You may know actor, comedian and vocalist Mandy Patinkin for his portrayal of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, or as Saul Berenson in Homeland. He has received Tony Awards for self-created roles in Evita and Sunday in the Park with George. According to Patinkin, his true love is live performance, as a noted interpreter of the works of Stephen Sondheim and other musical theater pieces (including The Princess Bride, of course). Patinkin joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan on Boston Public Radio to discuss his career, his concern over world events, and his upcoming performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for the first time since 1995. 

Margery: It’s not only the first time since 1995, I read it was the first Keith Lockhart concert, when he was a conductor, you were there for the inaugural performance?

MP: Wow, yeah. When I first started doing this about 30 years ago, Keith was an assistant conductor I think with the Cleveland Symphony, and the main conductor wasn’t there, so they hooked Keith and I up together and I fell in love with him, so whenever I had an orchestra gig I would go out and he would come with me, and then he got the Boston Pops gig and I was there then—I think I had been back another time at some point, but I’m really looking forward to seeing him, he’s the best.

Jim: So wait a second—you fell out of love with him for 21 years, is that what happened?

MK: I stopped doing orchestra concerts, I mainly just sang with an upright piano player, the lyrics and myself and the bare stage. The orchestra was a whole other dynamic, it’s magnificent, the sound is incredible, but it’s a whole other world. There are eighty people up there, you have a big rehearsal in the morning for two or three hours, sometimes you don’t get through the material, it can be quite anxiety-ridden… the dynamic in general is hugely different from a single piano player, which is something that I just found myself doing more. So I gravitated away from orchestras, and Keith called me up, and I said that to him, and he said, ‘well, you’ve got to change!’ I said that I get nervous sometimes that we won’t get through the material, and he said ‘that’s not going to happen, I’ll come to New York, we’ll go through all of it ahead of time, it’ll all be great, and you’re going to have the time of your life, and there are some other concerts we’ll talk about’ and I said, ‘okay! Okay! Okay! I’m coming!’

Jim: Keith was here a couple of weeks ago, and to say that he was ecstatic about your imminent performances is an understatement—he’s thrilled.

MP: I’m very excited to be back with him.

Margery: Give people a little idea of what they’re going to be seeing, if they make it to Symphony Hall on June 7 and June 8, what are you going to be doing?

MP: Well, I’m not going to tell you, but we’re going to be doing some of the old charts, because as I said, I haven’t been writing that much from the new stuff, so there’s some of the older charts that I’ve done years ago, and I’ll put stuff in here or there, but I don’t ever like to say what I’m doing in case we change our minds. I like it to be a surprise anyway, and you know, if you come to hear me sing X and I don’t, and then you’re ticked off, so this way, if you don’t know, then everything’s okay.

Jim: Virtually every time I see you interviewed, most people say that the first thing they think of when they look at you is Saul Berenson from Homeland.

MP: That’s because I look like him.

Jim: That’s not what I think of. I was a starving young legal services lawyer in the South Bronx, I think it was in 1980, and I saw you in Evita—and by the way, I’m still paying off the loan for that performance— and every time I see you, I think, this is a guy who brilliantly serves two masters; stage and screen. Isn’t the exhilaration of performing in front of a live audience something you can never match when you’re taping a television show?

MP: That’s why I keep doing it, there’s nothing better. I love working in television, I love working in films, I love working in recording studios, but there’s nothing better than being in a live venue with a live audience, right there in that moment, everybody brings that day into the theater, what’s going in their lives and the world around us. I never go to the theater without watching the news to see what we’re living with in that very moment, and there’s just nothing that beats it. Plus, there’s a contagion that goes on in the whole hall—when somebody is listening in a certain way, they make other people listen. When somebody is coughing or agitated or laughing, and today, in this world, people are watching movies on their phone, they don’t even go to a movie theater and have the communal experience! Television is usually watched in an isolated way, anyway.

Margery: For big Homeland fans who don’t know, you were also George in Sunday In The Park With George, about the post-impressionist painter, and said wonderful things about Stephen Sondheim, who wrote a lot of the lyrics in that production. Tell us what you think of Sondheim.

MP: I think he’s the Shakespeare of our time, I think he’s absolutely the greatest. If I could write, I would write every word he writes, and that’s why I sing as much as I can of his material. I’m sure we’ll be doing some of his material on that evening… he is somebody who, like Shakespeare, turns darkness into light. That is my goal, to turn any darkness that I have in my life into light. I don’t like darkness, we all have darkness in our lives, and I want it to be as light as possible. He is a great, great scholar of that effort.

Margery: You talk about that in a lot of the things that you’ve written, there was a story about you leaving the show Criminal Minds. Tell people about that.

MP: I just left that because it wasn’t the right fit for me, unlike a show like Homeland, which is absolutely a perfect fit for me. We all make mistakes in our lives, and we’re very lucky when we make the right choice, and sometimes we’re not so lucky when we don’t make the right choice, but it just wasn’t the right fit, and then I got lucky a few years later and I found Homeland which I never want to be over, as long as I live.

