Michael Sheen recalls ‘upsetting’ conversation with heroic 12-year-old carer
Michael Sheen has told of the “upsetting” conversation with a heroic 12-year-old carer that became “one of the big forks in the road” in his life.
The Welsh actor, from Port Talbot, who sold his homes to raise money for charity, and has recently declared himself a “not-for-profit actor”, has spoken about the impact the distressing chat back in 2011 had on him.
The Hollywood star said he had to hide how upset he was getting during break in rehearsals for a performance of the National Theatre of Wales production, The Passion, as the youngster, who cared for her mother and siblings, told him how she was bullied at school.
Sheen said he was devastated when the young girl did not show up for the final performance in Port Talbot, because she had to prioritise taking care of her family.
He told MailOnline: “About a week before the performance I was rehearsing with one group. And there was a young girl, she was about 12, she came up and had a chat with me.
“And she basically told me that she was a carer, unofficially a carer, for her mother and her younger siblings, and with no sense of self-pity or anything, it was just a fact, she said ‘and I get very badly bullied at school’.
“And I remember sitting there and listening to her, and trying not to show how upsetting I was finding it, hearing her talk about what her daily life was like.
“And she also said that, every now and again there was an organisation in the town that was there to help children who were doing the same sort of things as her, to have one night a week where they could go and do something where they didn’t have the responsibilities of that and they could just be a 12-year-old kid really, and they might go bowling or they might go to the cinema, or whatever it might be.
“And ultimately when we came to do the performance that little girl wasn’t there, she didn’t do it, because her other responsibilities took priority on the day I guess. But I’ve never forgotten her.
“And also how important that organisation she was talking about, what that can do – the difference that can make.”
‘Coming back to Port Talbot’
Sheen added: “Working on The Passion involved me coming back to Port Talbot a lot.
“My family have lived here pretty much all my life, and are still here. And so I started to get a really greater and deeper understanding of the sort of work that organisations and people were doing.
“So I realised a, that that was going on in the community that I grew up in, and I felt shamefully really, that I was unaware of it and ignorant of it.
“And then also realising how difficult that work is, how challenging it is, and how little support there was for it.”
A few months after Sheen’s conversation girl, he found out that the group that helped her enjoy nights out had folded after it lost its funding.
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