Shalita Grant
Shalita Grant (Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)

So far, each season of You has moved the action to a new location. In Season 1, which aired on Lifetime, bookish New Yorker Joe (Penn Badgely) stalked struggling writer Beck (Elizabeth Lail) all over Manhattan with deadly results. Season 2 moved to Netflix, and Joe fled to LA, where he fell for Love (Victoria Pedretti), a pastry chef with her own murderous tendencies. The new season, out today, finds the couple and their newborn baby boy in Madre Linda, a tony suburb of San Francisco populated by tech bros and their Insta famous spouses. And the most Insta famous of them all is Sherry (Shalita Grant) a queen bee who wields her mom-fluencer status like a weapon.

Grant, who had a scene-stealing turn as novice lawyer Cassidy Diamond in Season 3 of Search Party, thinks of Sherry as more of a mama bear than a queen bee. “She’s protecting her inner circle,” Grant explains. “Because what goes on in the inner circle — the inner most circle of Madre Linda — is buck wild.”

As fans get ready to binge Season 3, Grant chatted with GRAZIA about just how wild things get in the suburbs when everyone’s favorite serial killers move to town.

What was your first impression of the character when you first encountered her on the page?

Oh my god! I was like, What? I get to be this terrible? I’ve never been this terrible. So, that was what I initially thought. But then I had these conversations — after I got the job, of course — with the producers and learned the arch, what is behind this and all of that. I wouldn’t say that Sherry is someone who is close to my heart. She’s kinda hard to love — but lovable, eventually.

Shalita Grant and Travis van Winkle in <i>You</i>
Shalita Grant and Travis van Winkle in You (Photo: John P. Fleenor/Netflix)

Ok, so without giving too much away, what can you tease about how your character evolves over the season?

I will say that when you meet Sherry, you think you know why she is the way that she is. And she is deplorable in a lot of ways. But as Love and Joe enter the inner circle of Madre Linda — and Madre Linda is a character in Season 3. All these characters make up this community. And so, you get to see what it’s like in this inner circle, and what makes these people tick. But then, Love and Sherry and [Sherry’s husband Cary, played by Travis Van Winkle] and Joe, they get close in ways you did not expect, and everything falls apart. And Sherry and Cary make history in the You [world].

The show kind of has changed settings each season, which means that Penn and Victoria are kind of the only main characters returning. Did if feel like joining an established show or new show entirely?

It was like a little bit of both. It was like joining an established series in that all of the producers are the same, and Joe is still No. 1 and Love from the previous season. But it is a different world, and even for Victoria and Penn, they too were like, Ok, this is what it’s like in this world… So, it was really fun for me because I watched Season 1 and some of Season 2 before I knew I was going to be on the show. I was a fan and knew the series. So, coming on, it was super cool to work on something that I really liked. And also, it gave me the onus to totally be. There was now, like, fitting in. Sherry is a series regular for this season, so to really establish this woman — that was really cool.

So, Sherry is Insta famous. Were there influencers or mom-fluencers that you followed or studied to get into this character?

No, because, honestly… We did a day or two of photos for [Sherry’s] Instagram. So, you know, I had Instagram for a while. So, I know the poses, you know what I mean? But for Sherry, what I really leaned on was my experience as an actress, because there is the me that goes to work and does the acting. And then there’s the me that knows that there are a lot of people that know who I am because they watch these shows. So, you have to learn how to…do that. Social media, in and of itself, is still something that I’m struggling with, honestly. You know, the authenticity of it? We actually had a company running my Instagram from 2015–2020, because I was just like, It’s not my thing. So, I would take photos and give them to them, and then approve posts. But I didn’t run it. But in 2020, I was like, I’m gonna run my Instagram and Twitter. It’s time for me to learn it and try to find a way to deal with it. But there is a line for oversharing and undersharing, so I really leaned into the very real world that I was in — and leaning on her being great at it. Luckily, it didn’t really factor into the story so much. But it did factor into how I handled myself, how I carried myself with the other characters, and what is Sherry on and what is Sherry off.

Shalita Grant (left) with Chris O'Shea and Shannon Chan-Kent in <i>You</i>
Shalita Grant (left) with Chris O’Shea and Shannon Chan-Kent in You (Photo: John P. Fleenor/Netflix)

Again, if this is too much of a spoiler, let me know, but what is behind the need she seems to have to be the queen bee, to be seen, to present this very curated, very managed self to the world?

[Laughs] There is a reason… I’ll say this: One of the first mistakes I made as an actress with Sherry was, I thought: B*tch…but there’s nothin’ else behind that. And the producers were like, “No. She’s not a b*tch in the way that you’re thinking. She’s more of a mamma bear.” She’s protecting her inner circle. Because what goes on in the inner circle — the inner most circle of Madre Linda — is buck wild.

You’re such a distinctive performer. How much of your own stamp were you able to put on the character? How much did she end up evolving to suit you as a performer?

