At home, on stage and screen

Shooting the 2nd season of the hit series ‘Homeland’ in Israel, Patinkin speaks to ‘Post’ about life.

MANDY PATINKIN stars opposite Claire Danes 370 (photo credit:
MANDY PATINKIN stars opposite Claire Danes 370
(photo credit:
Inigo Montoya is an unforgettable character. The revenge-seeking swordsman in the epic film The Princess Bride etched his place in audience’s hearts with his impassioned line, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
If you peer closely at the screen, it is possible to identify that charming face behind the glasses and beard of Saul Berenson on Showtime’s hit series Homeland. Now a couple of decades older and with far more experience under his belt, actor Mandy Patinkin’s charisma is just as apparent on the screen now as it was when he uttered that seminal line.
Patinkin, along with fellow cast members Claire Danes and Navid Negahban, were in Israel this month shooting the second season of Homeland. The show is based on Israeli series Abducted, which follows two kidnapped soldiers’ return to Israel after eight years of imprisonment. Homeland, which connects with the post-9/11 context in American culture, focuses on Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody and his return after being captured while serving in Afghanistan.
Both Abducted and Homeland will release their second seasons in the coming months. The American cast members were treated to a sneak peak at the first episode of Abducted Season Two while in town. Seated at a table overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Patinkin spoke of his draw to this project and the global response it has received.
“I was deeply moved by what I saw in Abducted and I’m very proud to be part of the family that is Homeland and Abducted. I knew from the minute we were doing the pilot, we all knew, from the guys who get the coffee to the guys who do the filming, everybody knew that this was unique material. We were involved in something special and unique and we didn’t take it lightly. This was before anybody saw any of the footage,” he said.
In October 2011, Showtime aired the pilot of Homeland.
“It came out and it hit a nerve. It had an immediate audience,” said Patinkin.
“What I love about this piece more than anything is that it brings up very difficult questions and thoughts and asks people to listen in ways that they’re not used to listening. It asks them to hear each other. It’s asking very profound questions, not just post-9/11 but pre-9/11, too. It asks about where the hatred comes from. I think this is a very daring program that is couched in an entertaining fashion to keep the audience sitting there but also uses that privilege to discuss some very difficult questions that the world is grappling with now and aren’t brought up very often, let alone in a television show.”
One of Homeland’s greatest assets is its ability to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. With a quick-moving plot, Homeland episodes accelerate quickly, leaving many lingering questions in the air. And while fans may be desperate to find out what will happen next, Patinkin prefers to leave the future in the future.
“I’ve asked the writers not to tell me what’s going to happen in the future episodes because I don’t want to know,” he said. “I don’t want to know because I don’t know what will happen in my life today, five seconds from this moment. Why should I know in a make-believe world? If they turn me into a hero or a villain, the bottom line is that they both have the same heart. On both sides of the conflict, each individual believes that what they’re doing is for the greater good. The conflict of the conflict is to get people talking.”
Throughout his career, Patinkin has maintained an on-screen presence while actively pursuing the stage. In 1980, Patinkin won a Tony Award for his role as Che Guevara in the original production of Evita. It was Patinkin’s first role of many on Broadway. He went on to play in Sunday in the Park with George, The Secret Garden, and The Wild Party among others. At present, Patinkin gives regular performances of Yiddish songs and has released an album called Mamoloshen, or mother tongue.
While many actors find the transition between stage and screen challenging, Patinkin sees a deep connection between the two outlets.
“They say that the stage lights are blinding. It’s the opposite of being blind. In my opinion, it opens up the whole world. In that darkness you can see anything that you imagine. You can have anyone come visit you that you imagine. All those souls who you knew or didn’t can be sitting in those seats. I often believe, when I sing my Yiddish concert, that there are six million souls sitting on each other’s laps in those seats, listening to these songs that I’m just in the line of passing down to people. In television I think the same way I do when I’m on stage. The camera is capturing us talking to each other but my mind is imagining an audience of people that I wish to be there. I invite everyone into the room while we’re filming,” said Patinkin.
Patinkin explained that it was musical theater that first drew him into the world of acting. Raised in Chicago, Patinkin’s mother sent him to the Young Men’s Jewish Council Youth Center to take part in a play they were working on.
“The second play I was in was ‘Carousel.’ I remember the man who ran the program was a wonderful fellow who is responsible for my passion in this field and essentially in my life. His name is Robert Kondor, and one day he asked us what the play was about so everybody gave his answers. Then he said, ‘I think it’s about if you love someone tell them.’ I don’t know why, but it hit me like the sun. I thought, ‘I like this.’ And if this is what theater talks about, I like that and I want some more of that.”
Be it in Homeland or on stage, belting alongside Patti Lupone, Patinkin is able to reach through the fourth wall and touch his audience.
“I’m always thinking about the next performance. I spend all my life working on this material, the plays, the songs, the material I get to do. If you come on a given night, I don’t want to let you down. I’m not the genius; I’m just the mailman. I just want to deliver these messages the best I can, in any weather,” he said.