Mandy Patinkin (photo) - a brilliant, querelous, and occassionally unpredictable dude who happens to be one of the finest actors of our time - quit "Criminal Minds," a major hit for CBS, five years ago, without so much as an explanation.
Oh, that's good old Mandy, everyone said. That's what Mandy does! Well, not really. No one just up and quits a major series without a reason.
Finally . . . we have one. He was a featured speaker at the 92nd Street Y last week, and during his de-briefing by Thane Rosenbaum - a writer, law professor at Fordham University and its director of the Forum on Law, Culture & Society - he was asked point-blank why he quit.
Here's the answer, and it's remarkable indeed. It was, he says "destroying my heart and soul."
A: I made a mistake. And I'll tell you what the mistake was, 'cause I've never spoken about it publicly other than little snippets in interviews.
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. (Rosenbaum laughs)
And I guess that 's what runs greed all over the world. No matter how much is enough it's never enough so let's keep worrying and worrying and worrying and making all kinds of mistakes because of it. And I certainly made mine. That was part of the mistake.
The other part was, I didn't pay attention to the material, 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. I thought, "Well, this is just the pilot.
You can't do that every show, for God's sake. How long would that be interesting?" Yet it remained interesting for now, I think, seven or eight years they're into. And the way I work is I infuse my own reality underneath what I'm saying. There are actors, if you read Rosemarie Tichler's book about actors and interviews - it's extraordinary - I read some of these interveiws about how actors like Claire - I don't know what Claire's process is, but others - they just believe so thoroughly. I can't believe it. I can't believe what I'm saying in these scenes. I don't - I tried - it doesn't work for me.
So I have to find my own story to live underneath it, that absolutely matches and connects to what - the words that the writer wrote, that mirror it, that metaphor it, that work for me, that connect me to it. And in the case of "Criminal Minds" and these horrific misogynistic tales, told over and over again, and the torture of women and children, where I had to go mentally was beyond darkness, to be there 16 hours a day, to stay alive and connect.
And I don't care whether I'm playing Hamlet or Gideon in "Criminal Minds," I go about it the same way. And 16 hours a day, nine-and-a-half months of the year, was destroying my heart and soul. It was very, very destructive to me and made me very sad. And there were scripts that came to me that I voiced disapproval of, I spoke to the studio, the network, I couldn't believe that certain people would accept that this would go out there, and I began to feel ill about being a part of a world - now it is a world - bedtime story which - the last thing that people watch before they go to bed. And it's married to fear, in fairness to it, and part of the theory of the success of these shows, in my opinion, and in some great psychologists' opinions, is the fear factor.
And part of why I think people might remain addicted to it, is that there is a theory that - "There but for the grace of God, go I," so if you drink your cup of fear every day, it won't happen to you. Well, maybe true. But I can't participate in it anymore. And as it turns out, you know, good luck, Mandy, because the first two years - there's 48 episodes and they're re-running them all over the world nonstop. Yes, I get paid for it, I'm glad I got the money, I'm not gonna lie about it. But I'm not proud of it, and I needed to leave to save my life (applause). And I wanna just add, most importantly, that's how I feel. I have good friends in that show and I meet people all over the world who love that show and they - and I'm not here to tell them they're wrong for how they feel. It's how I feel, it's how it affects me. And it's a private matter for me and everyone's entitled to their own experience. (more applause)