Concert/Film/TV Reviews

Sonja Sohn On Healing from Father’s Death Through ‘Big George Foreman’ Role

George Foreman (Khris Davis) at the counter of the OST Cafe talks with Nancy Foreman (Sonja Sohn).

The loss of a parent can be devastating and actress Sonja Sohn is no different. Her father’s death unleashed complicated emotions as it preceded her latest role in Big George Foreman as the legendary fighter’s mother, Nancy. And although their relationship was at times strained, Sohn found healing through protraying her character’s unwavering Christian faith and mother-son bond.

As a child, Sohn’s regularly witnessed her father, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, physically abuse and threaten to kill her mother. This caused bouts of depression and even an incident where she almost attacked her father with a pot of boiling water. Unlike the loss her mother in 1998, Sohn had to reconcile her father’s full legacy despite making amends with him years before his passing.

“I was not prepared for my mother to pass,” Sohn reflected to BeatsBoxingMayhem. “In fact, my mother passed at the age I’m about to be in another two weeks. I would say it was more my father’s passing the year before I got this role that impacted my work here…

“That really transformed my life in a particular way — the grief process over my father was very, very different [from my mother]. And this role was very much a part of the healing of some aspects of that relationship . That sort of lives in Nancy and George’s relationship.”

While Nancy Foreman’s is depicted as completely devoted to her Christian faith, George is portrayed as a skeptic due to the family’s poverty and regularly shuns church in favor of petty crimes. Later, a family crisis leads George to reconsider his prayer stance.

For Sohn, children often fall back on family traditions in times of peril. And Nancy’s spiritual lessons would serve as a moral guide for George in adulthood.

“When young folks grow up in a deeply religious home although they don’t subscribe to it, somehow that faith is being poured into him,” Sohn continued. “It comes back when they least suspect it. They don’t realize they have it until they’re in a jam.

“The example [in the movie] is ‘I guess I have to get on my knees.’ It may be the last thing I want to do, but the fact that it’s an option is because someone was praying in the home and praying over you and you were witnessing that faith mattered and had some level of impact.”

Although Foreman has often characterized himself as a “mama’s boy,” the film refrains from depicting the dynamic as one where Nancy coddled him through mistakes. Instead, she stressed accountability through George’s seminal life moments such as leaving home for the Job Corps and divorce.

“She was there in the critical times. If the kids are at odds [with their parents] they’re not coming back to their parents for any kind of advice… He wanted his mom’s approval. I thought that was a really sweet aspect of their relationship.

“She saw he had something special. She knew there was something in this child.”

Big George Foreman is in theaters now. Watch the full interview with Sonja Sohn below.

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