Before Shalita Grant played mom-blogging influencer Sherry Conrad in the Netflix thriller You, she starred as special agent Sonja Percy on NCIS: New Orleans. During an appearance on the Monday's episode of Tamron Hall, the actress opened up about the reason she says she left the long-running CBS drama in 2018.
Grant, 33, said she was treated differently than her co-stars and claimed her natural hair was "physically damaged" by the hairstylists working on the "multimillion-dollar show."
"It was about a year and a half in the making," she told host Tamron Hall, 51, when asked what prompted her to leave NCIS: New Orleans (the show was recently canceled by CBS). "I had started documenting some of the physical damage that was going on — it's harder to document the emotional damage."
Grant believes the wigs she was required to wear caused the damage to her hair. "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," she said. By season 4 she noticed the "threat" of balding at the front of her hairline. "Everybody on Twitter let me know, 'That looks like a helmet!' by that point I didn't care anymore, because I was protecting myself."
Skip Bolen/CBS via Getty Images
She continued, "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?"
The actress said tension on set created a narrative that she was hard to work with."But the truth is, I wasn't being worked with," Grant explained. "So I have to save myself."
PEOPLE has reached out to CBS for comment.
Santiago Felipe/Getty Images
The actress previously complained about her experience on the show, recalling a culture of finger-pointing during an interview with the Los Angeles Times in July 2020.
"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 told the outlet. "Nobody wants their head to roll. It takes forever for people to solve problems, because nobody wants to take responsibility."
"I came back and I was like, 'I ain't taking this ... no more.' I found joy, and my standards are higher," she said of leaving the show. "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."
"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," the Search Party star explained. "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."
"It was all because, in their minds, a love interest doesn't look like that," she added. "A love interest has straight hair. It's all built around those assumptions, and I suffered because of that."
These days, Grant stars in the Netflix hit You. Season 3 is streaming now.