About Sonja Sohn
Born and raised in New York to an African-American father and a Korean-American mother, Sohn was raised from birth with a unique appreciation of diversity and culture. Sohn's earliest artistic expressions took the form of spoken word, particularly poetry. In addition to performing her works at Central Park's famed Public Theatre in New York, Sohn also performed at the Nuyorican Poets Café in the early nineties, as well as at Woodstock in 1994. A gifted and powerful lyricist, Sohn helped pioneer "slam poetry," a post-modern form of performance poetry that gained enormous popularity in the hip-hop era.
Appropriately enough, Sohn's first major acting role was in "Slam" (1999), a low budget independent film. Written and directed by Mark Levin, "Slam" was shot on black-and-white in a gritty documentary style to save money. What the movie lacked in polished filmmaking, however, it more than made up for in sheer authenticity. Starring a cast of mostly non-actors, "Slam" told the story of Ray Joshua (Saul Williams), an angry youth raised in the drug-ridden slums of Washington, D.C. After being incarcerated for drugs, Ray meets and falls in love with the mysterious Lauren (Sohn), a volunteer who teaches poetry at the prison once a week. Against her better judgment, Lauren reciprocates Ray's feelings and the two become lovers. After much trial and tribulation, Ray undergoes a spiritual reawakening, and with Lauren's help, discovers newfound freedom in slam poetry.
An unexpected smash hit on the art house circuit, "Slam" won a slot at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in 1999, where it won the coveted Film of the Year award. Taking a respite from poetry in the early years of the new millennium to concentrate on her acting career, Sohn procured a small role in John Singleton's remake of "Shaft" (2000), starring Samuel L. Jackson. In it, Sohn shared a brief but steamy scene with Jackson as Alice - one of the many chicks for whom the black "private dick is a sex machine."
Sohn's biggest career break to date came in 2002, when she won the role of Detective Shakima "Kima" Griggs on the critically acclaimed HBO series, "The Wire." The sole female member of the Baltimore P.D.'s elite Major Case Squad, Griggs broke new ground as television's first openly lesbian cop. Hailed by the national gay lifestyles periodical, Curve, as the most realistically depicted lesbian character on television - not that there was ever really much competition - Sohn's Det. Griggs also broke ground as the first (and thus far, only) biracial one. Despite being heterosexual in her private life, Sohn's work on "The Wire," as well as her film debut in "Work" - a low-budget 1996 drama in which Sohn also played a lesbian - helped win the actress a devoted gay following. When asked to comment on being a gay sex symbol in a 2003 interview, Sohn was characteristically modest. Praising executive producer of "The Wire," David Simon, for his creative integrity, Sohn stated that she was especially glad that her character, Kima, was not the stereotypically glamorous, "lipstick lesbian" that most television viewers were comfortable with, nor the conventional "bull dyke" archetype also popular in mainstream media. Often times the show's moral center (particularly in its early seasons), the role of Griggs continued to evolve over the course of the series, eventually becoming one of the most complex characters on "The Wire" before its, some would say, premature cancellation in 2007.