Why ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ Alum Shalita Grant Almost Quit After Season 3
These days, former NCIS: New Orleans star Shalita Grant is tearing up HBO Max with her dark comedy, Search Party. No matter how much success, fans still know and love Grant as Special Agent Sonja Percy. It’s hard to believe she almost quit after season 3.
‘NCIS: New Orleans’ had a major shakeup in 2017
In December 2017, an extensive report by Variety addressed sexual harassment, discrimination, and racial allegations twice over. NCIS: New Orleans showrunner Brad Kern, who had been in charge since the show’s second season in January 2016, was at the center of the inquiries.
In that timeframe, Human Resources looked into two separate investigations to look into reported bad behavior by Kern. CBS eventually concluded there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the claims. However, the network told employees there would take “appropriate actions” such as sensitivity training.
“We were aware of these allegations when they took place in 2016, and took them very seriously,” CBS TV Studios told Variety.
“Both complaints were acted upon immediately with investigations and subsequent disciplinary action. While we were not able to corroborate all of the allegations, we took this action to address behavior and management style, and have received no further complaints since this was implemented.”
Kern stayed on through the end of the 2017-2018 NCIS: New Orleans season before he was let go. Executive Producer Christopher Silber took his place.
“My thoughts are with everyone who had worked for Mr. Kern who was unjustly fired, made miserable until they quit or otherwise endured unpleasantness,” a former employee for Kern told The Hollywood Reporter.
That said, Grant was a mainstay on the series for the first four seasons before her season 4 departure. This put her in the thick of the Kern investigations.
Why Grant almost quit after season 3
“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. In TV, the relationship to problems is, ‘Whose fault is it? Heads will roll!’” she said, explaining the difference between her theater and TV work.
Grant said no one took responsibility for their actions. She refrained from naming names but revealed issues she dealt with on the show, including gender, race, and “stupid … actor [expletive].”
During season 3, Grant said the NCIS: New Orleans environment became so hostile, she wanted to leave. It took playing Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare in the Park in New York to help Grant stick things out a little longer.
“One of the lines about Hermia is, ‘Though she be but little, she is fierce,’ and I have that quote on my vanity,” she said. I came back and I was like, ‘I ain’t taking this…no more.’ I found joy, and my standards are higher.
She continued: “I am letting you know now if you don’t want me here, if I’m just being tolerated, I’m leaving. Because I want to go where I’m celebrated, not where I’m tolerated.”
The experiences led to the creation of Grant’s haircare line and salon
Grant further elaborated on her NCIS: New Orleans experiences in another July 2020 interview with Elle. She took a couple of months off after leaving the show, “to heal.”
The star has spoken out about how working on the show was traumatizing. It led to the launch of Four Naturals — treatments for Type 4 curly Black hair — as a way of taking control back.
“I did trauma therapy and different modes of healing,” she said thinking, “my biggest issue was how terribly my job situation had deteriorated and how much damage and trauma I experienced, but I was still so unhappy. I needed some perspective.”
Grant traveled to Thailand in search of healing and came to a definitive answer.
“Part of the healing is going into the dark: You have to go into your shadow so you can discover yourself and all your subconscious programming,” she said.
“First it was physical: my hair. I still had the damage from NCIS — this bald spot in the center of my head. I’m still wildly uncomfortable with wearing my natural hair. There was so much undoing that needed to happen. [So] I discovered my product for afros and created that brand.”
Fans may not find Grant on NCIS: New Orleans — though her character wasn’t killed off — but she did find a new role that’s given her a renewed sense of self.
Why ‘Search Party’ revived Grant
2020 is the year of the pandemic. It’s also the year of Grant in her new role as Cassidy Diamond — a newbie lawyer representing an alleged murderer for her first trial in exchange for press — in HBO Max’s Search Party.
“My light was so welcome,” she told the LA Times.
Showrunner Charles Rogers explained why Grant was the perfect casting saying it’s a mix of things.
“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,” he said. “We leaned on her a ton to bring that to its full potential.”
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, more people have the chance to see Grant in action.
“Nobody is leaving the house, so they have to watch. So things have just worked out for the better,” Grant said.
“This has been the most exciting thing that has happened to me in the last three years, and I get to do it from the comfort of my home.”