Sonja Sohn is a name that we all have grown to love. Many of us were introduced to Sohn as Detective Shakima Gregg on the hit series, The Wire.
However, Sohn’s career began years before that, and we were able to witness her talent evolve in series such as Body of Proof and Luke Cage amongst others. In recent years, we experienced Sohn as the grief-stricken mother in The Chi as her character Laverne Johnson mourned the loss of her sons Coogee and Brandon before seeking justice for herself.
Sohn’s talent does not stop there. As gifted as she is as an actress, Sohn’s directorial talents are just as astounding. We recently caught up with the modern-day renaissance woman to discuss her latest project, HBO's The Slow Hustle, a true crime story that explores the mysterious death of Baltimore police detective, Sean Suiter. He was shot in the head one day prior before he was set to testify in front of a federal grand jury against the corrupt officers in the Baltimore PD Gun Trace Task Force.
Originally ruled by police as a death by suicide, Suiter’s death has been the center of several conspiracy theories. The Slow Hustle explores these theories and chronicles the pain experienced by the community and Suiter’s wife, as well as the unanswered questions.
When asked how did she become a part of the project, Sohn shared that an executive from HBO approached her.
“I was approached by an executive at HBO who had been following the Gun Trace Task Force and corruption there. He became interested in this case and the sort of mystery surrounding it. He knew I directed Baltimore Rising [and] I could possibly help unravel the mystery. I wasn't quite sure, because I wasn't an investigative, journalistic-type filmmaker. After finding the investigative reporters and the other voices in Baltimore, I felt the story could come through. And particularly getting the blessing and the participation of Nicole and her family, I thought that there were perspectives, that could shed light on the underpinnings of what was happening in the case and perhaps even hindering it."
The Slow Hustle took nearly two and a half years to come to fruition. The pandemic receives a bit of the blame. However, COVID-19 wasn’t the only challenge in creating this project.
“I didn't have the same access because the department was under a consent decree," recalls Sohn. “There was a new commissioner there who was really trying to get their house in order and pretty much locked the department. He wasn't giving a lot of access to meet him. I was able to call upon a couple of old contacts. For instance, the former commissioner (Kevin Davis) who was featured in Baltimore Rising [and] had the Suiter case happen under his watch as commissioner… [but] I wouldn't say we really have the cooperation of the police department."
Sohn's exploration of Suiter’s death required her to remove any emotions she may have possessed to authentically show the pain the Suiter family has been experiencing. Sohn wanted to "walk around that gingerly” and “allow it to supersede."
She explained, 'This project was a little less emotional in some ways than Baltimore Rising because there was someone, a family in the middle of grieving and what they were carrying, in addition to the media attention, they were a police family and a black family…both of those communities that they belong to are triggered right now. In terms of like what we are, what we have been dealing with it, between the police and black people. And I can only imagine what it's like to be a black police family and the father of the family and the husband of the family die on the job and not get any answers."
The Slow Hustle is now streaming on HBO Max.