Baltimore Actress Uses ‘The Wire’ To Reach, And Teach, That City’s Young Criminals
Sonja Sohn, who once played Detective Kima Greggs on the HBO series ‘The Wire”, which ran for five seasons, is now doing real-life work with youngsters whose lives resembles the show’s brutal and crime-ridden plotlines:
“I always knew I was born to help people,” she says. “I knew that. I just didn’t know how to do it.”
Sohn, a vivacious and outgoing child, was born to an African-American father and Korean-American mother. She casually mentions, but opts not to elaborate on, episodes of abuse during her childhood, and by the age of 7, she says, she was planning “my mom’s escape.” By early adolescence, she began wondering how she would ever live her life without threats of violence (without much explanation, Sohn adds that she has reconciled with her father and they now have a good relationship).
By age 11, she smoked pot. By age 12, she started drinking. In eighth and ninth grade, she tried speed and acid. But she played basketball, field hockey and volleyball. She was a cheerleader. She became student body president. “When I was 12, I said to myself, ‘OK. I’m here. So I have to make the best of it,’” she says.
But the situation at home was unbearable. She failed classes on purpose. She often gave up hope that she could ever better herself.
There’s now a core group of a dozen Rewired for Change participants, meeting twice a week in a small room at the University of Maryland School of Social Work downtown. Sohn says 95 percent of the Rewired participants have been court-ordered or recommended by other service organizations to be here. They have had repeated run-ins with the law for myriad offenses, including drugs, theft or assault.
The idea for Rewired for Change is to use “The Wire,” for participants to analyze its situations and characters through the lens of their own lives. Sohn believes that through self-reflection and development of critical thinking skills, personal transformation can occur.
She told the BBC about it this morning:
“We work with high-risk young people, between the ages of 14 and 24, who have all been in trouble with the law in one form or another: drug activity, crime activity. This population has sort of been thrown away…Folks tend to think they cannot be saved.”
“There’s an application process and interview process. We use “The Wire” as a teaching tool; they watch an episode and we hold a conversation about the show. Each episode has a variety of objectives and lessons were trying to accomplish…our goal is to use “The Wire” as a base. They feel that someone knows who they are, what their circumstances are and that they exist…These are your circumstances but this is how you can escape them.”
As almost every Hollywood starlet attaches herself to a Good Cause, bonding with little kids overseas is an easy way to win a Vogue or People layout. Nice to see a successful actress working on something tough, local and decidedly un-sexy.