On Friday, Mandy Patinkin - who portrays CIA counterterrorism veteran Saul Berenson on Showtime’s Homeland - addressed concerns of negative portrayals of Muslims across American film and television. He seemed glad that "white men in government and the military establishment" were framed as the antagonists of Homeland's sixth season.
Speaking with Chuck Todd last Friday, Patinkin seemingly expressed regret over negative portrayals of Muslims in Homeland:
TODD: "What role do you think you can play in helping to deescalate the fear [of Muslim refugees]? Because it’s just fear that’s out there. This idea that, hey, you bring in pockets [of Muslims] and it just takes one infiltrator to ruin the entire [refugee] program?"
PATINKIN: "Yes. Well this is where Homeland and the real world are one for me. Because I started to say earlier, it’s false information, it’s not the truth in terms of how you get elected and tools you use. It’s the oldest trick in the book. I find someone to vilify. In movies, it was cowboys and Indians, and the Nazis, communists, y’know? Now they’ve chosen the Muslim community, a community who’s made contributions to the world of a monumental nature."
TODD: "Homeland has been criticized for how Muslims are portrayed."
PATINKIN: "Yes, it has, and we have taken that responsibility, and particularly in season six we have tried to be part of the cure, not part of the problem."
TODD: "A different storyline."
PATINKIN: "A different storyline where we’re helping these people, and a storyline that shows in this case, in this year, in this season, that maybe it’s - and it is - the white men in government and the military establishment who are the bad guys, not the Muslim community. And so back to the issue of how do you get elected, you tell the populace who you need to be afraid of: ‘You need to be these people over here, and you vote for me. I’ll keep you safe.’"
Patinkin refused to acknowledge any national security risks related to Islamic terrorism via the admission of Muslim refugees and migrants. “The facts are that the Muslim community are a gift, they are the fabric of what makes America great. [Refugees] are the safest citizens we have," he said. "Refugees in the United States of America are the safest possible citizens you can say hello to or invite them into your community, and I encourage everyone to please invite them into their community."
No act of terrorism had been committed in America by any refugees since 1975, said Patinkin. He claimed credibility on the issue via extensive research he said he had conducted, including conversations with former CIA Director Michael Hayden.
Patinkin also hyped the narrative of "fake news" having compromised last year's presidential election, describing life as imitating art when drawing parallels between contemporary American politics and the storyline of Homeland's sixth season.
"I think the intrusion of the election is right in the Homeland wheelhouse, in terms of Russia's interference with the election process," said Patinkin. Todd noted that he had referenced Homeland several times in recent months as fictional illustrations of what he suggests are actual goings-on in domestic politics.
In a March interview with the Associated Press, Patinkin described what he viewed as the portrayals of Muslims in Homeland as "deeply important" to him:
“It’s deeply important to me ... In all kinds of entertainment – movies, television – there are always the bad guys; the cowboys and Indians, then the Russians were the bad guys, the Nazis were the bad guys. Now it seems like Muslim ‘terrorists’ are the bad guys,” he said. “So, inadvertently, because it’s an action show, it’s an on-the-edge-of-your-seat political drama that ‘Homeland’ is, unintentionally we were not helping the Muslim community and we take responsibility for it. And I know I can speak for the writers when they want to right that error that happened because of storytelling.
We’re part of the problem, but we also desperately want to be part of the cure and we are working toward that in our story lines. If you watch the whole thing as a whole — when you read a novel just don’t read one chapter — if you watch the whole thing as a whole, especially this season, the sixth season, you’ll see who the bad guys really are and you may have surprises in store for you."
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.