Patinkin Homeland's peacemaker

Homeland's Mandy Patinkin.
Homeland's Mandy Patinkin.

Trust is hard to come by in the dangerous world of Homeland.

Even the closest relationships were rocked by secrets in the show's thrilling first season, including that of our heroine Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and her mentor Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin).

Terrified of being kicked out of the CIA, Carrie kept her bipolar disorder hidden from him.

But Saul's shock at Carrie's full-blown mania at the height of her investigation into returned soldier Nicholas Brody's (Damian Lewis) possible terrorist plot quickly turned to concern.

Patinkin suspects Saul had long been aware there was something special about his erratic protege, even pleading with her not to undergo electroconvulsive therapy.

"She felt that (her bipolar) was a secret, but I believe Saul was aware of the situation. Maybe not specifically, but he's no idiot and he knows this child like a book; he lives for her - he will die for her," Patinkin says.

"He believes she is very similar in character to an individual like Anne Frank who has a savant-like understanding of human nature and imagine if someone like Anne Frank had lived and been able to continue to philosophise about the human heart what might have happened.

"But one of the things that Saul is acutely aware of with gifted people is that there's a cost you pay for that gift and whether it is bipolarity, or whatever, he knows that nothing comes free."

Season two of the multi-award-winning series, which was crowned best drama series and earned Danes and Lewis lead acting awards at this week's Emmy Awards, begins on Monday on TV3, just hours after the show's United States premiere.

It picks up several months after Brody's failed assassination attempt on the vice-president and Carrie's expulsion from the CIA. Brody is now a congressman and Carrie, who still doesn't know her suspicions about Brody were correct, is in recovery.

But with a new threat brewing in the Middle East, Saul reluctantly seeks out Carrie for help.

Many of the early episodes were filmed on location in Israel, which doubles for Beirut in the show, something Patinkin says was "an extraordinary experience".

'I have secular cousins there and I have religious cousins there, so I ended up going to discussions and dinners with people, and I even have a relative who lives in a settlement, so before we even began filming I had immersed myself within the real conflict of Israel."

Patinkin was even asked to speak at a peace conference.

"Israel is a beautiful place. You can say well, you do all the other filming (for Homeland) in Charlotte, North Carolina, why couldn't you have done that part there too? Well, you can't get the faces. You can't get that humanity like you can if you go to Israel. It was a wonderful marriage of two cultures trying to delve into the same journey of why the world is in the state that it's in at this moment."

Patinkin, who is still widely recognised from the 80s fantasy film, The Princess Bride, admits he didn't know if he would work in television again after abruptly quitting serial killer drama Criminal Minds in 2007 because he found the storylines too disturbing.

"I never imagined in my wildest dreams that it was going to become such a violent show and such a misogynistic show having how many women can you kill every week and how many children can you hurt all in the name of entertainment. It literally made me ill."

Instead, the Tony Award-winning Broadway performer concentrated on his music, including his first concert in New Zealand in 2009.

The following year his agent called on November 30, Patinkin's birthday, with the offer of Homeland.

"I was overwhelmed by the extraordinary quality of the writing. It really asked the question why; why are we in this state where we are so filled with fear? What happened to the ability to listen to each other, forgive each other, have compassion for each other and move forward instead of staying in the same quicksand of humanity?"

But surely Homeland, with storylines involving torture and terrorism, has themes just as dark as Criminal Minds?

"Very dark themes," Patinkin agrees, "But the majority of the violence (in Homeland) is what's implied about what could happen to people if people don't learn to listen to each other.

"The flashback violence that took place in the first season is far more suggestive than real. This (show) is really about family and it's about listening.

"If there's a single image that told the story of the whole first season, it was the image of Brody and his daughter on their roof holding each other.

"That to me is the absolute image of Homeland. Not somebody with blood on their face and their hands.

"Yes, it's set in a high-end, well-written psychological thriller, but it is not about violence, it's about the breaking down of communication."

As well as feeling strongly about the material, Patinkin says he has been lucky to have Homeland's producers work around his concert schedule.

"I'm often learning lyrics to new songs while I'm waiting for them (on set)," he says. "I can't live without my music. It keeps my head very calm and quiet."

So could Homeland: The Musical be his next project?

"Claire and I improvised a little song that we were playing with and they filmed it and I hope they put it on the DVD because it was pretty funny and I'm actually trying to teach Damian a song that we can maybe do together somewhere. So, I have my little plans."

- Homeland, Season 2, Monday, 8.35pm

The Dominion Post