The former West Wing star jumped at the chance to be a part of the new season of Who Do You Think You Are? because his lack of computer knowledge and technical savvy always turned him off the idea of tracing his roots.
But when TV producers offered to help him go back in time, he signed on – and he’s glad he did.
He says, “They did about six months research on my family on both sides – in Spain and Ireland – and (it was) very thorough research. Now I intend to go online on the ancestry.com (site) because my wife knows how to do that.”
And he credits heroic ancestors for sparking his interest in the past: “One of my great, great, great grandparents died just at the onset of the American Revolutionary War and my uncle, Michael Fieland in Ireland, was an Irish volunteer and fought in the War of Independence and then fought against the Free State in the Civil War from 1921 to 1923.
“On my father’s side, my father’s brother, Matias, had fought against Franco at the onset of his coup (in Spain) and spent an awful lot of time in jail. He received a life sentence that we finally rescinded in 1969.
“The connections are just amazing in that they are so deeply personal – they (ancestors) had risen up against oppression; in one case a dictatorship in Spain and had suffered mightily for it but stuck to his principles. For me it was, ‘Maybe this is some unknown quality that I have possessed…’ Not the extent that these gentlemen did because they were absolutely heroic and risked their lives but the message is clear that maybe this is part of my DNA.”