Martin Charlie Sheen
Credit: Jeff Kravitz/

In the season 3 premiere of Who Do You Think You Are?, Martin Sheen proves once and for all that his son Charlie’s anti-authoritarian streak is genetic. For the Lisa Kudrow-produced docuseries, Martin traced both sides of his family back as far as five generations to see if his activist spirit (that same penchant for trend bucking that got Charlie in hot water throughout 2011) was indeed a legacy. The journey took Martin from his home in California to Dublin and back to his great-great-great-great grandfather’s home town of La Coruña, Spain. So who were the rebels of the Sheen/Estevez families of yore, and were they also #winning?

An outspoken political activist himself, Sheen found civil war fighters on both sides of his family. In the 1920s, Martin’s mother’s brother Michael Phelan was an anti-IRA freedom fighter who was at one point housed in the city’s infamous Kilmainham Gaol. More interestingly, though, was Michael’s stay in another jail when he literally burned the place down. Martin was impressed by his uncle’s “idealism and his courage and his commitment to a cause that he believed in — the cause of freedom — and what he was willing to pay for that.” Sure, #winning may not be as noble a cause as freedom, but it’s safe to say the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree in terms of commitment and unorthodox ideology.

Likewise, Martin’s paternal uncle Matias was an avowed Communism who was sentenced to life in prison during the Spanish Civil War. Nicknamed “El Rato,” a Galician Spanish colloquialism for “the mouse,” he ultimately only served four years in the clink but was under house arrest for three decades after. A guy who’s able to miraculously extricate himself from scrapes with the law but will inevitably be under intense scrutiny until his dying day. Hmmm… sound familiar?

Martin also found roots for Charlie’s love of polyamory (paging the dearly departed goddesses!) in the study of his great-great-great-great grandfather Don Diego Francisco Suarez. Though married, Suarez had his own hottie on the side, with whom he had six children. Unlike many of Sheen’s forebears, Suarez was actually on the side of the law — he was a judge. In an ironic story, he hypocritically wielded his power to persecute a young woman, Antonia Pereira, for getting pregnant out of wedlock and having an abortion. Flash forward several generations, when Martin’s grandmother (a descendant of Suarez) ended up marrying the great-great grandson of Pereira, the woman who had stepped out from under his sanctimony and flourished in the end.

Long story short, Charlie Sheen’s family is a band of wily survivors that has been bucking conventional morals for generations. There may not be actual tiger blood or Adonis DNA coursing through those bulging veins, but the fighting spirit is strong in his lineage. With our above-board behavior and our law-abiding blandness, we will never stop Charlie from being great. As Martin proved last night, it is his very legacy.

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