Mandy Patinkin in ‘Homeland’

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Supporting Actor & Actress

To prep for his role as veteran CIA operative Saul Berenson, Mandy Patinkin made the requisite trip to the spy agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., and devoured a trove of nonfiction tomes written by former spooks.

“That was the technical CIA-dom that I drank in,” recalls Patinkin, who shot the “Homeland” pilot in January 2011 and resumed lensing five months later after Showtime picked up the drama. “But that to me isn’t the core of this piece. Instead, it’s the relationship Saul has with Carrie (Mathison, Claire Danes’ character). To me, it’s about a family relationship between a father and a daughter, a student and a teacher.”

So, the thesp’s real homework began when a former Middle East chief mentioned his daughters in passing.

“I asked if his daughters were around,” says Patinkin, who won an Emmy for “Chicago Hope.” “They were, so they came over, and the four of us had a wonderful afternoon together.”

Though Patinkin readily leaped into the psyche of his workaholic alter ego, he avoided jumping too far ahead. The veteran of TV, film and theater says he specifically requested the writers not show him scripts — with their labyrinthine plot twists — in advance.

“I don’t want to know,” says Patinkin, who calls the show’s writing beyond his greatest wish. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in the rest of my day. Why should I know what’s going to happen with Saul Berenson and Carrie Mathison or Brody? I just know seven to 10 days before I shoot.

“People will say, ‘Don’t you need to know as an actor if you’re a good guy or a bad guy?’ But I would play it the same. It’s subjective. It’s up to the viewer to decide who’s a good guy or a bad guy.”