Mandy Patinkin is a busy guy.
Since July he’s been spending 12- to 16-hour days, five days a week, on the set of the television show “Criminal Minds,” a procedural crime drama in which he stars.
The series, which debuted in September, has become a runaway hit for CBS.
“There’s nothing in the business that’s tougher for your schedule than a one-hour drama,” says Patinkin, phoning on the way to a photo shoot for TV Guide. “You’re shooting one, reshooting another, preparing for another one. It’s just endless.”
This new success, it seems, doesn’t sit well with Patinkin. He’d rather be singing. Landing the TV series, he says, forced him to cancel 30 concert dates across the country.
Not that he canceled all his singing gigs. Since late December, Patinkin has been juggling weekdays on the set and weekends rehearsing and performing at venues close to the West Coast.
Friday and Saturday night, he’ll perform at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.
“For me, the music is really my lifeblood. It feeds my soul. Without it,” Patinkin says, “I’m out of my freaking mind.”
Patinkin, 53, has made a solid career playing characters with a sometimes curt sense of honesty.
He usually plays someone with a hard moral center — from his first big break as Che in the 1979 Broadway musical production of “Evita” to the swashbuckler in the 1987 film “The Princess Bride.” His characters on TV series like “Chicago Hope” and his most recent series, in which he plays the head of an elite band of FBI criminal profilers, often have a similar cutthrough-the-bull quality.
Patinkin in real life is equally forthright. He doesn’t get too deep about acting.
“I just think of it as a job,” he says.
And when it comes to singing, he agrees with those who attack his style of delivery: His trademark is a falsetto. Critics complain it’s a “head voice.”
“They’re right,” Patinkin says. “I’m not an opera singer. I can’t cut that (expletive). I do what I can. I’m more interested in just choking through a song to get the idea across.”
‘I’LL TRY ANYTHING’
Patinkin credits his untrained approach to singing with giving him the freedom to tackle most anything. This is, after all, a man unafraid to launch into the female ballad “Somewhere That’s Green” from “Little Shop of Horrors.”
“I’m a musical idiot,” he says. “I have a fair ear, and I’ll try anything.” He says his concert audiences are a mixed bag: Some come because of his acting work, having never heard him sing before. Then there are the die-hard fans of his vocal stylings.
But Patinkin thinks one thing unifies them all. “People feel sorry for me that I’m named Mandy,” he laughs. “They come out of pity.”