Who is Shalita Grant?
Shalita Grant is an American actor, best known as ‘Special Agent Sonja Percy’ from the widely popular ‘CBS’ police-procedural series ‘NCIS: New Orleans.’ She appeared in four seasons of the show, before parting ways amiably in 2018. As a justification for her absence, the storyline took ‘Agent Percy’ to ‘FBI’ for a set of new adventures. Though she has seen moderate success on TV until now, she is quite famous in the ‘Broadway’ world. An early achiever, Shalita received her first ‘Tony Award’ nomination within 3 years of graduating from ‘The Juilliard School.’ Her initial days on TV were not equally rewarding. She had to work as a bartender and go through almost 60 auditions before making her mark as a TV actor. After lapping up critical acclaim for her performance as ‘Aurelia Johnson’ in the socio-political drama series ‘Mercy Street,’ she is all set to appear in the third season of the dark comedy ‘Search Party.’
Childhood & Early Life
Shalita Grant was born on August 28, 1988, in Petersburg, Virginia. Not much is known about her parents or early life, except the fact that her mother encouraged her passion for acting.
Shalita wanted to hone her artistic skills since childhood. This made her audition for the ‘Baltimore School for the Arts’ in Maryland. Instead of preparing a monologue for her audition, Shalita chose to act on her mother’s suggestion and performed a whole scene from ‘A Raisin in the Sun.’ The scene showed a daughter telling her mother that she did not believe in God and then ending up getting hit by her mother. Young Shalita performed both the characters and shocked and impressed the panel by slapping herself.
Shalita was a young achiever. At 17, she became the ‘YoungArts Winner in Theatre and Presidential Scholar in the Arts.’ A teacher suggested she apply to ‘The Juilliard School.’ Unaware of its stature, Shalita applied to the most prestigious arts school in the US and was granted a scholarship. She graduated with a BFA in drama from ‘Juilliard’ in 2010.
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After graduation, Shalita started working in productions of ‘Shakespeare in the Park,’ making her stage debut in the revival of ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ directed by ‘Tony Award’-winner Daniel Sullivan, with ‘Academy Award’-winning actor Al Pacino in the role of moneylender ‘Shylock.’ She was also part of ‘The Winter’s Tale’ and ‘Measure for Measure.’
In 2013, Shalita got her big-ticket ‘Broadway’ show, Christopher Durang’s ‘Tony Award’-winning comedy play ‘Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike,’ as ‘Cassandra.’ The characters and plot of the play were inspired by Anton Chekhov’s body of work. Shalita won the ‘Theatre World Award’ for ‘Outstanding Broadway Debut’ and a ‘Tony’ nomination for the ‘Best Featured Actress in a Play.’
These early achievements in the world of ‘Broadway’ led her to move to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, her success on stage did not translate to success in the world of TV. For a year, Shalita fruitlessly went through more than 50 auditions. With limited financial resources, she had to resort to bartending to keep herself afloat.
She found little success after toiling for a year in audition rooms. She starred in a one-episode role in the widely popular political drama ‘The Good Wife,’ made two guest appearances on ‘Bones’ between 2014 and 2015, and played the role of ‘Olivia’ in the crime-drama series ‘Battle Creek’ (2015).
In 2015, Shalita finally earned her first series regular role, as ‘Special Agent Sonja Percy’ in the ‘CBS’ police-procedural series ‘NCIS: New Orleans.’ After staying in the show for four seasons, Shalita decided to part ways in April 2018. This was described as a “mutual separation” by the media. There were speculations, however, that former showrunner (fired by ‘CBS’ in October 2018) Brad Kern, who was investigated several times for sexual harassment and racial comments on the sets, could have been a catalyst in Shalita’s exit from the show.
While she was gaining popularity as ‘Special Agent Percy,’ Shalita got another meaty recurring role, as ‘Aurelia Johnson’ in the first season of the ‘PBS’ civil war drama ‘Mercy Street’ in 2016. Shalita’s character demonstrated the plight of African–Americans dealing with slavery and the adverse socio-political structures of the time.
After a hiatus of almost 6 years, Shalita briefly returned to theater for ‘The Public Theatre’s ‘Shakespeare in the Park’ series. She appeared as ‘Hermia’ in their production of ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream’ in 2017. Shalita’s upcoming projects include the ‘TBS’ dark comedy ‘Search Party,’ in which she will be playing ‘Cassidy,’ a superficial law school graduate used to driving life in the fast lane, quite a contrast from Shalita’s ‘Agent Percy.’
It is unclear if or when Shalita wants to branch out to films, though, during her early days as an actor, she was part of two features, namely, ‘Empire Corner’ and ‘Invisible,’ both released in 2010. She also appeared in the ‘Academy Award’-nominated documentary ‘Rehearsing a Dream’ in 2006.
Personal & Family Life
Shalita Grant married her long-term girlfriend, Sabrina Skau, on August 8, 2018, at the ‘San Francisco City Hall.’ Later, a private celebration was held at their Palo Alto home. Sabrina is a commercial director at ‘Empress Studios’ and is famous as a freelance video editor.
The couple met on a dating app and had to go through the tests of a long-distance relationship for a year when Shalita shifted base to New Orleans for work. Sabrina proposed marriage on Christmas Eve 2017.
Shalita is quite vocal about the inequality in pay and respect given to black actors in Hollywood. She has also expressed her anguish at artistic stereotypes that still exist in the industry. Comparing the worlds of TV and theater, Shalita once spoke about the lack of fraternal feeling in the former.