EXCLUSIVE: Emilio Estevez on Charlie Sheen's Ethnicity: "It's Something He and I Never Talk About"

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We caught up with Emilio Estevez this week while he was promoting his new movie The Way (which opened last Friday) and which also stars his father, Martin Sheen. The Sheen/Estevez clan has been in the news a lot this past year thanks to brother Charlie Sheen’s now infamous public meltdown, and one of the controversies that arose was just how Latino is the family? Very, it turns out.

Emilio’s new film is set on the Camino de Santiago, which is an ancient pilgrimage in the North of Spain to the remains of St. James the Apostle. It’s a contemporary story about a father who comes to Spain to collect the remains of his son who died on the Camino—and who has a moment of inspiration and decides to take the journey in his son’s honor. Emiio talked about working with his famous dad, and cleared up the name confusion between him and his infamous bother.

In the film, your character and his dad (played by your real-life dad Martin Sheen) have unresolved issues. Is that something you can relate to in real life?

I have a terrific relationship with my parents—they’re married 50 years this year! I consider them my best friends, so that aspect of it doesn’t speak to me. But we’ve screened the movie now across the country for somewhere around 35-40,000 people since we began this bus tour—and people stand up and say, ‘this has made me want to pick up the phone and call my father,’ or ‘seeing this movie has made me want to get closer to my son.’  People say ‘thank you for making this film—it touched my heart.’

Martin Sheen & Emilo Estevez Working On A Memoir

Did you feel like you were reconnecting with your Latino roots by making this film?

Oh yeah—very much so. You know, my son lives in Spain and he’s been living there for the last eight and a half years. He married a Spanish girl and they live in a town along the Camino de Santiago, so I figured I needed to do a film over there if I wanted to spend more time with him. But also, I dedicate this film to my grandfather, a gallego from Galécia named Francisco Estevez—my father’s father. I’ve always felt very connected to Spain and to my Spanish roots and I think this movie is just an expression of that.

The True Identity of Charlie Sheen: Tracing The Roots of The Estevez Family

A lot of people wonder if you and your family identify with your Latino roots—especially since your brother Charlie and your father Martin changed their last name to Sheen. Can you clarify who in your family identifies and who doesn’t?

Well, I think I made the strongest identification with it by never changing my name. My father didn’t ever officially change his name—it still says Ramon Estevez on his passport and driver’s license—which sometimes gets confusing when you’re going through an airport, because they don’t know you by that name {Laughs}.

I chose to stay with my family name because, first of all, Emilio Sheen looks stupid. Right? {Laughs}. And it’s just not who I am, man. And I have to tell you, the Latino community has always been very supportive of that choice and very proud of me that I chose to go with that—and honor my Latino roots. The gringos and the suits in Hollywood gave me some pressure to change it because it made their jobs more difficult to try and sell me, but I’m so proud that I didn’t. And now of course it’s very fashionable to be Latino. I guess it was a good choice back then! {Laughs}.

Was your dad happy that you didn’t change your name?

Oh yeah! He said, ‘don’t make the same mistake I made. You will regret it for the rest of your life.’ Because he does. It was probably the best advice I ever got from my father.

Do your other siblings identify with their Latino roots?

Oh yeah. My brother Ramon lived in Spain for two or three years and he speaks fluently. My son of course speaks fluently. Um, Carlos {Charlie Sheen}—you know, I don’t know. He was never Carlos growing up—he was always Charlie. So, does he connect? It’s something he and I never talk about. A lot of people don’t even know we’re brothers! On my Twitter feed, when I first started tweeting, a lot of people were saying, ‘oh my God, my mind is blown! I didn’t know Emilio and Charlie were brothers.’ But not just like infrequently—hundreds of people saying I didn’t know they were related. They think we have separate mothers. It’s funny.

What do you mean when you say “he was always Charlie, he was never Carlos?” Do you mean that he never wanted the name, Carlos?

No. He was never Carlos. No.

Hablas Español?

I understand more than I speak. I’m very shy because I always get the verb tenses messed up. So I’m very shy about speaking in public. But when I’m immersed in it—for instance when were in Spain for four months—my Spanish got very, very good. As long as it’s spoken slowly…mas depacio! {Laughs}.