The Apollo 13 star portrays the man known as "the father of Texas" in the epic TV drama, about the Texas Revolution against Mexico in the 1830s and the rise of the Texas Rangers law enforcers, and he was astounded to learn of a familial link between his life and that of his onscreen character.

He tells U.S. breakfast show Today, "Sam Houston and I share common grandparents, six generations ago on my father's side, which makes us second cousins, four times removed. His mother's name was Paxton, Elizabeth Paxton."

The series also co-stars Brendan Fraser as Texas Ranger Billy Anderson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as American frontiersman Erastus 'Deaf' Smith and Olivier Martinez as Mexican General Santa Anna, and premieres on America's History Channel on Monday night (25May15).