Mandy Patinkin: Why ‘Homeland’ Violence Doesn’t Bother Him

Mandy Patinkin, Claire Danes Showtime photo

Mandy Patinkin, who left “Criminal Minds” in 2007 saying he loathed violence on television, returns to the small screen Sunday (10/2) in Showtime’s new “Homeland” — a series already notorious among critics for its scenes of Damian Lewis’ Marine character being tortured.  How does Patinkin explain this seeming contradiction?

“It’s very artfully done, and it is not the central issue by any means of this piece,” he responds.  “I find the sex and violence in this piece incredibly minimal, artfully done and non-offenseive to me.  This is an entertainent first and foremost, and very much a psychological thriller.  It goes to the core of why we are all in the positions we are in and who is responsible for the terrorism and the violence that has taken place in the world.  It is very much a whodunnit, very much a mystery, a spy story.”

The beloved performer plays CIA Middle East Division Chief Saul Berenson, the boss of Claire Danes’ character.  She becomes convinced that Lewis, returned to the U.S. after years of having gone missing in Afghanistan, may have been turned and now be part of an al-Qaida plot.  Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa of “24” fame are producing the intense new drama.

“You are really in the hands of masters here, and they’re really sensitive to this stuff,” Patinkin adds. 

The actor certainly came to his role prepared.  He did a great deal of research, “which I always love doing.  They sent me a bunch of books, definitive books about this world and these people, who are called ‘spooks.’  Then they hooked me up with the real guy who held a similar position to what I play — someone who has been all over the Middle East and knows where all the secrets are buried.  We went down to Langley,” he says, referring to the CIA headquarters.  “I met his family.” 

Danes’ character is almost like a daughter to Patinkin’s, according to him.  “I’m the father figure and mentor to her.  She is my child in terms of my character bringing her into this.  She’s an extraordinarily gifted human being, but troubled.”  Of the actress herself, Patinkin says, “She is amazing, as a person and as an actress.  She really is one of the best in terms of acting ability, which is a real gift to me at this point.”