Sonia Curtis was born into the world of acting. Her father, Howard Curtis, was a well-known stuntman. His works included hits like “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”
In fact, he was the stunt double for Paul Newman in that movie and it is Curtis you see jumping off the high cliff into the river in the now-famous scene.
Having grown up going to sets with her father, Sonia’s interest in acting was piqued early on. After seeing the 1979 movie, “Kramer vs. Kramer,” Sonia was captivated by the performance of Meryl Streep.
“I saw a movie with Meryl Streep, it was called ‘Kramer vs. Kamer,’ and I was so moved by her performance,” Curtis said. “I was like whoa! I want to do that, so I told my Dad I wanted to be an actress when I get older.”
But knowing how difficult the industry can be, her father wanted her to be sure she really wanted to act.
“He was like, oh no! because he was a stuntman and he said that acting is really hard on women. So he said why don’t we wait until I’m 18” she said. “He told me to still do my athletics, sports and schooling to get into a good college and when I turned 18 we could revisit this and see if I still wanted to do it.”
One of the aspects of acting that appealed to Sonia was having the opportunity to touch other people’s lives.
“I had also seen Goldie Hawn in a movie making people laugh. I liked the idea of people being moved emotionally to tears and the movement of emotions in a film and also the laughter! Our family sat around and cracked up together watching Goldie Hawn.”Sonia Curtis
Sonia’s life would take on a different direction, however, after the tragic death of her father in a skydiving accident.
“My dad was killed doing a parachute jump,” Curtis said. “It was on the weekend but it wasn’t for his job so that was a factor in not having an inheritance or a lot of money but he was killed and my mom had a really hard time with that. She had always been a stay-at-home mom.”
Things continued to become more difficult for Sonia during this period.
“At one point, I was being both the mom and the dad. She didn’t like that and I wanted to get out and a neighbor told me I needed a break and that I could come stay with them,” Curtis said. “So I moved out to stay for a few months. My mom was an alcoholic and she called one day and asked me to return to care for my brother and sister while she went to detox.”
After moving back home for a short period of time Sonia was back out on her own by age 18.
“I was pretty much on my own right after my dad died because my mom was pretty much incapacitated in grief.”
Sonia was cast on the NBC daytime soap opera, “Days of Our Lives” in 1985. Cast as “Nancy Pearson”, Sonia was given a full story arc.
“Soap operas are one of the hardest formats to do because you have to crank out sometimes 20-30 pages of dialog a day,” Curtis said. “You don’t get a lot of takes to do it! The hardest part for me was when you had to be in one place for a cue and then another. Incorporating where they needed you to be for camera and lights. It’s very challenging!”
In 1987, Sonia was cast in the hit NBC series, “Family Ties.” She portrayed “Amy Sussman,” a friend of “Mallory Keaton” [Justine Bateman] and a love interest for the character “Skippy Handleman” [Marc Price]. Sonia would appear in 2 episodes of the show. Season 5 episode 26, “Love Me Do” and season 6 episode 11, “Citizen Keaton”.
“They had contracted me to do seven episodes, but then they went into a different direction,” she said. “I was signed on to star as ‘Skippy’s’ girlfriend, and the producers and writers were going to do a whole storyline with us! They were also writing a spinoff series to do with us. Then it just didn’t happen.”
The producers of “Family Ties” eventually did decide to make a spinoff series. In 1987, “The Art of Being Nick” starring Scott Valentine premiered. It was based on Valentine’s “Family Ties” “Nick Moore” character.
“They decided to do a spinoff with ‘Nick Moore’ [Scott Valentine]. He’s really sweet so I’m glad he got his opportunity! The writing was so good on that show! The actors were all also really good. Sitcoms are one of my favorite because it’s kind of like doing a play, you get to go in front of a live audience!”
Sonia would also land a role as a peasant girl in the 1987 movie, “The Monster Squad,” which has become a cult classic. The movie experience differed in many ways from sitcom work.
“It was definitely more intense,” she exclaimed. “The drama aspect for the scene I was in, the director was like, ‘be more intense.’ I’m the German peasant girl who has to say these words to stop a curse and it was intense! I got five days to shoot that one scene. I’d say that’s the biggest difference in sitcoms vs the movies. On sitcoms you only have a week to shoot an entire episode!” She said.
In 1990, Sonia was cast as “Kristen Davis” in the movie “Terminal Bliss” which starred the late Luke Perry in the lead role.
“I loved Luke [Perry]! He was so nice and he had that star quality but he was also humble. He was a down to earth guy!”
Difficult times would once again find Sonia in 2011 after her husband, Jeremiah Acerra, left her after 10 years of marriage.
“He was the main breadwinner,” she said. “He had one of those Hollywood jobs that actually paid well. He had a good, steady income as a major assistant director on some TV shows. He moved out in a day and it left me shocked! I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. He also cleared out the bank account which left me in a lurch. That was a really difficult season.”
Sonia had been working on reestablishing her acting career before her husband moved out.
“With his blessing, I was back in really good acting classes, doing theater and producing short films,” Curtis said. “I was seeking good representation to get back out there. I was just starting to gain some momentum! Short films and theaters don’t pay at all so you have to have some other form of income. I had to refocus on what I could do to make a living.”
Sonia ended up reinventing herself and her career by getting into real estate in 2011 as a licensed agent. She now owns and operates S. Curtis Properties.
“Real estate has provided a little more stable income than the entertainment industry,” Curtis said. “I became a real estate broker in Los Angeles and it’s still feast or famine! When you close a deal you can get a decent sized commission. The average is 2.5 percent out here. I’m not selling those 50 million dollar mansions or even 1 million dollar ones! Those are where people make a lot of money, but I am able to pay the bills! I had to put all my focus on this and recreate myself!”
Sonia leaned on her faith when she found herself dealing with tragedy and uncertainty but her divorce challenged that faith and it took her a while to feel she was back on track.
“I re-dedicated my life to the Lord in the 90s, and I was really serious about it this time as an adult. I had a sincere re-dedication,” Curtis said. “I had tried many different things and then came back to Jesus, but everything was shut down instantly. I had good managers and agents who shut things down to go a different direction. The agents and managers were the gatekeeper to get you into places. I was just put outside of the gate!”
Sonia began serving in churches in various capacities and then she formed her own ministry called Power, Love, and Fire. She has served for over two decades in women’s ministries.
The desire Sonia had in her acting of wanting to see people’s lives touched, carried over into her ministry. Her goal is to reach others and help them when they face difficult situations as she has.
“The whole heart of my ministry is just drawing people closer to God,” Curtis said. “I was giving acting lessons to Christian actors which I didn’t have a blueprint for. 20 years ago, the church removed itself from Hollywood and here I was in the middle! I think you go wherever God sends you! I pray for people and get excited because Jesus had so much compassion and never denied a healing. God loves every person and wants no one to perish.”
One of God’s gifts to mankind has been free will. The freedom to choose our own direction in life.
“God has really healed my heart and with Him even,” Curtis said. “When you get a revelation of God’s love and you love Him back, you just want to share that with the world! Being Christian doesn’t mean you never have a bad day or get attacked again, but knowing God only wants what’s good for us, that’s what I’m passionate about!” Sonia has proven that people can overcome tragedy and survive when hard times come. When she was faced with losing everything, she reinvented herself and adjusted her goals. That’s a lesson we can all learn from.