Mandy Patinkin Q&A: ‘Homeland’

"It's impossible to participate on any level in 'Homeland' either as an actor or a viewer and not have it affect you," says actor Mandy Patinkin about his role in Showtime's espionage thriller. "If you're paying attention to the world, you're living in the storylines of 'Homeland.'"

Patinkin says he was politically engaged even before he took the role as CIA director Saul Berenson. He credits that to his wife, who "has been my main teacher in that world." But the show's dark geopolitical storylines haven't affected his worldview the way you might think.

"It effects, most of all, my spiritual nature," he explains, "and by that I mean a constant rekindling and prayer of hope for humanity and optimism for humanity, because listening to the dark side either in the fictional world of 'Homeland' or in the non-fictional world of my drive to work, I have no escape, so I'm constantly embroiled, as we all are all over the world, in the reality of the world we live in. And I have two choices: to become despairing or to be hopeful and do the best I can to make a difference."

And when it comes to making a difference in the world, Patinkin believes art has an important role to play. "I think if you said to me, 'Well, how do you make a difference in "Homeland"?' I would say, probably in only one way I can really try to do every second, which is to listen to whoever is speaking to me," he says. "The thing that's most lost in our world today is the ability to listen to each other. It's lost in our Congress. It's lost all over the world. And so if we as a pretend-world can at least show that we're listening, even if we make mistakes, I think that's a good thing."

He adds, "That's what I think Shakespeare, and Stephen Sondheim, and the writers of 'Homeland,' when they're at their best, do, which is to turn the darkness into light. That's what our job is."

The fourth season of "Homeland," which aired in last fall, took place in Pakistan but was shot in Cape Town, South Africa, and at first Patinkin was "a bit apprehensive. I had never been to Cape Town or South Africa. It was far away from home, and you certainly couldn't commute," but the experience was a transformative one, because it's "one of the most beautiful places on Earth" but also "a most heartbreaking place because of the dream that was never imagined but realized when Mandela came to be a free man, and then he became president, and the hopes were high. And now things are in a precarious state again in terms of the disparity between the haves and the have-nots."

He was so affected by the experience that he stayed in South Africa for another month after "Homeland" had finished shooting. Season five begins production this summer in another new locale, Berlin, but instead of apprehensive, this time Patinkin is eager to continue "riding on Saul's coattails" as a world traveler.

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UPLOADED Apr 20, 2015 11:15 am