Mandy Patinkin Talks ‘Homeland’, Theatre and His “Personal Litmus Test” for Material

“It's very interesting as an actor. You have to work so much harder when the writing is not up to speed"

Mandy Patinkin, currently starring on Showtime’s Homeland and opposite Patti Lupone in the Broadway show, An Evening with Patti and Mandy, certainly has a busy schedule.

The actor talked with Playbill about his working in TV and Broadway, the future and his desire to star in an original musical.

When asked how he handles working in television and on stage at the same time, Patinkin says, “It’s 12 episodes a year, which for the actors is five and a half months a year, which leaves me the other six and a half months a year to have my concert career, which I can’t live without. I need that music to feel alive. Not just the music to feel alive. I need to hear those words.”

Patinkin is critical of the writing of previous TV shows he’s worked on, but has nothing but praise for Homeland. “It’s very interesting as an actor. You have to work so much harder when the writing is not up to speed, when it’s not as good as you hope it would be. But in the case of ‘Homeland,’ the writing is so spectacular that it requires almost the least effort from me that I have ever had to expend as an actor, because they have done so much of it for me. I have a personal litmus test. When the material is very difficult to learn, and I have to go over and over and over it, and it doesn’t get into my head, that’s exhausting. And this material, that these writers compose for the ‘Homeland’ scripts, it just flows right into my brain. It’s the most effortless experience I’ve ever had in learning lines. And that to me says it all. Because it all makes such perfect sense.”  “They also say to me, ‘Do you want to know what happens, ahead of time?’ And I say no, I don’t want to know — just as I wouldn’t know in real life,” he said.

Patinkin feels connecting with what lies under the words is the most important part of his work, or as he says, “the way I work, I still fill it, underneath the words, with an awful lot of things that I connect to. The key word in my life is connect — to connect. And that’s a word that I got from James Lapine and Steve Sondheim, from Sunday in the Park With George, where George kept saying, ‘Connect, George, connect.’ So I’m always looking for those connections. And the material is so rich, so present — it’s so immediate to our lives at this moment, that there is absolutely no shortage of connection.”

The Tony Award winner would love to return to musical theater in an original Broadway musical: “I’d take it on in a heartbeat. Put my phone number in the article.”

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