Mandy Patinkin: “I love doing research for any part that I do. That’s one of the most fun parts of being an actor to me”

Actor Mandy Pantinkin
Mandy Patinkin is well-known for the dedication he brings to all his roles whether they are on stage, in film, or on television. He has a major role in the surprise hit film Wonder, and it happens to be one of his lightest roles in years. Patinkin spoke to the Los Angeles Times about why he specifically sought a comedic project, the dedication he brings to his performances, and when his parents were finally convinced he could make a living as an actor.

Patinkin explains that in the case of Wonder he had been actively seeking more lighthearted material than what he has being doing on Homeland. He says, “I read the story and I go, ‘Do I like this story? Does it speak to me? Do I connect with it as a normal fellow?’ And if the answer is yes then I give it to my wife to tell me if I’m crazy or not. And if she likes it then I usually go. But right now because Homeland has been such a dark tale that we’ve been telling I’m really looking for the balance to that. I’m literally telling everyone, everywhere I go, ‘Please, I want to do a comedy.’ I want to make myself laugh and I want to make other people laugh and I want to have fun.”

Of course, Patinkin takes his job very seriously — for example, for his role on Chicago Hope he did extensive research. He reveals, “I love doing research for any part that I do. That’s one of the most fun parts of being an actor to me. So I scrubbed in on 18 open-heart surgeries to research this. On one of them one of the doctors let me assist and then the head operating nurse almost had him disbarred. I was told to hold the heart while he was doing the bypass and I did what I was told. It was amazing. The other thing that blew me away is that we are all identical inside once you get through the layers of fat. I realized if I was told I couldn’t act anymore or I couldn’t sing anymore I would go back to school and become a physician’s assistant. To this day I hold that in my back pocket.”

He also remembers his first-ever movie role — and why it convinced his parents that he could make a living as an actor. He explains, “My parents were very worried about me going into show business, that I wouldn’t be able to make a living at it. I said to Mom and Dad, ‘Listen, I gotta go try this.’ The first movie I got was Night of the Juggler. I played a Puerto Rican cab driver. I drove the cab through Central Park like a maniac. We did one shot, which means it’s in the can according to union rules, and in the next take James Brolin broke his foot. I was only there as a day player and they paid me every day for several weeks. I made more money than I ever made in my life and my father was like, ‘This is a great business!’”

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