Mandy Patinkin's regret - doing 'Criminal Minds,' his 'biggest public mistake'
Mandy Patinkin has had an interesting acting career - he stars in the terrorism-themed series "Homeland," sang on Broadway, played a doctor in "Chicago Hope" and vowed to avenge his father in the cult movie "The Princess Bride."
But there is one role the Emmy-winning 59-year-old actor regrets taking - criminal profiler Jason Gideon on the CBS show "Criminal Minds." The actor made his debut on the pilot in 2005 and quit in 2007, to the surprise of cast members and producers. He has in recent years discussed publicly why left - because of its gruesome violence. In a recent interview, Patinkin took it a step further.
"The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do 'Criminal Minds' in the first place," Patinkin told New York Magazine. "I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality. After that, I didn't think I would get to work in television again."
The actor made his TV comeback in 2011 with the Showtime series "Homeland." The show - his fourth - focuses on a bipolar CIA agent, played by Claire Danes, and a seemingly brain-washed U.S. prisoner of war and also has violent scenes.
Patinkin told New York Magazine he was "concerned about the effect" crime procedurals have on people, adding: " show like Homeland is the antidote. It asks why there's a need for violence in the first place."
One day in July 2007, Patinkin did not show up to work on "Criminal Minds," without explaining why. Executive producer Edward Bernero told The New York Times: "He just quit and never talked to anyone again. It's like the story about the father who goes out for a carton of milk and then just never comes home."
While it has been slammed for its violent scenes by watchdog groups such as the Parents Television Council, "Criminal Minds" is one of the most popular primetime shows and also airs in syndication. Its seventh season finale in May ranked second in its time slot, was watched by about 13.68 million people and earned a rating of 3.6 among viewers between ages 18 and 49. The show has been renewed for season 8.
Patinkin appeared to set the stage for his departure from "Criminal Minds" weeks beforehand. He was interviewed at the Monte Carlo Television Festival in June 2007 to promote the show and told the magazine Monaco Revue, while talking about the show's subject matter: "I loathe those violent images and I want no part of that type of violence. I work with the writers and producers constantly to try and tamper that violence down."
He said he was, however, "interested in the intellectual journey of the criminal's mind, the interrogator's mind, and the victim's situation and history," adding: "That intellectual journey of which side of the line do we live on is what fascinates me always because we're all capable of fantasy but the difference between acting on fantasy and having the fantasy is the difference between a serial killer and someone who writes a novel."
Two years after he left "Criminal Minds," he began to open up more about his decision to quit. In August 2009, he talked about it on the New Zealand TV show "Breakfast." He said he did not "get" the "curiousity" people have with watching violence on screen, especially in the United States, and that filming such scenes were taking a toll on him personally.
"My mind has to be in that place to play those parts. I have to go to that very dark place. In a television show you have to be there for 16 hours a day, year after year. It was destroying me. It was destroying my heart and my soul. It's not the place I want to visit every day. I'm very distrubed by the fact that after a long day of work, this is what people go to watch to unwind - they watch horrible, misogynistic violent activity. It saddens me. There's so much else to do."
He said that he did not oppose filming projects that contain violence, saying: "I'll do a shoot-'em up movie. I like James Bond and thrillers. But it's the level and degree and the gratuitousness of certain kinds of violent, titillating push-that-envelope-further-and-furtherness that we've come to that concerns me."
In February 2012, Patinkin talked about his departure from "Criminal Minds" at a public event at the 92nd Street Y in New York.
"I made a mistake," the newspaper Newsday quoted him as telling the audience."The mistake was my fear. I was always worried about money, which I'd never in my whole career have ever had to worry about. But I was brought up to worry about it even if you don't have to worry about it."
He said he didn't pay attention to the show's material, saying: "because once you get yourself locked onto the one need that you think you have, which was the security of the job and having the job to go to every day, which I love, and the economic false security, 'cause I wasn't in trouble, I was doing fine - I ignored the fact that there was a woman in a cage being tortured," he added. "I thought, "Well, this is just the pilot."
The actor's on-screen career did indeed stall after he left "Criminal Minds." In 2008, he reprised his role of swashbuckler Inigo Montoya from the 1987 movie "The Princess Bride" in a computer game by the same name. He also appeared in an off-Broadway production of Shakespeare play "The Tempest." The actor had previously appeared several times on Broadway, including in his own shows, and has a Tony Award for playing Che in "Evita" in 1979. He reunited with its star Patti LuPone for a two-person Broadway show in November 2011.
Patinskin, who has released his own music albums, including the 1998 Yiddish record "Mamaloshen," also performed solo concerts across the country in 2009. He then starred in the short-lived CBS show "Three Rivers," which was canceled after one season in 2010, and appeared that year in the indie British crime thriller "22.214.171.124." He then voiced a character in the animated movie "Jock the Hero Dog."
"Homeland" is nominated for nine Emmys, including one for Danes. Patinkin did not receive an individual nod for his role as her character's mentor, but he did win one and earn an additional Emmy nod for his role on "Chicago Hope." He played Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on the medical drama for six years until 2000. He was also nominated for an Emmy for a guest role on the sitcom "The Larry Sanders Show."
The 2012 Emmy Awards air on September 23 (check out a list of nominations). Season 8 of "Criminal Minds" begins on September 26.