June 20, 2019

‘Homeland’s’ Mandy Patinkin Goes for Emmy Gold

Photo: Jim Fiscus/SHOWTIME

Mandy Patinkin won his first Emmy Award 23 years ago for “Chicago Hope,” and has been nominated several times since, including nods in 2013, 2014, 2017 and again this year for his role as Saul Berenson on the Showtime drama “Homeland.”  Will the fourth time be the charm? 

“I don’t know. I’m just honored to be nominated, and even more honored to be part of
this show,” Patinkin said. “It has been one of the true privileges of my life to be a part of this company for the past seven years. I’m thankful every day. In all honesty, it would be lovely” to win he said. However, he was quick to give credit to the writers, cast and producers. “I’m nothing without them. This is truly a family effort. I’m just the one representing the show this year,” he said. 

“Homeland’s” next season, the eighth, will be its last. “I’m certain that I’ll be sad when it’s over. But I will never leave Saul behind. I’ll take him with me. He’s part of my existence,” Patinkin said, noting that playing the character has taught him a lot. “He is quieter than I am, calmer than I am, he listens in a way that I have tried to do.”

Having often played Jewish characters, Avigdor in “Yentl” among them, Patinkin  said, “I think of every character I’ve played as Jewish because they were all played by me.” Those roles have included Inigo Montoya in “The Princess Bride” and Georges Seurat in “Sunday in the Park With George.” 

“My Jewish soul infuses every song I sing, every scene that I play,” he said. “I don’t know who I am without the moral and ethical standards that I heard the rabbi speak of when I was young and I heard my parents talk about around the dinner table.”

“Homeland’s” writers have begun preliminary meetings, and Patinkin was just in Washington, D.C., for the annual “spy camp” sessions with members of the intelligence community, think tanks and other members of the D.C. brain trust. His co-star, Claire Danes, gave birth on Aug. 27, so shooting won’t begin until after the New Year for a premiere sometime in June.

“I will never leave [‘Homeland’s’] Saul behind. I’ll take him with me. He’s part of my existence.” — Mandy Patinkin

This month, Patinkin stars in “Life Itself,” playing Oscar Isaac’s father in a drama written and directed by “This is Us” creator Dan Fogelman. “It’s about families and how their lives are intertwined and interconnected, crossing generations and oceans as well,” he said of the film, which opens Sept. 21. 

He recently completed shooting “Stupid Happy,” in which he also plays a father role opposite Alec Baldwin and Judith Light. “I found it hilarious that I was replacing Robert Redford,” who was originally cast, Patinkin said, calling the movie “a comedy with a heart, the kind I love to do.”

With “Homeland” ending, Patinkin is refocusing his attention on something he had tabled for most of the past seven years: recording and performing music. 

In April, he released an album he recorded with pianist/producer Thomas Bartlett called “Diary: January 27, 2018,” including covers of songs by Randy Newman, Rufus Wainwright and Marc Bolan. It’s the first of five planned releases. The second, “Diary: April-May, 2018,” will be out this month.

Patinkin, whose records include Stephen Sondheim Broadway tunes and Yiddish music, described the new songs as “very intimate and quiet and very different from what I’ve done for 30 years.” He’ll “marry the new material with the old” when he does concerts in New York City; Palo Alto, Calif.; Honolulu; and Australia this fall. Then when “Homeland” ends, he’ll continue to write, record and tour, “starting this new musical chapter of my life,” he said. 

Although he’s looking forward to spending some time off with his family in December, Patinkin isn’t a big fan of downtime. “I can’t be relaxed unless I’m working on something,” he said. Political and human rights issues occupy his focus.

“Get out and vote in the primaries and midterm elections,” he said. “If your moral and ethical standards are not being matched by the politicians representing you, you have the power in your vote and you need to exercise it. That’s the greatest power we hold.”

As someone whose Russian and Polish forebears fled pogroms in Eastern Europe to come to the United States for a better life, “to see that welcome be diminished by a lack of recognition of who we are in our country is a high crime and misdemeanor,” Patinkin said, explaining the connection he feels to the refugee crisis and why he works tirelessly on behalf of change. 

“Tikkun olam is a primary part of my structure and my soul,” he said. “There are infinite ways we can exercise that need to repair the world. If everyone found a way to make a difference, even to one person, the world would be well on the way to healing.”

The Emmy Awards will air live at 5 p.m. Sept. 17 on NBC.