WHY would an American acting icon interrupt shooting of his new Netflix series, co-starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, to chat about a 14-year-old Winnipeg singer who's about to release her debut single?
It's the first question put to Martin Sheen, known for his standout roles in the film Apocalypse Now and as the American president on TV's The West Wing. It turns out that he is a long-distance fan of Maria Aragon.
"If you've seen this 14-year-old girl from Winnipeg, you would understand why I'd do this," he says over the telephone from Los Angeles. "I think she's got a big career in front of her. She's in the same genre as a young Michael Jackson. I'm delighted to show my support at this point in her development."
Sheen is prepared to issue his presidential seal of approval after seeing her perform twice, the first time being when Aragon was barely 12, at a Toronto children's hospital fundraiser for which the 73-year-old Sheen was a host.
"I was quite overwhelmed by her performance," says Sheen, who plays Fonda's husband in the new Netflix comedy series Grace and Frankie. "It was equally stunning to witness her poise and her ability to sing in front of a huge audience. I was quite taken with her. I couldn't believe she was 12 years old."
Sheen was in Winnipeg about a year ago for We Day, and again got to watch Aragon entertain -- this time in front of 15,000 young people.
"You see all these kids coming up on America's Got Talent or The Voice, and they are all amateurs -- a word I use loosely, but they are," he says. "She comes off like a true professional. She's already seasoned. It seems the bigger the crowd, the more comfortable she is."
While in Winnipeg, he had an audience with Maria and her parents, and advised them to move slowly in developing her career. He told her to enjoy her youth, because she is not going to lose her talent, voice or opportunities.
"When you talk to her, please give her my love," Sheen says. "Tell her we're thinking of her and keeping her in our heart."
-- Kevin Prokosh