Just about six months ago, I wrote my very first ScreenCrush news item about actor Michael Sheen stepping into the director’s chair for Green River Killer, a film about the notorious Washington state serial killer and his decades-long exchanges with local police officers. I never would’ve guessed back then that my career as a news item writer would outlast Sheen’s career as an actor, but today, news broke that the actor would be stepping away from Hollywood indefinitely to shift into political organizing in his hometown of Port Talbot.

UPDATE: In response to the overwhelming number of news articles written about this, Michael Sheen turned to Tumblr late Saturday night to offer a few words of clarification. While Sheen had a lot to add, here is the most relevant part of the post:

In the actual original interview 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.

Even if it sounds like Sheen might actually be sticking around for a while, his broader comments about the dangerous political climate do suggest that we should get used to seeing the actor play a bigger role in European politics going forward.

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Best known in America for the Underworld franchise and Showtime’s Masters of Sex, Sheen recently sat down with The Times (via Variety) to discuss his decision to step away from acting and the troublesome path he sees in Europe:

In the same way as the Nazis had to be stopped in Germany in the Thirties, this thing that is on the rise has to be stopped … It’s not going to look like this in ten years’ time. Everything has shifted. The dice are being rolled again.

As Variety notes, Sheen’s involvement in a Wales production of The Passion  —  and his interactions with over 1,000 local volunteers  —  played a major role in helping him realize what he could be doing. It takes a lot of courage for anyone to step away from their career to pursue a passion project, but for most people, that passion project is just finishing their erotic science fiction novel or backpacking their way across Europe for a couple of months. Instead, Sheen is stepping back from acting to help organize in his hometown and quell a rising tide of xenophobia and white nationalism that he sees as threatening the fates of Wales and the rest of Europe.

While it is anyone’s guess how long Sheen might stay retired, let me be one of the first to say good luck and I am sorry to see the talented actor gone for any period of time. Here’s hoping he can help make his community a more welcoming and inclusive place for people of every nation and belief.

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