Former NCIS: New Orleans Star Shalita Grant Opens Up About 'Physical Damage' That Made Her Leave The Show

NCIS: New Orleans came to an end after seven seasons back in the spring, but now one star who left the series after Season 4 is shedding more light on why she departed when she did. Shalita Grant, who played Sonja Percy for the first four seasons of NCIS: New Orleans, had previously spoken out about the toxicity she experienced while working on the show, and is now dropping details about how she sustained “physical damage” before she felt she had to leave. 

Shalita Grant, who landed some exciting new streaming roles after leaving NCIS: New Orleans, opened up on the Tamron Hall Show while promoting the third season of Netflix’s You. When Tamron Hall asked about her decision to walk away from the show, Grant revealed:

It was about a year and a half in the making. So I had started documenting some of the physical damage that was going on – it's harder to document the emotional damage – but you know, anybody who was a fan of the show, you knew Percy's ponytail looked different every week, sometimes within the episode. But what you didn't know was what was going on with me, with my natural hair, so you know I started documenting in January 2017, you know, what was going on with the wigs. In six months' time, I had already had a bald spot in my head from Season 2. In the front of my hair, I was threatening baldness so when I came back for Season 4 and everybody on Twitter let me know, ‘That looks like a helmet!’ By that point, I didn't care anymore, because I was protecting myself.

According to Shalita Grant, NCIS: New Orleans was requiring her to wear the kinds of wigs for Percy’s different ponytails that resulted in damage on her hair and scalp. Already having a bald spot in Season 2 proves that the damage started early on in her time at NCIS: New Orleans, and fans of the series clearly weren’t exactly helping with their comments toward the end of her time on the show. Her performance as Sonja Percy in front of the camera didn’t indicate that anything was off, but something was very wrong for the actress in real life.

Shalita Grant went on to explain that the issues with her hair were just part of how she felt she was being treated differently than her coworkers, and had to deal with some isolation despite her place in the cast of an ensemble series. The actress says: 

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 ‘Okay, like, that sucks, like I have to pay for my own wigs. I have to come with my hair done. But this is the multimillion-dollar production,’ but then to get blamed for production, right? Like we all know time is money. So there was an episode where it started to rain, and my white co-workers were also like, ‘We can't walk across the street and wait in the rain. We'll have to get blow-dried.’ You know, whatever. Well, that story got turned into ‘Shalita couldn't walk across the street in the rain,’ and that kind of story, it becomes ‘She's hard to work with.’ But the truth is, I wasn't being worked with... So I have to save myself.

Shalita Grant’s comments about her time on NCIS: New Orleans shed light on her difficult experiences from before she was able to save herself by leaving the show behind. Based on what she is saying, it seems that she has no regrets about her decision to leave what was then a major hit of a TV show. It has since become one of the NCIS series with the shortest runs before cancellation

And she has certainly found new jobs since leaving NCIS: New Orleans. Shalita Grant may still be best known for her work on the first four seasons of the NCIS show, but she jumped from the CBS procedural to a very different kind of show with a role on Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet, then headed over to HBO Max for Search Party

Most recently, Shalita Grant has appeared in Netflix’s hit drama You, which released its third season on October 15, and currently holds the top spot on Netflix’s Top 10 list. She has thrived since making what was clearly a good decision for her to leave a bad situation, and you can find her on Netflix now with You.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.