When Mandy Patinkin and I finally meet on the telephone, I have just one real request for him: Please, please, PLEASE don't leave your latest TV show just yet!
That's because Patinkin, a Tony Award-winning stage actor and movie legend (just Google his name and The Princess Bride to see why), also has a history of leaving great television series just as they hit a stride.
He departed CBS' medical drama Chicago Hope in the mid-'90s and jumped off CBS' crime drama Criminal Minds after two seasons, daunted by the show's violence.
But ask about Homeland, last year's successful Showtime drama about a U.S. soldier turned into a secret spy for Islamic jihadists, and Patinkin gives an unequivocal answer.
"I promise you, I'm here," he said, laughing at my (sorta joking, sorta not) plea that he stick with playing knowledgeable, driven CIA agent Saul Berensen a little while longer. "Don't worry."
Patinkin, who also shot down rumors he might appear on Criminal Minds ("I never received a single phone call"), is bringing a one-man show to Clearwater that's different from his Sarasota gig one day earlier with fellow Tony winner Patti LuPone.
"I feel like the luckiest guy in the world," he said, laughing. "I figure it means I'm gonna die soon."
I only feel slightly embarrassed that my first thought is: Hopefully, not until the second season of Homeland is finished.
In Homeland you're an experienced CIA officer mentoring a younger agent, Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), who you discover is bipolar. Why is this show so special to you?
For me, the series is about a family. It's the relationship of father and daughter with me and Carrie; also mentor and boss, but she's also my child figure. Also, (soldier-turned-terrorist spy) Brody might become another child figure to this man, and also the country is another child. These are all members of his family.
What's the difference between your Clearwater show on Wednesday and the Tuesday show with Patti?
I have a new piece called Let Go, which I'm actually birthing in Fort Lauderdale the (next) week, and that's a song cycle about family and country. I'll probably be doing some pieces from that.
Clearwater is sort of my smorgasbord … we call it our pops concert, dress casual. It's free-form and I say whatever I want and I talk and I change. The Patti show is more formal. It is a figurative journey of two souls, using familiar and unfamiliar material, both spoken and sung.
How did the show with Patti come together?
They were opening a new theater, and the guy who ran it called Patti's people and said 'We have Mandy,' and they called my people and said they had Patti. I said to my collaborator/piano player for 24 years, Paul Ford, could we put together a show that told a story, that we could change and adapt over time and do it through, you know, till we drop dead? And he said yeah.
And so I went and asked Patti if she was game. I said, Patti, they don't have me. She said, 'They don't have me either, doll.' They lied.
Probably the best lie of your touring life, that one.
Recently, when we were doing it on Broadway, the guy who made that phone call came backstage and I said, 'Boy, oh boy, oh boy, I've never met a liar that I've loved so much (laughter).' I said, 'I'm begging you to find another way to lie to me because what a gift you gave both of us.' We'll do this for the rest of our lives.
NBC has a new show about the making of a musical; seems like you're giving fans that experience in Clearwater.
I try new things out right in front of the audience. I hold paper in my hands. I always feel that an audience misses the most exciting part of the process, which is the rehearsal and the mistakes and the journey. I always wish that there was some way that the audience could be on the whole journey and not just the final show. That's why I always try to keep everything a purposeful mess.