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5 Things With Shalita Grant

Shalita Grant was ready to take Hollywood by storm. She had made some major moves in the New York City acting circuit, including graduating from Julliard and even snagging a Tony nomination for her work in Broadway’s Vonya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. So she knew Los Angeles would welcome her with open arms.

When she arrived in the “City of Angels,” it was a ghost town. Her phone was not ringing, and her emails were not buzzing.

“Nobody knew me! That was the problem,” the Virginia-native exclaimed. Then her savings began to run low, and she realized she needed to find some source of income to support herself.

After working the restaurant scene for an entire year, the actress finally caught a few strokes of luck. One was booking a part in the PBS Civil War series Mercy Street. Then, she booked the role that gave her the go-ahead to leave her bartending days behind her—landing a series regular role on CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans.

Ever since then, it’s been smooth sailing for the starlet. She’s on a roll, and pretty soon, everybody is going to know her name. Get to know the spokesperson of The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond with these five random facts. She is giving us all the details on how she fibbed her way into a job, almost met Taraji P. Henson and how she’s challenging “the strong Black woman” stereotype.

Fake It Till You Make It

“When I moved to L.A., I decided if I worked in a restaurant, I didn’t want to be a waitress. People are awful to waitresses. I will be a bartender, because people respect the bartender. Unfortunately, I had no experience, but I’m a very hopeful person. I made up a résumé with a chalk full of lies with New York restaurants that have since closed, so they couldn’t check up on them. I got the job, and about two weeks later, they realized that I had no idea what I was doing. I got fired, but that didn’t stop me unfortunately. I said, ‘You know what? I picked up some skills. I’m going to get me another job.’ I took that same lying ass résumé, now with real experience, to Dave & Buster’s. I charmed the guy into believing that I knew what I was talking about, and he gave me the job.”

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

“Within a year, I had something like 59 auditions and I was in the last couple of stages before booking the job at least four times. 59 auditions, four test, and not a single ‘yes.’ It’s heartbreaking when you don’t get it, and they go with the other person. It feels worthless when they don’t pick you. You have all of this hope. ‘I’m going to buy a house. I’m going to be able to be settled. This is going to be amazing.’ Then it doesn’t happen. So it was affirming and validating getting my first series regular job on a television show. It was great.”

Blame It On The Alcohol

“I was at a movie premiere party, and I got pretty smashed. I didn’t know anybody. Then I spotted Taraji P. Henson, whom I’d never met before. You know how you see somebody from a TV show or movie that meant something to you, so you convince yourself that you actually know the actors? That’s what happened. I’ve seen Baby Boy a bazillion times. ‘Jody!’ That was my girl. I ended up following her around the room, waiting for my chance to to get up in the circle, but couldn’t. Then she went to the bathroom. I realized that she was going into the bathroom as I was following her into the bathroom. I got in the bathroom. She got in the stall, and I looked at myself in the mirror, and thought, ‘This is pretty crazy! Get out of here!’ My advice is to never to do that.”

Gender vs. Race

“I’ve always been interested in the stereotype—”the strong Black woman.” Where does that come from? What is that about? I’m thinking about all of the ways it serves to victimize us even more. One of the points that I came to is that we face extreme adversity in life, and we have done exceedingly well in spite of these challenges. We have fought the barriers in education, finance and media. Instead of applauding our brilliance, we are penalized. We get the stereotype of “the sassy black woman.” We are made fun of instead of supported. I never wanted to lift up that stereotype. We are oppressed into believing that we can’t ask for help. That hurts us because we are encouraged to repress our emotions. And when it comes to Black women, our race trumps our gender. We’re stuck in this intersection.”

A Guy’s Girl’s Best Friend

“My dog’s name is Mr. Tits. I was sitting in this restaurant with TVs, and paparazzi were yelling Paris Hilton’s dog’s name. I just thought that was so dangerous. I said, ‘Well, if ever I got that famous, how would I deal with that.’ I was trying to think of funny names, and this lady walked by with these big [breasts]. I said, ‘[Breasts]! That’s hilarious.’ I laughed for like three days. I figured I can’t just full-on call him ‘[Breasts].’ He needs a name that’s a little bit more respectable. It’s my way of normalizing something that’s been overly sexualized at the end of the day.”

*Keep up with Shalita on Twitter and Instagram, and catch NCIS: New Orleans on CBS Tuesdays at 9 P.M. ET.