Sonja Perryman’s love for storytelling developed early in life, along with her sense of its potential to impact lives. She has vivid memories of reading “The Baby-Sitters Club” books as a girl and telling her father about one particular character in the series.
“I was like, ‘Yeah, she has diabetes, and she’s always thirsty and always hungry,’” Perryman recalled in a conversation this week on St. Louis on the Air. “And I remember my dad’s face going pale – well, as pale as it could go, but he looked like he saw a ghost – and he was like, ‘What were her symptoms again?’”
Two weeks later, Perryman’s father told her he had diabetes, something he would go on to struggle with the rest of his life. When he passed away in his late 40s, his loss “changed everything” for his daughter.
“Of course, losing a parent and someone you love that much is terrible,” Perryman said. “But it also activated me. And that’s kind of why I was like, ‘Acting doesn’t feel like enough anymore.’”
She decided to earn a master’s degree in public health, and since then the Los Angeles-based actress, teacher and producer has found fresh ways to combine her love for the entertainment world with a passion for helping underrepresented and underserved people.
Most recently that has involved her work on the Emmy-nominated TV show “East Los High,” the first English-language show to feature an all-Latino cast. Perryman is manager of research and development for the company behind the series, which ran for four seasons on Hulu and concluded in December with a finale special.
During her visit to St. Louis to speak at Webster University’s annual Media Academy, she stopped by St. Louis Public Radio to discuss the ways she sees the entertainment industry changing, what a few of her favorite shows are these days and how she and her colleagues go about tackling real-life issues on screen.
Listen to the full conversation between Perryman and producer Evie Hemphill:
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.