After the series ended, Sonja decided to launch a program to help young people in Baltimore overcome the obstacles that were portrayed in the “The Wire.” In 2009, she founded ReWired for Life, a life skills, violence prevention and self-esteem-building program that uses media, resource activities and the arts as tools for personal transformation.
Sonja wasn’t raised in the crime-ridden area of Baltimore where the series was filmed, but her hometown of Newport News, VA, wasn’t much different. Like the kids depicted on the show, she also had a tough upbringing. “The show actually provided a tool for my own personal transformation, giving me a structure at which to look at my own behavior and investigate my own trauma,” she told the Baltimore Sun.
She was raised in the projects, witnessed domestic abuse in her household and was molested by an older girl who served as her babysitter, according to The Washington Post. “We are talking about a throwaway population that adults think are too far gone. We’re talking about kids that people have given up on over and over and over again. They don’t feel like anyone is there for them,” she told The Post.
Sohn soon started a new gig as Det. Samantha Baker on ABC’s “Body of Proof,” a crime drama filming in Providence. It was a supporting role on a traditional cop show, but it was also a way to keep working and help fund ReWired. She was driving up and down Interstate 95 on a weekly basis, doing her scenes, then heading back to Baltimore.
Even with the full schedule and a rash of health issues that plagued her last fall, including a burst blood vessel in her colon that landed her in intensive care, Sohn is trying to develop a mental health piece for the program She’s also searching out new sources of funding and talking up the program in venues such as panel discussions at Harvard and Attorney General Eric Holder’s “Defending Childhood” task force, chaired by former baseball manager Joe Torre.
In December, soon after getting out of the hospital, she flew to Baltimore to testify at the task force’s first hearing. Her voice shaky, she told her tale of transformation, stressing that she had done it, and that there are many kids in Baltimore and elsewhere who can do it — if they get the right help.
It won’t work every time, but “I know what is possible,” she concluded.
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