Martin Sheen has appeared in a wide variety of films ranging from the embarrassing to the sublime. In addition to appearing in numerous productions on stage, screen, and television, Sheen is the father of a modern dynasty of actors and a tireless activist for social and environmental causes, particularly homelessness. Born Ramon Estevez on August 3, 1940, he was the seventh of ten children of a Spanish immigrant father and an Irish mother. Growing up in Dayton, OH, Sheen wanted to be an actor so badly that he purposely flunked an entrance exam to the University of Dayton so he could start his career instead. With his father's disapproval, he borrowed cash from a local priest and moved to New York in 1959.
While continually auditioning for shows, Sheen worked at various odd jobs and changed his name to avoid being typecast in ethnic roles. "Martin" was the name of an agent/friend, while he chose "Sheen" to honor Bishop Fulton J. Sheen; until his early twenties, the actor had been a devoted Catholic. He joined the Actor's Co-op, shared a loft, and with his roommates prepared showcase productions in hopes of attracting agents. For a while he worked backstage at the Living Theater alongside aspiring actor Al Pacino, and it was there that he got his first acting jobs. Around that time, Sheen married, and in 1963 broke into television on East Side West Side; more television would follow in the form of As the World Turns, on which he played the character Roy Sanders for a few years.