Pam Grier on “The L Word,” Dining Out For Life and if we’ll see her on “Empire”

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This Thursday, April 30 marks the 24th year Dining Out For Life will raise money to benefit AIDS service organizations. Legendary actress Pam Grier is lending her name to the national event (which now takes place in over 60 cities) for the fifth year in a row, which she told us has a lot to do with her being a cancer survivor.

“Knowing what happened when I was ill,” Pam said, “knowing that people were afraid of ‘the C word’ in 1988. I thought I had more friends and it’s very difficult for family to take time off to help you in your recover and I realized that no matter how much money you have, sometimes it’s the dear closest people to you that can’t be there. So when you don’t have the funds and you don’t have family, how do people who are living with HIV/AIDS make it, survive, get well?”

2014 Winter TCA Tour - Day 1

Pam is proud to be a part of the fundraiser, which just last year helped more than 5000 people get health insurance and almost 200,000 receive counseling and testing. She’s adamant that people know these numbers include women. “Straight, bisexual, gay—all across the board,” she said. “You don’t know when. If someone’s mentally ill or just doesn’t care or you’re raped—you don’t know. You should be aware and there’s a generosity of intelligence and people wanting to know, wanting to learn.”

Pam has been a kind of activist since she got her start in Hollywood in the 1970s. Her first film roles were in women-in-prison films like The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House and she’s thrilled that shows like Orange is the New Black are continuing the kinds of stories she was a part of more than 40 years ago.

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“I think it’s excellent, because when you have people who are incarcerated, who know they’ll be giving up freedom, they’re people who think, ‘No matter what, I’m getting through this. Maybe I’m remorseful,'” Pam said. “But it shows what happens when you lose freedom, how you survive and how you keep your identity and how you live, how do you make it? Do you reinvent yourself, do you fall victim of your acts? do You fall victim of others? So psychologically and societally, it’s really an exploration of humanity and I think when you watch it and you see the storylines, you’re not as quick to judge.”

Throughout her film and television career, Pam has played iconic characters from Coffy to Jackie Brown, but one of our favorites is, of course, her six-season role as Kit Porter on Showtime’s The L Word. Pam said she keeps in touch with almost all of her co-stars.

“I stay in touch with Jennifer [Beals],” Pam said. “She’s like a real sister to me. And Leisha Hailey. Leisha’s always on tour. Mia [Kirshner]—we all support each other’s charities and art and Laurel Holloman is doing great things as an artist. So we do try to stay in touch when we can.”

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Pam says she is disappointed the show was cancelled after only six seasons.

“We miss the show. We could have gone a couple more years,” she said. “There were significant storylines that could have been done. They can be done other places but I thought it would have been another year of breaking out and exploring even more so I think it was so groundbreaking and I’m so glad so many people watched it because right now there’s dialogue on the table, there’s legislation and people that are exploring freedoms and demanding freedom for the LGBT community. It’s wonderful to see this dialogue that’s going on, it’s serious. You can’t be educated if there’s mute silence.”

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