Search Party co-creators Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers describe Cassidy as an easy character to write, yet a hard role to cast. Like the rest of Search Party, Cassidy walks a tightrope between a cartoonish depiction of an overly confident buffoon – and a real human being. It wasn’t until Shalita Grant auditioned that the whole thing clicked. And according to Grant, the reason for her success with Cassidy Diamond was on the casting page to begin with.
“The thing that leapt out to me was the vocal fry,” Grant says. “That was totally S.V. and Charles. I saw ‘vocal fry’ and I immediately got a picture, an image of someone, and immediately felt a judgment.”
“Vocal fry” is a term that describes a voice’s tendency to draw out the end of words or sentences with a low, creaky voice. It’s often deployed in a sexist context to criticize women’s voices in auditory mediums like radio and podcasting. For Grant, however, it was the starting point for fully understanding how to make the comedic/dramatic tightrope characterization of Cassidy Diamond work.
“I found out that (vocal fry) is actually a byproduct of young women trying to pitch their voices lower than it is natural,” Grant says. “There was all this research about ‘why would a woman want to pitch her voice lower?’ And what they found out is that this is the response to the stereotype and the sexist myth that women’s voices are grating because they’re so high-pitched and we sound like children and it’s not professional. So these women had responded by trying to make their voices lower, to this really now comedic effect.
“The funny thing about how sexism works is that men have vocal fries too. Men try to pitch their voices down lower too, because it is seen as more masculine to have a lower voice. Lil Wayne has a vocal fry and no one talks about it. We don’t even think about it, but he’s frying. He’s frying all over the place.”