■ The Princess Bride and Homeland actor, 66, on helping refugees, sword fighting and giving Kelsey Grammer his break
Why are you a supporter of World Refugee Day today?
One of the great things is it reminds you of what refugees over the past 100 years have contributed. What would the world be like without Einstein, the painter Marc Chagall, Google co-founder Sergey Brin or even David Miliband, the head of the International Rescue Committee, whose parents were refugees and fled persecution in Eastern Europe? It would be a less colourful place. Our current administration wouldn’t exist if America hadn’t opened its arms to our president’s family.
You’re a voice for the International Rescue Committee, why?
My wife [actress Kathryn Grody] and I are here because America opened its arms to our grandparents, who were feeing persecution in Eastern Europe at the turn of the 1900s. One of the greatest gifts from doing Homeland is the platform the show has given me — I never imagined I’d be able to be a megaphone for those who have no voice.
You’ve just been in Palermo, Sicily. What did you see?
We explored the integration process of east and west Africans who’ve made the arduous journey to Italy. People flee for a variety of reasons but mainly because they have no other choice. We saw a piece of graffiti that said, ‘No one leaves their home unless their home is in the mouth of a shark.’
You take a trip to meet refugees after filming every season of Homeland, don’t you?
Yes. I’m right in the middle of filming this season. After that, we’ll probably be going to Jordan and one of the largest refugee camps in the world.
How do you feel about filming the final series of Homeland?
I’m ready to move on. I love the idea of being lost for a while because I don’t think we find ourselves until we allow ourselves to be lost. I’ve had the rare privilege of a television series being produced — let alone that it’s got to live for eight years and has a global audience. Homeland has been a gift for me on levels I probably haven’t even discovered yet.
You sing as well as act on screen and stage — what are you happiest doing?
If you said you can only do one thing, it’s singing. I express myself better when I’m singing than in any other form. I’m blessed that I’ve had a career where I’ve been able to do it and I’m going to be doing it as soon as I finish Homeland. I was supposed to have two months off but our shooting schedule keeps getting longer so it looks like I’ll have about two minutes before the first concert on October 30.
Do you stay in touch with anyone from The Princess Bride?
Yes I see Wallace Shawn here and there and Cary Elwes, Robin Wright and the director Rob Reiner — we’re just so blessed and thrilled that we got to be in one of the Wizard Of Oz’s of our generation. We made it so many years ago but it lives on generation to generation. I can never believe it when children and adults come up to me on the street and say, ‘Are you that guy?’ And I look at my wife and go, ‘I am that guy!’ I don’t know how that happened but it did!
Do you still have the sword skills you learnt?
I do. Cary, Chris [Guest] and I were the three swordsman and we did every single bit of swordplay ourselves. The only moment that was done by a stunt person was a British Olympic gymnast who jumped off the cliff for Cary and I, although each of us did the land and take off. I practised all the time — I had six weeks to be the best left-handed swordsman in the world! We filmed it in the UK and I remember my eldest son Isaac, who was four at the time, on set when we were shooting the fire swamp and he got afraid when Cary and Robin fell in the quicksand. So I took him underneath the set to show him that they came out alive at the bottom.
Were you classmates with Kelsey Grammer?
Yes and years ago I was at a party in Stephen Sondheim’s back yard celebrating the finish of the workshop of his musical Sunday In The Park With George and I turned to Kelsey and said, ‘My buddy is casting something called Cheers for TV. I know you don’t want to do TV because you’re a snob like the rest of us, but would you consider it?’ He said, ‘Sure get her to give me a call.’ And so you’re talking to the man who’s responsible for Kelsey Grammer’s television career.
Do you remind him of that?
He actually reminds me of it. I get the biggest kick out of it that I had any part in it at all. He was the funniest guy I knew. No matter what he’d do, I was convulsed with laughter.
■ Patinkin is supporting the International Rescue Committee’s call for welcome this World Refugee Day. rescue-uk.org