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Budding actress Sara Sohn looks beyond ‘Sense8′
By Tae Hong
2015 marks the beginning of a new chapter for Sara Sohn, who found herself on a prison set, blue uniform and all, on a mountain two hours outside Seoul last year sitting opposite top South Korean actress Bae Doona.
Soo-jin, her character, is a fellow inmate and sewing teacher to Bae’s Sun in “Sense8,” the Wachowski Brothers’ latest effort for Netflix.
Sohn (Korean name Sohn Mi-bo, meaning “beautiful treasure”), 32, is a rising YouTube personality and former K-pop star who is transitioning to acting after years delaying a natural urge to perform.
A mother to two children, she’s better known as Momma Sohn to her 16,000 YouTube followers, who share and comment on her homemade videos about childrearing, kid-friendly home activities and parenting tips.
The channel is a reflection of the importance she puts on family (“I started making videos because I was having a hard time being a young mom and not having anybody to connect with. I couldn’t go to auditions. I couldn’t take two days to [film] something,” she says), but it’s also a creative outlet that helps ease an unceasing itch to put herself in front of a camera.
“Performing has always been a natural part of me,” Sohn says.
She was 21 and fresh out of studying development and political science at the University of California, Los Angeles, when she flew to South Korea to join a K-pop girl group called S Blush alongside pre-fame Kahi (formerly of After School) and Son Dam-bi (“Crazy”).
It was a short stint, six months of promotion through 2006 — during which the group reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play chart — but even after she left the scene to return to the City of Angels, the performing bug remained.
Sohn is Korean American by marriage. By birth, she is Spanish, having taken her first steps in Madrid. By residence, she was Guatemalan, the country in which she lived from age 6 until leaving for college.
Her parents, both missionaries, work with the local church. Her father oversees more than a dozen schools in rural areas.
“When I first came to L.A., I heard a lot of stories about people who grew up like me, in all-white communities. They felt very isolated. I didn’t grow up that way. I was readily embraced,” she says. “I loved my childhood. I almost want to take my kids and go back to Guatemala to raise them there.”
Her kids — Young-jin, 4, and Sofia, 2 — are frequent guests on her Instagram.
The children became a quick priority when they came along after marriage. Before then, Sohn, set on pursuing an acting career, had completed years of acting school and juggled what jobs she could find after life in Korea (including a year serving Pinkberry in Beverly Hills).
All the while, friends around her began succeeding as Internet-driven brands, from make-up guru Michelle Phan to fashion blogger Chriselle Lim.
“Girls around me started to become entrepreneurs in their mid-twenties, and I was blown away, so impressed by them,” Sohn says. “To have a really strong voice, I was like, ‘I want to get on that wagon. That’s where I want to be.’”
Momma Sohn uploaded her first video three years ago. Since then, thousands of moms, would-be moms and even babysitters have frequented her clips for advice.
Eager to get back into acting, Sohn booked a minor role as a family member to Sung Kang’s Han in “Furious 7.” Though no lines made the cut, and her exposure in the film is limited, it was a role she surpassed many to get, and one that put her on the track she’d been seeking.
Her following role in “Sense8,” for which she was cast through auditions via Skype from Korea, is a supporting one. Soo-jin, seen in a blue uniform that reads “Chungju Women’s Correctional Facility,” is a soft-spoken prisoner who is defended by Sun from a bully.
For the budding actress, these experiences are steps in the right direction, especially as she learns to balance both family and work.
“I was raised being told, ‘You can do whatever you want, Sara,’” she said. “‘You wanna do it all, you can do it all.’”
Follow Sara on Instagram.