Theater fans revere Tony winner Mandy Patinkin for his indelible performances in Evita, The Secret Garden and Sunday in the Park With George, plus Shakespeare, concerts with Patti LuPone and much more. These days, Patinkin is also a darling of TV viewers for his superb, Emmy-nominated work as CIA honcho Saul Berenson on Homeland. In an article to be published in the August 25 New York Times Magazine (available online now), Alex Witchel explores the star’s rocky TV history in a very personal interview titled “I Behaved Abominably.”
The provocative title comes from Mandy’s first go-round on network TV in 1994 as intense (what else?) Dr. Jeffrey Geiger in Chicago Hope, a role that earned him a Best Actor Emmy. Patinkin abruptly quit after one season saying that he missed his New York-based family too much to continue. “During Chicago Hope, I never let directors talk to me, because I was so spoiled,” the actor told Witchel. “I started off with people like Milos Forman, Sidney Lumet, James Lapine, unbelievably gifted people. So there I was saying, ‘Don’t talk to me, I don’t want your opinion.’ I behaved abominably. I don’t care if my work was good or if I got an award for it. I’m not proud of how I was then, and it pained me.”
Patinkin’s second “strike” on TV was Criminal Minds, in which he was again praised for his star turn as Jason Gideon, an investigator of heinous crimes. When he decamped in 2007 after two seasons, upset at dealing with violent subject matter, it was widely believed Patinkin would never work on TV again. (He was replaced by Tony winner Joe Mantegna, and the show is still running.)
Luckily, Homeland creator Alex Gansa realized that casting Mandy as Saul was well worth the risk. (As Witchel points out, his performance “is on par with James Gandolfini playing Tony Soprano: 1 plus 1 equals 10.”) The actor himself expresses gratitude for his current job, calling Homeland “affirming on a daily basis.”
The Times story includes juicy anecdotes about Patinkin being fired from the movie Heartburn and about how he felt pressed to pursue movie stardom, as if his accomplishments on Broadway weren’t enough. (Witchel doesn’t ask about the infamous backstage friction at The Wild Party in 2000, although she does reveal that a depressed Patinkin had taken so many Klonopin before a 2002 Broadway concert that he had to start over after 20 minutes.)
In spite of the bleak title and accompanying black-and-white portrait, the article presents a happier, more mellow Mandy. “My head’s in a good place.... I don’t want this moment to end,” he says. Click below to watch Mandy and Patti LuPone's joint Ask a Star, in which they laughingly address the question of who is more intense!