Martin Sheen on the origin of his stage name, his Catholic faith and political activism
By Martin Hill
December 29, 2009



Actor Charlie Sheen made worldwide headlines this week because of the 911 call his wife Brooke Mueller made in Aspen on Christmas morning. This has highlighted their personal marital problems and exposed their intimate life to a worldwide microscope, of course, which is a byproduct of their celebrity status.

Just about every one knows that actor Emelio Estevez  is Charlie Sheen's brother and Martin Sheen's son. Why did Sheen and his son Charlie take the surname  "Sheen"? There's an interesting story behind that.

Martin Sheen appeared on "Inside the Actors Studio", on May 18, 2003. In a revealing and charming interview, host James Lipton began by asking Martin about his parents, childhood, and how he came to use the name Martin Sheen.  Here are a few excerpts where Sheen discusses his family history, his Catholic faith, and how his political activism is rooted in his Catholicism.

Inside The Actors Studio: Martin Sheen Part 1/5, Part 2

Lipton: What was the name on your birth certificate?

Sheen: (laughs) Ramon Gerardo Antonio Estevez

Lipton: We have a lot of latino and latina students in our school [applause]

Sheen: really

Lipton: we certainly do

Sheen: okay

Lipton: Where did the name Estevez come from in your case?

Sheen: well my father was from alittle villiage in northern Spain in Galicia

Lipton: what was your fathers name

Martin: Francisco

Lipton: what was your mother's maiden name

Sheen: Mary Ann Phelan, she was from a little villliage in the center of the Irish Republic called   BorrisokaneCounty Tipperary, Ireland. She came to the United.States in 1924.

Lipton: given a Spanish father and an Irish mother and the statistic of 12 children, I'm asusming your family was religious?

Sheen: They were Catholic. [laughter]

Sheen goes on to explain how he was an altar boy who spoke Latin on the altar, reciting his favorite prayer "I will go unto the altar of my God the God who gives joy to my youth" , describing it as "a beautiful way to star the day".

He recounts how his mother died just prior to 11th birthday; he attended Holy Trinity Parochial school  and Chaminade High School. He was a caddy at a Dayton (Ohio) Country Club  for nine years.  Sheen explains "I decided long before I went to high school that I was an actor", and says a priest named Father Alfred was his confessor and mentor, and gave him money to go to New York City. Sheen got a job on a program called  "The Rising Generation" reading bScripture verses and eventually won prize, which led him to meet  Robert Dale Martin, casting director for CBS.  Sheen describes Robert Dale Martin as a "terrific guy", the first guy who gave him his big break, and explains that he took the name Martin because of him. Sheen played Kennedy in a 1983 miniseries, and saw Robert Dale Martin, who was cast as Fulbright in the program, for the last time.

Lipton: Why did you change yiour name from Ramon Estevez?

Sheen: Whenever i would call for an appointment, whether it was a job or an apartment, and I would give my name , there was always that hesitation and when I'd get there , it was always gone. So I thought, I got enough problems trying to get an acting job , so I invented Martin Sheen. I've never changed my name; it's still Estevez officially.

Lipton: where did the Sheen come from?

Sheen: Well, when i was a boy growing up, the first tele-evangelist really was Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. And I thought of him as a magnificant actor, and so I took his name and I put it together with the Martin. And people thought I looked Irish anyway, and so I thought alright I'll , ill surrender to this and so I invented Martin Sheen.

Lipton: is there anyone in the world who calls you Ramon?

Sheen: Yes. Roscoe Lee Brown and Joe Papp called me Ramon.

Sheen says that "the only regret about having four chikdren is that I didn't have four more". He recalls the emotional story of getting the opportunity to play the role of Kit Carruthers in  Terrence Malick's film Badlands; He was driving down Pacific Coast Highway listening to Bob Dylan's  Desolation Row and wept with joy. Sheen tells of his friendship with Malick, and how years Badlands,
"I was in Paris doing a film in 1981 and ran into him on the street and we renewed our  acquiantence on a much different level, and.. he became a spiritual advisor for me; I was going thorough a very citical time in my life and one day he gave me The Brothers Karamazov.  Took me a week to read it, and that was the last step i needed to take before i re-eentered Catholicism."

[Note: Pope Benedict XVI makes reference to Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky's  'The Brothers Karamazov'  in his 2007 Encyclical SPE SALVI (Saved in Hope) ]

Lipton goes on to ask Sheen about some of his films.

Lipton: You were in a film i will never forget. what drew you to 1977's The Execution of Private Slovik?

Sheen: Oh yeah. [applause]. Thank you, well gosh. That was the story of the only soldier since the civil war who was executed for desertion in battle and his name was Eddie Slovik and he was from Detroit. He actually didn't desert, he just surrendered his rifle and he said "I cant do this anymore" and uh, they shot him. I related to it; he was Catholic you know, and I just had a sense about him.

