He’s made his name recognisable all over the world. But when Michael Sheen got his DNA Cymru test results, it really brought him back to his roots.
It set him thinking about his own childhood in Port Talbot – and about his ancient Irish forefathers. The test revealed that they were associated with a Bronze Age trading network which stretched from Spain and Portugal to as far north as the Orkneys.
You will be able to see his full DNA reveal and reaction – as well as Charlotte Church’s DNA reveal in the last in the S4C documentary series DNA Cymru on Sunday, December 13, at 8.00pm, English subtitles available. The DNA TV series is part of the Cymru DNA Wales project, https://www.cymrudnawales.com/
“I’m really glad that my history is rooted in a particular set of people – the Celts. That’s really important to me,” said Michael. “But, on the other hand, that there’s this wandering group who’re moving through Europe, around Europe, connected to different parts of Europe – I love that.”
Michael already knew that his father’s family had emigrated from the west of Ireland to Wales at the time of the Potato Famine. But his DNA Cymru test result takes his direct father-line much further back – and links him to one of the most significant movements of people around ancient Europe.
It was the Beaker People – the actor’s distant forefathers – who spread the secrets of metal-making as they traded goods and ideas all along the Atlantic seaboard.
“I love the idea of us as a people as being all interconnected,” said Michael, “Especially at the moment when there’s so much emotive talk about immigrants and refugees.
“It’s a completely false sense that we have of these borders, these things that keep us apart. We’re actually one people, constantly moving around and connecting with each other in different ways.
“And I think that anything that helps us to have an emotional connection to that is a great thing.”
Discovering how his ancestral DNA – a tiny genetic fragment passed from father to son across the generations – enabled scientists to place his story in a bigger picture, was important for the star who’s played Tony Blair, David Frost and Brian Clough in various TV drama productions.
“The passion of my life is being an actor and telling stories. Part of what that requires is to be able to connect imaginatively to all kind of different people.
“This test is something that is a more tangible, more concrete form of that.”
Michael chose to receive his results in his hometown, in one of his favourite haunts, the Seaside Social and Labour Club in Sandfields.
“Port Talbot is the place I have the most personal connection to in the world,” he explained. “This is where I keep coming back to.
“It’s where my parents still live. It’s where I started in youth theatre, where I first got a passion for acting.
“It’s where I came back and did The Passion which is the most meaningful project I’ve done in my life – about the town, and about my life in the town and the people I know. It’s home – simply as that.”
Now, the DNA Cymru test has helped him begin to see his roots in a new light. And it’s something that, in the fullness of time, he hopes will fire his imagination.
“Developing an emotional connection to this story is going to take a while.
“I take great pride in being Welsh and in being a Celt more generally. And so knowing that I’ve been a Celt for a very long time… I like that.
“But I think it’s really important also to have a sense of movement, of travelling – that you come from a people who are a wandering people. That’s great.”
DNA Cymru can be seen on Sunday, December 13, at 8pm, on S4C.
Also, Friday, December 18, at 3pm on S4C with English subtitles.