Martin Sheen's Talks Ancient Family Secrets

Instead of assuming someone else's identity, as he is known to do, Martin Sheen took a trip back in time to learn about his ancestors on NBC's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' Below, an edited version of our interview with Sheen about his experience on the show.

by Ilyssa Panitz • Celebrity Reporter
martin sheen and charlie sheen image
Martin Sheen (left) recently investigated his family history and found a fascinating character. And it wasn't his son Charlie Sheen (right).

More: So, you appeared on the NBC series “Who Do You Think You Are?” Did you learn anything shocking about your family tree?
Martin Sheen: I did indeed. I learned a lot, to be quite honest. It went back four generations on my father’s side in Spain.

The revelations were astonishing. I mean, I had no clue what we were going to find. I was just delighted and enlightened by the whole process. I can’t wait to share it with my own family.

More: Details, please?
MS: We learned on my father’s side four generations removed, there was an extraordinary and eccentric character who was not just a “Don” in terms of his title but a real “Don Juan.” His life was fascinating, especially because there was a connecting point on my grandmother and grandfather’s side. He was a judge, a landowner and a very well-respected member of the community in northern Spain, where my father was from.

More: Why would an iconic Hollywood actor such as yourself go on a program like this?
MS: It was actually my idea, because I am a big fan of the show. I watched the first two seasons and then asked the producer Lisa Kudrow if I could be a candidate. Once you are accepted onto the program, the producers get your permission to explore your past, with the possibility of traveling and being caught on camera as you learn startling information.

More: Given your own past and most recently the very public troubles of your son, Charlie Sheen, did you feel, "Hey, at this point I’ve got nothing to hide?"
MS: Dark secrets were of no concern to me because they are going so far back in time I couldn’t take blame for anything [  laughs] or be embarrassed about something.

More: Because of what went on with Charlie last year, did you put any restrictions as to what could be aired?
MS: I did say at the beginning that if the show did find anything that could prove to be embarrassing that they let me know ahead of time. The idea is not to have a “gotcha moment.” The whole premise behind this concept is to reveal interesting information about your family tree.

More: Describe your adventure.
MS: It was great. I enjoyed every hour of it. It was very revealing and a lot of fun to do. It was an adventure in wonderland.

More: If someone were to ask you, “Who do you think you are?” how would you respond?
MS: [Laughs] Good one. Well, I guess I came from a very long and complex history that is not so different from the complexities of our own modern lives. The difference here is, there are more of us and we have more access to information. I discovered that the people of my past were dealing with the same problems and complexities that we all deal with, such as struggling to make a living, finding a mate and live an honest life. In that sense, we are very parallel.

More: Were there any disappointments?
MS: No. I was proud to learn what I did.

More: You mention the complexities of life. Having said that, is it easy being Martin Sheen?
MS: Well, I can’t be anyone else, now, can I? [Laughs]

More: What are the pros?
MS: I do have the advantage of jumping outside of myself and being different characters that I fancy myself being. But I guess that is part of what I do for a living.

More: What are the cons of being so famous?
MS: Although I make my living in a public forum, I try to live a private life. I learned a lot about myself through this process and learned there are many things to discover about you. I will say it is good to know where you come from so you can create the path of where you want to go.

More: Where would you like to go?
MS: Home. I have been up for hours doing interviews. [Laughs]

First Published February 10, 2012

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