarily about overcoming obstacles--not only the mess-of-a-house all of the women need to work on, but also their own family problems. Grier, herself, is certainly no stranger to overcoming obstacles---both in Hollywood and in life. Widely credited as popularizing 1970s blaxploitation films, the actress says she's managed to be successful by "Being open to others, listening, and having something to share with them that is unique and different." She also feels living in a variety of different environments allowed her to experience life in many ways."
"I had the best of three worlds," Grier said. "The rural upbringing from my grandfather's farm rural family—having outhouses outside the barn with ropes tied to the house so that if there was a blizzard we could find our way back. They're sugar beet farmers. My great, great grandmother had a hotel for First Nation African-Americans and Chinese who worked on the railroad because they couldn't stay at the white hotels. But anyone could stay at her hotel—she had the best food anyway. It was filled with everybody. Then we lived on military Air Force bases where I learned about international war and politics at an early age. My father worked on the underground missile silos that umbrella the United States. And then, if we couldn't live on an Air Force base or with my grandparents, we would live in an urban city environment."
The other major theme in "Ladies of the House" is the power of friendship—all of the women lean on each other through the tough times they all face in their marital lives.
When asked what was the most special thing a friend has done for her, Grier was quick to say, "Listened. When you listen you can the true essence of someone. When I was not well with cancer in 1988, my true friends came to visit me."
"And, to be a best friend is to get [your friends] to think about what you do," she said. "[You might] not be as right as you think you are. They never [push] their position on you. That's a real friend. [A real friend is] someone who can be objective."
In the movie, Grier's character also faces a problem common to empty-nesters. She not only becomes easily annoyed with her always-around, newly retired husband, but is also nervous about reconnecting and being alone with him after many years of marriage where both were raising their daughter and working.
To women struggling with that same problem in their own relationships, Grier offers this piece of advice: "Always keep your feminine grace. Be the best woman you can be. If you love your womanhood, you can love a man. It's the truth. "
Grier just wrapped up filming the series finale of her successful HBO show "The L Word," and is now preparing for the release of her long-awaited memoir next fall.
So, what will surprise her fans to learn about this empowering actress?
"The fact that my spirituality is intact," Grier said. "That I've shared what I've learned with others; that I love reading and writing; that I've read the Wall Street Journal every day since I was 18; and that I have a John Deer tractor that I ride all the time." "I wish it were pink though," she added.