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Martin Sheen Warned His Son Not to Be Pressured Into This Same Hollywood Mistake

The actor has a major regret that he passed on as advice to son Emilio Estevez.

Martin Sheen has had a long and successful career in film and on television, but he almost did it under a very different name. The West Wing star was born Ramón Estévez, but he changed his name when he was just starting out as an actor in the late 1950s, because it made it easier to get hired. Now, Sheen feels regret over using a different professional name, which is why he encouraged his son Emilio Estévez not to make the same mistake. In a new interview with Closer, Sheen said that he urged his son not to change his name when he decided to become an actor and shared a little-known fact about his own moniker. Read on to learn more.

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Sheen regrets taking an anglicized stage name.

Martin Sheen at the We Day California 2017 Cocktail Reception
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

In the interview with Closer, Sheen said that he wishes he hadn't chosen a different name—even though he only changed it for his professional life.

"That's one of my regrets," he said. "I never changed my name officially. It's still Ramón Estévez on my birth certificate. It's on my marriage license, my passport, driver's license. 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. But, of course, I'm only speaking for myself."

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He made the change because of cultural bias.

Martin Sheen at 2019 PaleyFest
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

During an interview with the Hudson Union Society in 2012, Sheen explained why he was encouraged to change his name when he was starting out as an actor.

"When I came to New York in 1959, there was a great prejudice against Hispanics, largely against the Puerto Rican community that I adored, and I felt very much a part of the Hispanic community," Sheen, whose father is Spanish and mother is Irish, said. "But my look, they were telling me, was Irish. 'Okay,' I said, 'Well, I'll try this name.'"

Sheen took his stage name from a casting director he knew named Robert Dale Martin and from Fulton J. Sheen, a Catholic bishop. "I put the two names together thinking, if they didn't work, I'll try another name. Who knows," he recalled.

He told his son to keep his given name.

When Sheen's son Emilio Estévez got into acting, Sheen encouraged him to keep his name.

"The only influence I had on Emilio was to keep his name," Sheen told Closer. "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."

Estévez has commented on this, too. During an interview with Talk Stoop in 2019, the Outsiders actor said that his grandfather was disappointed in his father for going by another name, which encouraged Sheen to tell him to keep his own.

"When I began to get into this business, we had that conversation, and he said, 'Don't make the same mistake,'" Estévez said. "But I pushed back. 'Cause I was like, 'Well, you know, I don't really look Latino, anyway.' He said, 'The face of Latin America is changing, becoming all sizes, shapes.' And I realize this now in a much deeper level, but it was honoring the Hispanic heritage."

Sheen's other famous son did make the change.

Sheen has four children, all of whom kept their original names, except for Charlie Sheen, who was born Carlos Estévez. The actor has used the name Charlie Sheen throughout his career, except for in the 2013 movie Machete Kills, in which he was billed as his birth name.

In a 2012 interview with Univision, Charlie said that he started going by that nickname as child to avoid being confused with his uncle, who was also named Carlos. He took the name Sheen when he became an actor.

"I don't wake up feeling Latino," he said. "I'm a white guy in America … I was born in New York and grew up in Malibu." Asked about a connection to his "Latin roots," he said, "It was never a part of my life growing up. My parents, they didn't infuse it into our household."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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