Shining a spotlight on celebrities and athletes who love to travel. Created and developed by Stacy Steponate Greenberg.

Whether it’s on the Broadway stage or inside your television set, the highly talented, Tony nominated Shalita Grant is as resilient and tough as the characters she plays. On NCIS: New Orleans, she is the strong and independent Agent Sonja Percy. On the new Civil War mini-series drama Mercy Street, she plays a “stoical contraband” working as a laundress. It’s all in a day’s work for Grant, who hails from Virginia and attended the prestigious Juilliard School of Drama on a drama scholarship. When she is not running around performing or running around for exercise, Grant is the celebrity spokesperson for the group The People’s Institue for Survival and Beyond, an organization dedicated to understanding what racism is and how it can be undone. The Overhead Compartment shared a few beignets and caught up with Shalita Grant on her life as an actress, her travels, and how she manages to stay in such good shape while surrounded by some of the best food in the world.

The Overhead Compartment with Shalita Grant begins now…..

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OC: You are now a regular on NCIS: New Orleans and play Agent Sonja Percy a tough, determined character. How do people react when they recognize you from the show?

SG: I pretty much fly under the radar. But there was one time, I was still in my TV make-up and was in a store and the woman who was at the cash register was all excited and said “I know you, I know you, you are on NCIS New Orleans, I love that show”. So here she is, all excited and when I pull out my Amex to pay, she actually says to me “I need to see some i.d.” I thought, really are you kidding me? You just said that you know who I am….but you need to see my I.D.?!

OC: Chasing the bad guys can be physically demanding. What do you do to stay in shape?

SG: I wake up really early, before my call time to work out. Because if I tell myself I will do it later, after work, I am way too exhausted. I usually post my work-outs on Instagram. I do weight training and use heavy weights with fewer reps and that keeps my body strong, keeps me tight. I’m actually waiting for a cycling bike to put in the back of the house and complete the gym. I love cardio and wish I could take classes but I don’t have the time.

OC: Speaking of being in shape, I’ve heard that you are incredibly strong and have been known to challenge unsuspecting crew members to push-up contests. How many push-ups can you do and has any member of the crew ever beaten you?

SG: Hah-hah, well I have no problem humiliating the crew and I can probably bang out 20/30/40 push ups. To add insult to injury I’ll add clapping to the push ups. But, there are two guys that can out push-up me. They are very dedicated to the push up and bi-cept curls, but….I can out run them.

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OC: NCIS: New Orleans is shot on location. What’s it like working in the party capital of America?

SG: Well, you never know what you’re going to get. It’s always a crap shoot and we’ve seen some pretty interesting behavior and we just shrug and say, “well, we are in the Quarter”. You couldn’t print any of the stories I’m thinking of.

OC: Top three favorite restaurants in New Orleans?

SG: Dominica’s. They actually have this deep fried kale that is stupid. I mean it tastes like chicken tenders but it’s kale. Then there is the restaurant Lūke, that has great oysters and cocktails. Also a great shrimp and grits brunch. My last one is someplace people wouldn’t really know, is Sake Don. It’s is a nice little sushi place that I frequent on the weekends.

OC: What is a restaurant no tourist ever goes to that you love in New Orleans?

SG: I like this off-the-beaten path place, called the Bacchanal….it’s by the water, has outdoor seating and really good tacos.

OC: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in an airport?

SG: I was going from New Orleans to LAX, it was my first time since getting this job. I did another job in VA during the hiatus and had not been in LA in so long and was stupid excited to get back to LA and the first thing I saw when I am on my way to baggage claim, I see a woman freaking out because her dog took a big, nasty #*@% in the middle of the floor. I had my dog, Mr. Tits. He’s a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, pure bred but he’s actually a show dog-reject. His name is political really. I do a TV show where we kill and shoot people and it seems normal, but in real life, when a woman is breast feeding in public, people freak out. So for me, it was normalizing a body part. I giggle a lot when people have a hard time with his name.

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OC: What was the most interesting city your work has ever taken you to?

SG: I did a show in Boston and had never been there before. I grew up in Baltimore, so after NYC everything else was really grey. So it was really cool to clear out some of that grey area and get to know what was past NYC.

OC: What did you do during your downtime?

SG: I usually try to go where the locals go. I start with something physical to get a real sense of where I’m at….is there an outdoor yoga class, is there a kayak class. Then I find out where locals are eating and find pretty places to walk around. Book stores are my favorite, I like to talk to the owners about their city and find out what’s going on that week.

OC: You worked with David Hyde Pierce and Sigourney Weaver on Broadway in VANYA and SONIA and MASHAAD and SPIKE. Both have long careers with both Broadway and TV/film. What lessons did you learn from each of them?

SG: I definitely learned David is a really caring person. Took care of everyone and was genuinely nice. He made sure everyone felt respected, from the ushers to the actors and it wasn’t a put on. He often does the Irish good-by, you will never know he left a party. SW is a mega star and I had always heard that mega stars can be vain…but she wasn’t like that. She was gracious and accommodating on stage, she was a real team player, through and through. She is also so comfortable with who she is, she is really cool.

Shalita Grant, please use care upon departure as items may have shifted in The Overhead Compartment during our journey. Thanks for choosing us for your travel tips! Have a wonderful day!

Photo credit: Vince Trupsin.