Like so many Black stars in Hollywood, Search Party star Shalita Grant has her own story of experiencing racial bias on set.
Grant played special agent Sonja Percy on CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans for four seasons, but she told the Los Angeles Times that she was about to leave the series in her third because of the toxic environment.
“In theater, it’s us against the problem. We all come into the room knowing there are going to be problems, and we all know that we’re going to solve them together,” she said. “In TV, the relationship to problems is, ‘Whose fault is it? Heads will roll!’…Nobody wants their head to roll. It takes forever for people to solve problems, because nobody wants to take responsibility.”
Part of the toxicity revolved around race, gender and drama with actors. Grant specifically mentioned how her hair was damaged on set because of the styling she was forced to undergo, which she said “decimated my self-image.”
Grant has been able to channel that experience into her new hair care line, Four Naturals, which helps people with Type 4 hair textures heal their hair. “I learned so much from that darkness,” she said. “That trauma, I turned it into joy. Everything that happened to my hair, I healed it. It’s in my business. I am healing other Black women as well.”
She also said that Search Party is a welcome reprieve from her time on NCIS: New Orleans, saying that her “light was so welcome” on the new set.
“A lot of what makes Shalita the perfect Cassidy is that she isn’t somebody who has vocal fry,” said Search Party co-showrunner Charles Rogers. “She’s also gay and she’s playing a hyper-feminine person and she innately has this outside viewpoint into this type of character that was able to bring nuance that other people would take for granted. We leaned on her a ton to bring that to its full potential.”