LOS ANGELES: Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor Mandy Patinkin used his Walk of Fame star-dedicating ceremony in Hollywood Monday to make an impassioned speech calling for respect and dignity for refugees.
The 65-year-old Chicago native, best known for playing CIA operative Saul Berenson in Showtime spy drama “Homeland,” welcomed an Iraqi refugee to the event and implored the crowd to recognise the plight of the dispossessed.
“I want you to think about these people, who are the most vulnerable among us all over the world, who need our attention, more attention than you can imagine, so that they can have quality lives and bring their children up in a healthy, not war-torn, atmosphere and grow and live and prosper,” he said.
Patinkin, whose grandfather fled the Nazis in German-occupied Poland, and whose grandmother escaped the Russian pogroms, has travelled extensively to witness the plight of displaced people since going to Greece in 2015 to help refugees from war-torn Syria.
He said noticing the ethnic diversity of the US squad at the Winter Olympics in South Korea had reminded him of the contribution immigrants had made to the country.
“They are our heroes and our athletes for all time. They represent us,” he went on.
“Let us learn to welcome other immigrants without fear, without worry, and learn to trust them and not be guided by fear. They are our teachers.”
He told AFP afterwards he felt privileged to be a voice for “those who have no voice, the refugees who are suffering.”
“I think the whole world needs to do more. These are human beings. Take care of your neighbours (as) you would take care of yourself,” he said.
Champion of the displaced
Patinkin has portrayed Saul Berenson – now the CIA’s Middle East Division Chief – on “Homeland” since 2011, earning three Emmys nominations, but it was for CBS medical drama “Chicago Hope” that he won the award in 1995.
Born Mandel Bruce Patinkin in Chicago on November 30, 1952 to a homemaker and a metal manufacturing entrepreneur, the actor attended a religious school and sang in synagogue choirs.
The father-of-two got into New York’s prestigious performing arts conservatory the Juilliard, where he met Kelsey Grammer, and later recommended his friend to play Frasier Crane on NBC sitcom “Cheers.”
Patinkin, who sings concerts in Yiddish and has featured on 14 records, cut his teeth in musical theatre, winning a Tony Award in 1980 for playing Che in “Evita,” which starred Patti LuPone in the title role.
“If he weren’t a Broadway musical star he would have been a cantor. If he weren’t a television star he would have been a Peace Corps volunteer, a first responder,” the actress said.
“He would still champion the displaced. He would still travel to refugee camps of human beings – not Syrians or the Rohingya or the world’s oppressed, Mandy sees only humans.”
Patinkin’s 40-year movie career includes roles in “Ragtime,” “Yentl,” “The Princess Bride,” “Alien Nation” and “Dick Tracy.”
A new season of “Homeland” debuted on Sunday.