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Martin Sheen, stage actor and snubbed former 'president'

February 13, 2010 |  8:00 am

Martin Martin Sheen, who returns to the stage for the first time in 20 years, starring in "The Subject Was Roses" at the Mark Taper Forum, is well aware that his seven-year run as President Jed Bartlet on "The West Wing" (1999-2006) may be the defining role of his long career in theater, film and television. Though Bartlet, a compassionate Democrat and model of enlightenment, was more politically moderate than Sheen himself, the actor acknowledges that part of the appeal of "The West Wing" was that "we were offering people a parallel universe" during the two terms of President George W. Bush.

Talking after a rehearsal one day recently, Sheen became animated with a measured fury as he recalled his many objections to the policies of the president who was actually president while Sheen was playing a president on television. He said he and Bush almost came face-to-face once when the "West Wing" went on location to Washington, D.C.

"The White House invited all the actors in principal roles to come over and meet their real-life counterparts -- the chief of staff, press secretary, etc. Except for one. They didn't invite me."

 But that was fine with Sheen. His antipathy to Bush was such that, "I wouldn't have gone anyway," he said.

To read my profile of Sheen, as he takes on a new role at the Mark Taper Forum in "The Subject Was Roses," click here.

-- Sean Mitchell

Photo: Martin Sheen during a rehearsal. Credit: Ann Johansson / For The Times