‘Homeland’ Took a Huge Risk Casting Mandy Patinkin After His ‘Criminal Minds’ Disaster

Mandy Patinkin has boasted a long and successful career thanks to his willingness to adapt to whatever role is put in front of him. However, when it comes to television, Patinkin once had a reputation for someone who would quickly lose interest in a project if he stayed on too long. This all changed with Homeland, where Patinkin and company formulated a plan to combat the star’s penchant for going AWOL.

Mandy Patinkin’s long career

Patinkin has been in Hollywood for over 40 years. He first got his start doing bit work on television and low-cost movies.

However, in 1987,  he came into the mainstream thanks to his role as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. This changed his life forever. After the film’s success, Patinkin became a household name, with roles in films like Dick Tracy and True Colors

As time went on, Patinkin started to get more television work, too. His first full-time television job was on Chicago Hope, where he spent five years as both a recurring character and full-time actor. From there, he started to certify himself as a working television actor.

Princess Bride star Mandy Patinkin
Mandy Patinkin | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Many of his projects, from Dead Like Me to Criminal Minds, let Patinkin show off his chops, but he tended to get bored with television work and book it before his second contract. In the case of Criminal Minds, his distaste with the show’s direction when handling real issues soured him on associating with such a project. 

In 2011, Patinkin took on the role of Saul Berenson in Homeland. Not far removed from his role on Criminal Minds, Homeland’s makers were worried that he would leave early as he did in their previous series, Dead Like Me. They spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the ways that they worked around his reputation. 

Mandy Patinkin goes to ‘Homeland’ 

In 2011, Fox 21 Television Studios president Bert Salke and former VP of Showtime programming Gary Levine wanted Patinkin for the role of embattled CIA operative Saul Berenson. Still, Levine had already been balked by Patinkin once before.

Patinkin admits that he loses interest in projects very quickly, especially when he doesn’t like the direction. Levine and Patinkin spoke about this with The Hollywood Reporter

LEVINE Mandy had balked at every other show he’s ever been on. If he had a long-term contract, he would get antsy and bail — including on one of ours, Dead Like Me

MANDY PATINKIN:I thought they were all crazy to hire me, given my track record. I never thought I’d work in television again after my last experience [on Criminal Minds]. [Disturbed by the CBS show’s content, he went AWOL after its second season.]

Despite his reputation for going AWOL from these projects, however, Patinkin is also known to be one of the most dedicated actors in Hollywood when he is passionate about the projects. This, according to the interview, caused Salke and Levine to overlook any past blemishes to get him on the show.

SALKE He’s a beautiful soul. But, yes, I personally got a number of very firm calls asking, “Do you know what you’re getting into?”

LEVINE We wanted him in the role, so we decided not to offer him a long-term contract, just a two-year deal in hopes that he would love it enough to keep re-upping.

Those two year deals kept on keeping Patinkin on the show. He lasted the entire run, and now might be bigger than he ever was before. 

Mandy Patinkin reaches the A-List

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Patinkin has been a working actor for several decades, but Homeland gave him his most significant break since The Princess Bride. Now, he gets roles in major films like Wonder while also dictating his career by his standards.

It took a lot to get Patinkin to spend nine years with Homeland, but the creators hedged their bets and made it work. The show was all the better for it, too.