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Charlie Sheen, of all people, was the talk of Twitter this month, after Sen. Ted Cruz flew to Mexico for vacation with his family as his constituents endured massive power and water outages. As in, "Charlie Sheen called it #winning," after the Texas Republican seemingly blamed his daughters. Sheen was referenced the previous week when another Republican senator, South Carolina's Lindsey Graham said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, "I'm into winning." In that case, one of the comments was, "You know who else was 'winning'? Charlie Sheen."
You wouldn't know that Sheen infamously uttered "winning," along with memorable terms such as "tiger blood," "warlock" and "Adonis DNA" in a series of interviews that began 10 years ago — an eon in internet time — this week. (He's repeated some of them since.)
It was a tumultuous period in the life of Sheen, who was then the highest paid actor on TV. As one of the leads in the popular CBS comedy Two and a Half Men, he earned nearly $2 million per episode at the show's height. But he struggled in his personal life, with issues including domestic violence charges, to which he pleaded guilty in August 2010, and drug addiction. His show went on hiatus so that he could go to rehab, which he chose to do from home. At the same time, he was fighting very publicly with Chuck Lorre, the creator of Two and a Half Men, and he made sure to mention Lorre in this string of sit-downs.
I’m so glad that I traded early retirement for a f****** hashtagCharlie Sheen
Sheen himself is not amused by people continuing to bring up his infamous 2011 interviews, but he's also not offended they're still talking about what was an intensely difficult time in his life.
"People have [said to] me, 'Hey, man, that was so cool, that was so fun to watch. That was so cool to be a part of and support and all that energy and, you know, we stuck it to the man," Sheen tells Yahoo Entertainment. "My thought behind that is, 'Oh, yeah, great. I'm so glad that I traded early retirement for a f***ing hashtag.'"
He was officially fired from his sitcom on March 7, 2011. Today, he says, it didn't have to be that way.
'If I could go back in time...'
"There's a moment when [former CBS CEO] Les Moonves and his top lawyer, Bruce, were at my house and they said, 'OK, the Warner jet is fueled up on the runway. Wheels up in an hour and going to rehab, right?' My first thought was sort of like really … there's some comedy value to what my first thought was," Sheen says. "In that moment, when I said, 'Oh, damn, I finally get the Warner jet.' That's all I heard. But if I could go back in time to that moment, I would've gotten on the jet. And it was that giant left turn in that moment that led to, you know, a very unfortunate sequence of public and insane events."
He has many regrets about what he did during that time, especially demanding a higher salary. He says now that he wasn't being a team player.
"There was 55 different ways for me to handle that situation, and I chose number 56. And so, you know, I think the growth for me post-meltdown or melt forward or melt somewhere — however you want to label it — it has to start with absolute ownership of my role in all of it," Sheen explains. "And it was desperately juvenile."
He says he had agreed to do things their way, and he wasn't living up to his end of the bargain.
"I think it was drugs or the residual effects of drugs … and it was also an ocean of stress and a volcano of disdain. It was all self-generated, you know," Sheen says of what prompted the incident. "All I had to do was take a step back and say, 'OK, let's make a list. Let's list, like, everything that's cool in my life that's going on right now. Let's make a list of what's not cool.' You know what I'm saying? And the cool list was really full. The not cool list was, like, two things that could've been easily dismissed."
He sums it up as, "I was getting loaded and my brain wasn’t working right."
The reaction to Sheen's bizarre behavior was intense, he admits now: "To say it was a tad overwhelming is a radical understatement."
Sheen quickly joined Twitter, where his words attracted just as much interest as they did offline. Within roughly one day, he was a social media standout, says Lia Haberman, a social media instructor at UCLA Extension.
They showed up in droves with banners and songs, all types of fanfare and celebration of, you know, what I think was a very public display of a mental health moment.Charlie Sheen
"Ashton Kutcher had already reached 1 million followers in 2009. But in 2011, Charlie Sheen did set the record for quickest growth to a million followers in 25 hours and 17 minutes," says Haberman.
She notes that his record has since been beaten by some big names: Robert Downey Jr. in 2014 and, the following year, former President Barack Obama and Caitlyn Jenner.
In other words, the world was watching Sheen with amusement. As in the case of Britney Spears circa 2007-08, they gawked, but they didn't seem to comprehend the seriousness of it all. It's the kind of thing that might be treated very differently in 2021 by a media better educated on mental health issues.
"I was really a guy that needed someone to reach out to and say, 'Hey, man, obviously there’s a ton of other s*** going on. How can we help?'" Sheen says. "And instead they showed up in droves with banners and songs, all types of fanfare and celebration of, you know, what I think was a very public display of a mental health moment."
Sheen points out that he'd experienced many dramatic changes in his life during his eight seasons on Two and a Half Men.
"I had four children and went through two divorces in and around trying to navigate the landscape of being on the most popular show in the known universe, so it was a lot," Sheen says. "And sometimes you pick a target, you need a scapegoat, you need someone to put it all on. You know? It can't be me, it's gotta be him or them or those folks. And that's just not the road best traveled."
His next act
As far as social media, Sheen doesn't spend a lot of time there nowadays. Tweets pop up on his page maybe a few times a month, and he says he's never logged into Facebook or personally posted on Instagram.
"If somebody wants to enlist my corpse at my funeral to TikTok, that's on them, but in this lifetime, that won't happen," he says.
Sheen is more focused on developing a new show, which he says is at "first and goal."
He's accepted that his words will continue circulating, but he hopes they don't.
"It's all right if it still means something to them and, you know, I was the delivery device for them, then that's fine," Sheen says. "I just, I have absolute faith that the things I'm going to do professionally in Act 3 are going to put a muzzle on all that stuff and people can celebrate me again for what I actually do for a living."
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