By Kurt Anthony Krug
(Reuters) - "Homeland" returns for its second season on Sunday with a clutch of Emmy awards, and stage and screen star Mandy Patinkin hopes the psychological TV thriller will keep on stirring dialogue about the fractured post-9/11 America and the world it portrays.
"I am invigorated by it beyond all words. I'm just thrilled to be a part of it. It is one of the great experiences of my professional life," the veteran of 40 years of acting said in a telephone interview.
Patinkin, who won a Tony in the 1980 Broadway production of "Evita" and an Emmy for TV hospital drama "Chicago Hope" in 1995 but may still be best-known for his Spanish swordsman role in the 1987 fairy-tale movie "The Princess Bride," said he was attracted to "Homeland" by the quality of the script.
"I just thought it was extraordinary writing. I could see the potential in this material to have an extraordinary dialogue in terms of a post-9/11 era discussing where we are as a nation and as a world populace in terms of why did that act occur? What was happening in the world before? And what's happened since in the past 10 - now 11 - years?" Patinkin said from his New York home.
"The company of the actors and the writing staff is of the highest caliber I have ever had the privilege to be involved with," Patinkin, 59, said.
"Homeland" won six Emmys at Sunday's awards ceremony, including the top prize for best drama series, and acting honors for leads Claire Danes and Damian Lewis.
Patinkin plays CIA operative Saul Berenson, the mentor of brilliant but bipolar counter-terrorist officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes).
Mathison is obsessed with the idea that war hero Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a POW for nearly 10 years, has been turned by al Qaeda into a sleeper agent.
The series probes a post 9/11 world of suspicion and moral ambiguity and is one of the few U.S. movies or TV shows to tackle the global war on terror and find critical acclaim.
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The second season is just as topical. It starts with the fictional bombing by Israel of Iranian nuclear sites and the geo-political tensions that ensue, with Patinkin's character out from behind his CIA headquarters desk and back in the field.
Patinkin says "Homeland" is neither a left or right wing show and that it has succeeded because "it's a show that presents both perspectives honestly and equally, so that the audience members can sit back as their own historian in an entertaining fashion and think."
But it's not just about cliff-hanging plots and the dilemmas raised by the war on terror.
"The central aspect of the show for me is the word ‘family' - the family of the father/daughter relationship I have with Claire Danes. I'm her boss and her mentor and her father-figure," Patinkin said.
"It is also the relationship Brody has with his family. It's within the CIA and, most important, it's within the family of country. It's our country as family and the disconnection that goes on literally in our country today with the politics and the Congress and the people who aren't listening and talking to each other," he said.
Patinkin, who has been married for more than 30 years, says his favorite role "has been as a father to my children and a husband to my wife."
But "Princess Bride" is the one that the public knows best.
Patinkin says he's asked three or four times a week to recite his famous line from the movie: "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
"It seems to be one of my most well-known roles and certainly a role a lot of people are familiar with," Patinkin said. "I've had many wonderful experiences."
"Homeland" returns on cable channel Showtime on September 30 and a Blu-ray 25th anniversary edition of "Princess Bride" goes on sale on October 2, 2012.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant, Gary Hill)