Regarding his struggle with addiction, Sheen talks of the twelve step program: "I had been doing the same thing on my own and through the Church, through the practice of Catholicism, and this is what the whole program is about."

Inside the Actor's Workshop: Martin Sheen, Part 3:

Speaking about the film Apocalypse Now, Sheen recalls how he originally signed on for 16 weeks, but was there for a year and three months. On March 5, 1977, Sheen had a heart attack at age 36.

Regarding his role playing the president on The West Wing, Sheen  told Lipton that the producer
"did make a few additions, to you know, in deference to me , he gave him a  Notre Dame degree and he made him Catholic .

Lipton:  "And a Latinist! "

Sheen: And a Latinist, so I couldnt be happier."

Inside The Actor's Studio: Martin Sheen part 4

Discussing his Catholicism and how it relates to his political activism, Sheen shares: "When I came back to Catholicism I didn't come back to a strict kind of Church that I grew up in. I came back to a a faith that had changed in large measure because of Pope John XXIII  who started the Vatican II Council and changed everything. This was not the church I grew up in."

Lipton: "This is the Church of the the worker priest."

Sheen: Exactly. This is it; this is Liberation Theology uh, basicially. So I joined the church of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker in New York, or Mother Theresa, or (Fr.)Dan Berrigan, and Dan Berrigan had a,  I keep using the term profound effect , but i have a lot of mentors and he was one of the, 
I went to my first demonstration as an activist and was arrested with Dan Berrigan. But it's not just going to a place and objecting to something and getting arrested. It's a deeply spiritual experience. You do it non- violently. You do it inclusively. It's a spiritual thing; I can't separate it from my faith.

Lipton: i understand. How many times have you been arrested for protesting?

Sheen: Sixty-four. [applause] That's nothing to brag about and I don't look forward to being arrested, and I don't go anywhere to get arrested, I really don't. I never know what's gonga happen at the time, and sometimes you have to do it because you can not not do it and be honest with yourself. I still have a year and a half of probation. So. I don't talk about these thing lightly and i don't take them lightly, and I don't advise anyone to do so. I can not change the world. The only one I can change is msyelf. If I change myself, come to some realization, grow a little bit, maybe that's the measure of change in the world I can have. But otherwise it would be a reflection of my ego and absurdity to think that I would ever change anyone or anything. I just do it for myelf, because I can not not do it and be myself. [applause].

Lipton then asks Sheen a quick series of questions:

What's your favorite word? Extraordinary.

Least favorite? Cute.

Lipton: What turns you on?

Sheen: Freedom. Personal freedom

Lipton: What turns you off?

Sheen:  The lack of freeedom.

Inside The Actors Studio: Martin Sheen  Part 5

In the final segment, Sheen takes question from audience members, and in response to one West Point graudtaion notes Sheen's love of country, to which Sheen replies, "I love my country enough to risk its' wrath by drawing attention to the negative things we don't always want to see; and that can be risky and you have to pay for that, but It's just like being a parent. If you're always you know, complimenting your children and never recognizing their faults, then they won't grow, and they're gonna get mad at you later and say 'why didnt you tell me I was on the wrong path when I was',  ya know,  that's they way; I love my country that much."

Martin Sheen was interviewed by We Are Change L.A. at an anti war rally on 10/27/07 and stated that he questioned the events of 9/11/01. Charlie Sheen has been an advocate for 911 truth for several years, and was interviewed by Alex Jones on 9/11/09.

Martin Hill is a Catholic paleoconservative and civil rights advocate. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, The Orange County Register, KNBC4 TV Los Angeles, The Press Enterprise,,,,, Economic Policy Journal, FreedomsPhoenix, Haaretz, TMZ, Veterans Today, Jonathan Turley blog, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, National Motorists Association,,, WorldNetDaily,,,, Dr. Kevin Barrett's Truth Jihad radio show,, Pasadena Weekly,, Los Angeles Catholic Lay Mission Newspaper, KFI AM 640,, Redlands Daily Facts, BlackBoxVoting, The Michael Badnarik Show, The Wayne Madsen Report,,, The Contra Costa Times, Pasadena Star News, Silicon Valley Mercury News, Long Beach Press Telegram, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, L.A. Harbor Daily Breeze,,, Whittier Daily News, KCLA FM Hollywood, The Fullerton Observer,, From The Trenches World Report, and many others. Archives can be found at and DontWakeMeUp.Org.

FAIR USE NOTICE: The above may be copyrighted material, and the use of it on may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available on a non-profit basis for educational and discussion purposes only. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 USC S. 107. For more information go to: If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

You can follow on Twitter and re-tweet this article here.
Tweets by @LibertyFight

web analytics

free hit counter