Margery: I thought one of the reasons you left Criminal Minds was all the sexual assaults against women and really violent crimes, and Homeland has some violence in it too, but it’s not like Criminal Minds. Am I wrong about that?

MP: Yeah, I find the violence very different, it’s much more of a psychological nature in terms of the violence, both the violence committed by America as a character and the terrorists as characters, but also the terrorists in America, the quality of ill choices that Americans make, or some institutions make in America, that has an equal terrorist nature to it. There are bad guys on both sides and good guys on both sides, and I feel Homeland is at its best when it’s trying to ask each side to listen to each other. I always feel that its success is because at least for me and for Saul Berenson, what I try to reach for is that lost art of listening that is a universal contagion all over the world. People don’t listen to each other in our halls of Congress, and in countries all over the world, we’re not listening to each other. We need to listen to each other to find what we have in common, not what our differences are, but what we have in common, because it’s a privilege to be alive in this world and there are so many people who are just literally fighting for their existence, fleeing great wars, and trying to have refuge in this country, and there are Americans who aren’t even accepting them. We wouldn’t be here—I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t accept my ancestors from pogroms in Eastern Europe— Donald Trump wouldn’t be here if they didn’t accept his ancestors, so for people in this country to say to put up walls and don’t accept people who are fleeing from violent conditions in other places is an absolute crime, and it’s anti-American. I often say to people, I beg people to remember, one of the privileges that I’ve had in working on Homeland for five years is that I’ve met a lot of the security people in our country and in other countries, and I have a very strong feeling of just how excellent they are. Of course there will be things that will fall through the cracks and mistakes will be made, but I am the first one to say, we must, as a country, and as individuals, keep our defenses up to the highest degree. But along with that, we must keep our humanity up to an equally high degree, or there will be nothing left to defend.

Jim: Tell us about your trip to Greece to meet with Syrian refugees. Why did you decide to go?

MP: I was shooting Homeland, this fictional world reflects our own world, we shoot 14 to 16 hours a day, I live in the darkest material that you can imagine, it’s the darkness of the world we’re all living in, and I just needed to reconnect with reality. I knew that the world was burning over there, and these people were fleeing this horrible war in Syria, and I just wanted to be with humanity in a non-fictional state, in a real world, and hold their hands and walk with them and give them water, and give them my attention and listen to them, and help them when I could. I needed to do that for my soul, and I did.

Jim: On the subject of replacing darkness with light— what do you say to the people listening who are scared by the notion of Syrian refugees coming here?

MP: It’s the demagoguery of fear, it’s misinformation. There is nothing to be scared about. Of course there are going to be incidents that take place, in our country gun violence is causing much more incidents than any refugee. There hasn’t been a terrorist incident by a refugee in America since 9/11. There have been many homegrown terrorist incidents because of gun violence and gun law and lack of responsibility to those situations, but I just want people to remember why they are in this country. That their ancestors were welcomed to this country years ago, and that’s why they’re here. That is what America is about, and you should call the international rescue committee, there are centers all over America, and welcome these people into your homes, your mosques, your synagogues, your churches,  we’ve welcomed a family from Elizabeth, New Jersey, we’ve taken them to the theatre, to restaurants, we’ve entertained their children, they have six beautiful children, and they left everything. This beautiful man who is a lawyer, who is just learning this new language… have some compassion! Remember where you came from! That’s what being an American is all about. And when you’re with these people, I have to tell you, when you’re with these people and they tell you their stories, when they tell you ‘I saw death behind me and life in front of me’ and never stopped moving forward with their children in their arms and the dark nights of the borders of Turkey and Syria, with ISIS beating them down by the borders, they give you such a sense of courage and hope and optimism, that you’re not afraid. They are… Albert Einstein started the International Rescue Committee, he was a refugee for the people from Eastern Europe. Madeleine Albright was a refugee! Do you know how many great, great Americans were refugees?

Margery: Earlier in the campaign season, you took to task another politician I guess you’re not that crazy about, Ted Cruz, when he was quoting non-stop from The Princess Bride. You wrote a piece about it, talking about how you were not worried about what Ted Cruz quotes from the movie, but what he wasn’t quoting, and you mentioned your favorite line. What is it?

MP: My favorite line is the line that no one quotes, that Inigo Montoya, the character I played, says at the end of the movie. He says to the Man in Black, “you know, I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life.” Ted Cruz was saying ‘carpet bomb’ these people, and just revenge, revenge, revenge. Inigo Montoya, after he killed the Six-Fingered Man, he didn’t get his father back.

Margery: Is it going to be mostly Broadway we’ll be hearing in Boston, or will there be a little bit from The Princess Bride mixed in there, just for the huge fans?

You know, I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it's over, I do not know what to do with the rest of my life.

MP: I usually try to throw in the famous Princess Bride line before I ever leave the stage, I know a lot of people couldn’t give a damn about my singing, and they only want to hear Inigo say that line, so I try to not forget to do it.

Mandy Patinkin is an actor, singer, voice artist and comedian. He will be performing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday, June 7 and Wednesday, June 8, at 8pm. For more information, visit