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With a career spanning 60 years, Martin Sheen reveals regret over one of his earliest career decisions. Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images.
With a career spanning 60 years, Martin Sheen reveals regret over one of his earliest career decisions. Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images.

Martin Sheen reveals regret in using stage name

The veteran actor’s birth name is Ramon Estévez, and he was raised by a Spanish father and Irish mother.

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In the early 1960s, Martin Sheen wanted to embark on a professional acting career.

As a way to get more acting roles, Sheen decided to go against his birth name — Ramon Estévez. 

Despite going on to enjoy a successful acting career that has spanned nearly 60 years, he revealed in a recent interview with Closer Weekly that he regrets his decision not to use his birth name on stage.

“That’s one of my regrets,” said Sheen, now 81. 

While he has used the “Martin Sheen” stage name, he never legally changed his name, as his birth certificate, marriage license, passport [and] driver’s license have all continue to claim his birth name.

“Sometimes you get persuaded when you don’t have enough insight or even enough courage to stand up for what you believe in and you pay for it later,” added Sheen.

Sheen has gone on to play key roles in films, such as Badlands and Apocalypse Now, and had major success in TV series like The West Wing. 

All four of Sheen’s children have gone on to have careers in acting in their own right. 

While he advised them to keep their Spanish names, all, but one — his eldest Emilio — decided to also go with the “Sheen” surname.

“The only influence I had on Emilio was to keep his name,” said Sheen. “When he started out, his agent was advising him to change his name to Sheen and he wouldn’t do it. And I thank God he didn’t.”

Sheen’s entry into the entertainment industry, and subsequent decision not to use his birth name, is a likely byproduct of the underrepresentation of Latinos — a trend that has shown very little movement since his acting career began.

In 2020, UCLA published a new Hollywood Diversity Report study to calculate the level of diverse representation in movie and TV roles.

The report takes a deep dive into the diversity across the Hollywood landscape, including in leads, overall casts, directors, and writers. It also looks at accolades. 

While Latinos are more than 18% of the population, only about 5.3% of the share of broadcast TV roles belonged to Latinos. Similarly, Latinos accounted for only about 4.6% of movie roles in the previous year. 

The lack of representation and diversity can have a direct impact on the industry’s bottom line.

“New evidence from 2021 supports findings from earlier reports in this series suggesting that America’s increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse film content,” the report reads. 

There is no telling if Sheen’s decision to use a stage name rather than his birth name has aided his success. However, the possibility raises a much larger question about representation — or lack thereof — within the film and television industry.

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