Is Michael Sheen planning to stop acting to launch a political career following Brexit and the election of Donald Trump? There were a flurry of reports suggesting he may be about to ditch the stage for social activism following a newspaper magazine interview on Saturday, but now, it seems, he might not.
The Los Angeles-based Welsh actor, who has spoken of his dismay at the “global rise of anti-democratic forces”, told the Times on Saturday that his desire to respond to the “demagogic, fascistic” drift of politics “means that I would work less as an actor, and possibly stop”.
But just a few hours later on Sunday he said he was not “quitting acting and leaving Hollywood”.
Sheen, a leftwing political campaigner who starred in the television series Masters of Sex and has a role in the new Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence sci-fi film Passengers, had told the newspaper he had been asking himself: “How can I be most effective? What am I going to do?
“It’s not going to look like this in 10 years’ time,” he said of the political landscape. “Everything has shifted … the dice are being rolled again. Once I’m in, I’m fully in, and this is big. It will be a big change for how people relate to me.”
But after his comments sparked headlines suggesting he was moving to full-time political activism, he tweeted: “Before this gets ridiculous, I said I’m thinking I might start acting less and maybe even stop for a while at some point but don’t know yet.”
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Michael Sheen: ‘Brexit’s message appealed to abandoned communities’
He wrote in a blog expanding on the point: “I DID NOT [Sheen’s caps] declare that I’m ‘quitting acting and leaving Hollywood’ to go into politics. I said I have become more involved with community issues back at home over the last few years, and because of the political situation, it’s something I would like to focus on more. The interviewer asked me what that meant for my career, and I said it might mean I work less as an actor and maybe even stop for a while AT SOME POINT. But I don’t really know yet.”
He continued: “I certainly did NOT equate people who voted for Brexit or Trump with a fascistic ‘hard right’ that must be stopped. The majority of people in the UK, including my hometown of Port Talbot, voted for Brexit. That is the will of the people and is to be respected. That is democracy. Given the concerns around the economy in the area I come from and its industrial history, I totally empathise with the dissatisfaction with the status quo that the vote was partially an expression of.”
Sheen’s political interventions so far have includes a speech at a St David’s Day march in 2015 to celebrate the NHS and its founder, Aneurin Bevan. He noted the politician’s “burning hatred for the Tory party” and attacked Margaret Thatcher’s infamous claim that there was no such thing as society.
His anger was also aimed at the timidity of Labour politicians and the party’s record in office. “There is never an excuse to not speak up for what you think is right,” he said. “You must stand up for what you believe. But first of all, by God, believe in something!”
He told the Times on Saturday he wants to resist the “re-emerging spectre of fascism in the west. Our democracy must be defended and each of us needs to decide how we can contribute to that effort.”