Shalita Grant claimed she was treated “totally different” than her NCIS: New Orleans costars before her 2018 exit — especially when it came to her hair.
“It was about a year and a half in the making,” the 33-year-old actress said on the Monday, October 18, episode of the Tamron Hall Show as to why she walked away from the hit drama before its March cancelation. “I had started documenting some of the physical damage that was going on — it’s harder to document the emotional damage.”
Grant, who joined the CBS series partway through season 1 in 2015 as Sonja Percy, alleged that the wigs on set and her overall haircare from the show’s stylists damaged her natural mane and wasn’t taken seriously.
“Anybody who was a fan of the show, you knew Percy’s ponytail looked different every week — sometimes within the episode. What you didn’t know was what was going on with me, with my natural hair,” she explained on Monday, noting she began documenting how her wigs affected her locks in January 2017. “In six months time, I had already had a bald spot in my head from season 2.”
She claimed that by season 4 she was “threatening baldness” in the front of her hair. Grant recalled being ridiculed by fans saying, “That looks like a helmet” because of her new styling, but she didn’t care.
“I was protecting myself,” she said of her choice to change up her look on the show and save her roots.
The You actress explained that the hair issues on set were part of a deeper problem when she was on the crime drama. She recalled being cast in a negative light because of her hair, which her white costars allegedly never dealt with.
“When you get a show and it’s a multimillion-dollar show, and you see that your treatment in the hair department is totally different from what’s going on with your co-workers on a granular level you’re like, ‘OK that sucks, like, I have to pay for my own wigs. I have to come with my hair done,’” she said, adding that it became a bigger problem when she was “blamed” for production delays or setbacks.
Grant remembered one shoot where it was raining and her “white coworkers were also like, ‘We can’t walk across the street in the rain, we’ll have to get blow dried.’” However, the story was later spun to “Shalita couldn’t walk across the street in the rain,” which the actress claimed led to her being labeled as “difficult.”
The Maryland native, who later launched a natural hair care line called Four Naturals, added that she ultimately exited the series because she “wasn’t being worked with. I had to save myself.”
The Search Party alum previously spoke about her alleged mistreatment by the show’s hair department to Vulture in July 2020.
“For Black women, the way our hair is policed is that we’re told it’s unprofessional in its natural state. From the time that you’re in school, you are getting this lesson. It’s shored up with punishment,” Grant said at the time. “With NCIS, it wasn’t just that the people didn’t know how to do my hair. The cosmetology board teaches that hair is hair, which essentially erases Black and Asian hair, because there are differences. … What was specific to them was a couple of producers who were committed to [my character] Sonja Percy not having a natural curl pattern.”
She claimed that the NCIS team thought “a love interest doesn’t look like that. A love interest has straight hair. It’s all built around those assumptions, and I suffered because of that.”
Us Weekly has reached out to CBS for comment.
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