I pride myself on being a character actress. So, the thing that is a common theme with all of my characters is authenticity. Finding that authentic aspect of that character and their experience. The conversations that I had with the producers [on You] were super helpful. And…I knew that I had to cry in this, and before, that was my Achilles heel. Baby went to Julliard, and I can do Shakespeare, I can do Molière, I can do drama, comedy, whatever you want! But b*tch couldn’t cry on cue. So, I was like, I need to figure this out for myself! And one of the first things that I did with Sherry was I had to go back to step one and I sat down at the dining room table and I thought, What does everyone say about Sherry? What does Sherry say about herself? And what do the producers say about Sherry? And that’s a beautiful acting exercise. It looks like a serial killer page, but at the end you get a really good sense of the intention with the character and who the character is. So, that was my first way in, and from there I was able to live. They say, you don’t want to create moments, you want to be so in process that you live them.

So, with any character I’m playing, I’m always trying to build my playground, because I really like playing. I love to play. Work is play! Any opportunity I can find to play — and not get in trouble — I’m gonna find it. So, that’s what I did with Sherry. That’s how I added my own…but it feels weird to say it’s me, because it wasn’t. The playfulness is me, but what we came up with is Sherry’s bag.

It’s funny, the show kind of makes a suburban mom-fluencer seem more unlikable than a pair of serial killers. What is it about this type of woman — who is almost an archetype at this point — that makes her so unlikeable?

It’s because she’s so… I can’t find the word. It’s because she’s so perfect. We don’t like people who embody everything that we’re supposed to be. Being in close proximity to someone who embodies that patriarchal standard, that hair, nails, eyes, body — and also pushes that on other people. But also gaslights them. That’s where we are right now: Let me tell you, there’s something wrong with you, but I have the thing that’s gonna fix it, and for $79.95 you could feel better about your life. That’s what Sherry does. She’s like, I had to lose so much weight after my twins. And you know what that is. She’s coming from a place in our society [where] there’s not much you can say about her. And as a woman in a circle of women, we’re all playing the game of pretty. And that feminine game. And to play a character who uses her femininity, and wields her femininity as a weapon, that’s the thing that’s so unlikable about her. In our society femininity should be soft, should be quiet, should be enjoyed, but enjoyed on the observer’s terms. But Sherry, her femininity is in your face. But she gaslights you and says, Oh my gosh, I make mistakes. I’m just a human.

Shalita Grant (left) with Victoria Pedretti and Penn Badgley in <i>You</i>
Shalita Grant (left) with Victoria Pedretti and Penn Badgley in You (Photo: John P. Fleenor/Netflix)

What’s her dynamic with Joe and Love like early on?

She’s watching them. They’re new to her town and they didn’t kiss her ring. The first scene, she knows everything about them. Clearly, she’s been waiting for the introduction. She’s been waiting for them to meet her so she can access if they’re worthy of being in Madre Linda and, like, what circle of the Madre Linda hell they can go into.

We’ve talked a lot about Madre Linda, and you mentioned that the town is almost a character this season. Seasons 1 and 2 were very much about obsession and a kind of toxic masculinity. What do you think this show has to say about the suburbs? Are there specific themes you think this season is exploring?

We could talk about this all day! [Victoria’s character’s] name is Love, so it’s hard to not think about love when you’re talking about the character, and also the course of love. And so that’s what Season 3 does. Season 3 asks the question, What happens when you get everything you think you want? And for me, one of my mantras has been: I don’t have everything that I want, but I want everything that I have. And if that rings true for me, that includes the problems that come with what you have. Everything comes with problems. What are the problems you’re willing to deal with?

So, for this season, you’re in suburbia, and for Joe, the star of the show, the serial killer — we learn that he doesn’t come from a two-parent home, he killed his father, he grew up in boys’ homes. This isn’t his world. He’s a fish out of water. For us, as viewers, we know this world, and this is totally normal for us. So, how does a serial killer fit into a perfect, picturesque community.

Season 3 also deals with community, and what it means to be in a community, what you have to give up to be in a community. It really plays with these themes that are really close to heart, especially now that we’re in a pandemic and we’re all looking at our relationships and our communities, and learning things about our communities.

Shalita Grant (left) with Chris O'Shea in You
Shalita Grant (left) with Chris O’Shea in You (Photo: John P. Fleenor/Netflix)

What do I, personally, need to do to get a Cassidy Diamond solo spin-off series in the Search Party extended universe?

[Laughs] It’s you and a whole bunch of other people, child! I don’t know! Ya’ll gotta start a petition or something. But, it was crazy for me after Search Party seeing so many people saying, Spin-off! Spin-off! Spin-off! That was just a testament to the job that I did, and I did it with a full heart. When I got that audition, I went back and watched the first episode to see if it was something that I wanted to do. And then I binged everything. I loved this world, I loved those characters. So, to get into that world and have the fans be so [all about] Cassidy. Wow. That’s amazing.

I feel like Cassidy and Sherry are two sides of the same coin in some ways. Like Cassidy is the good witch and Sherry is that bad witch. Do you find that this is a type of role you get offered a lot?

I don’t know. Ok, so, I feel like I’m aging like fine wine. I feel like the older I get, the better I’m looking. So, in my 20s I could never play any of these people. But we’ll see what happens after You. But I will say that I am a character actress. So, playing with femininity, playing with makeup and stuff, for me, it is just playing. If I get to do it again, that’s great. But I am interested to see what other worlds and what other characters I can embody.