Pam Grier plays the matriarch of a Southern crime family in the Tubi Blaxploitation tribute “Cinnamon.” Her pain shows up on the screen before she does. A monologue from her son describes how she has been violated and “traumatized” throughout her life.
Her fury arrives when she does. “The character had a lot of anger,” Grier told HelloBeautiful.
Recognizing The Character
“She had a lot of anger, and she wanted respect, and she was trying to hold on to a lot that she had lost.”
Her temper echoed “a group of family members” from her upbringing that she evoked to nail the role. “I know people like that,” she added. She created the character as a composite of several personalities she recognized.
“I had seen their anger. I had seen their frustration, and I channeled a lot.”
Grier’s menacing character, known simply as Mama, has an “inheritance” of “courage” and authority. Her husband and son look to her for guidance.
Seeing Behind The Front Man
The seedy side of small-town economics is on display in the movie. Viewers get to see how those at the top of the town’s ecosystem, including frontman Wally (Damon Wayans), “survived” by choosing to “lie and cheat.” A town’s local gas station and car dealership are more complicated than they appear. Everyone is working an angle. They have their own dreams, priorities, and idea of justice.
“There are real sets,” said Grier. “Those are real shops, cars; these are real people.
There are people you can cross and those you can’t in the town. Crossing Mama comes with consequences. She evokes terror with the tap of an arm or the flip of a pair of glasses.
The perspective she derived from her trauma and responsibility is central to her power. When a betrayal threatens the family’s authority, Mama pauses thoughtfully before reactively doling out punishment.
“She is not a person that is controlling of other people’s lives,” said Grier.
“She could see that everyone is an individual. And in it, we make mistakes. And you can’t control what other people do,” she continued. “She’s also familiar with the patriarchal society. That’s very controlling, and that’s how she got injured.”
Finding The Family’s Humanity
The legendary actress was drawn to the project by the storytelling of writer-director Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr. “I liked what he was writing, the people, the characters, the script was like a slice of life.”
Power Book III: Raising Kanan star Hailey Kilgore sits at the center of that slice as the character Jodi. The two are at odds in the movie, but on set, they bonded right away. “She’s so much fun,” said Grier.
In one gripping scene, the legendary actress joked about the newcomer facing her character’s wrath. “I didn’t want to spank her, but if you do me wrong, you know, you get a spanking,” Grier said with a smile.
She and the other actors work to find the “humanity” in characters breaking the rules and betraying one another.
“We can’t judge anymore,” she declared. “They believe in every truth that they have, and they own it. You know? And they will cut you.”
Cinnamon will be available for streaming on Tubi on June 23.
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