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Mandy Patinkin: 'I Would Die' for Claire Danes

The veteran actor has the highest words of praise for his "Homeland" co-star, and compares her character to Anne Frank.

"Homeland" Premiere | East Hampton, N.Y., Aug. 13
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

On screen and off, Mandy Patinkin has a some very strong feelings about Claire Danes.

"I as a human being, as an artist, I am there for her. I would die for her," the actor told The Hollywood Reporter about his Homeland co-star during the show's second season premiere on Friday. "I tell you, she is one of our great gifts as an artist to be cherished and nurtured and cared for. She is a tremendous gift, and I am one of the privileged people to get to be with her and learn from her every day."

In the show, Patinkin plays Saul, the mentor and confidant to Danes' genius, bipolar CIA agent Carrie Mathison. He is the only one at the agency that truly knows the extent of her mental issues, which push her to the brink in the first season, and Patinkin's imagined relationship with the character is just as strong as their real-life partnership.

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"I consider her character akin to Anne Frank, in terms of somebody who has a savant like quality toward human nature, and understanding and empathy and compassion, with incredible wisdom and gifts," he explained. "And Saul’s reason to be is to defend her and save her life at all costs, because she feels she’s the answer to world peace, essentially, at the end of the day."

The young diarist and Holocaust victim was not the only major historical figure with whom Patinkin compared the Mathison character.

"He also understands that when he recruited her initially, if you find a gifted human being in any area of society -- in the arts and music and painting and writing -- it’s yin and yang," the actor explained. "You pay for that gift, and there are many artists that suffer from these mental struggles, because they often are struggling for what they define as the light. Shakespeare, Stephen Sondheim, all of these people look for a way to turn their darkness, the world’s darkness, into light. That is what Homeland is about to me, turning world darkness into the light of day."

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Much of the first two episodes of the second season were filmed in Israel, and long before he was due in the country, Patinkin ventured there on his own, traveling around and meeting various politicians, activists and other people involved in the Middle East's struggles. And just as he does with Danes, he found himself inspired.

"When you go to a place like Israel, and you take the time to immerse yourself in the real conflict, meet those people, ask the questions, meet a Palestinian young 23-year old man named Fadi Quaran who studied at Stanford, who is a gifted man and a true peacemaker in the vein of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, who says doesn’t all humanity deserve justice, freedom and dignity? Who would deny that? Who would argue with that? So just meeting a young person with that kind of person, with that kind of wisdom and hope and optimism, fills your heart with hope and optimism."

As he sees it, making his show is all part of that process, as well.

"Then you get to do work, sing a song, do a television show, say words, tell stories, that are about that, that are about trying to rekindle hope and optimism in a broken world," Patinkin marveled. "In a world where in our Congress and our halls of government, people have forgotten how to talk to each other, all over the world, it’s an epidemic."

Email: Jordan.Zakarin@THR.com; Twitter: @JordanZakarin