Mandy Patinkin set to explore funny side with lead role in upcoming Hulu television series



LOS ANGELES, CA – SEPTEMBER 17: Mandy Patinkin attends the 70th Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Dan Buffa, Special For The Jewish Light

Versatility isn’t built into every actor’s arsenal, but sometimes it’s a fun thing to explore if you’re a writer. Take someone’s familiar persona and flip it on its head. That’s what Hulu is doing this spring with Mandy Patinkin.

The Jewish actor is well-known for playing serious roles like Saul Berenson on Showtime’s “Homeland,” which just wrapped up a long run in 2020. After a full season run with “The Good Fight” on Paramount Plus, Patinkin will take the lead in Hulu’s upcoming series, “Career Opportunities in Murder and Mayhem.” While the pilot was greenlit back in September, the show is getting a full 10-episode run later this year.

It’s a new kind of role for Patinkin. He’s number one on the call sheet, playing a detective named Rufus Cotesworth, who was once known to be the greatest in the world. He is partnered with Imogene (Violett Beane), a young detective looking to prove herself and tasked with solving a murder.

In a “Knives Out”-type plot setup, a group of wealthy people on a Mediterranean ocean liner all find themselves as suspects when the two detectives come calling. Up to this point, it sounds like a typical dramatic turn for Patinkin, one that he could portray in his sleep.

But there’s a comedic thread that runs through the script for “Career Opportunities in Murder and Mayhem,” a very potent one. It’s here where the previously unseen Patinkin sense of humor will be unleashed on screen. His Twitter following gets plenty of it in his daily takes, but the world of make-believe gets to display those talents with this series.

In creators Mike Weiss and Heidi Cole McAdams’ world, Cotesworth must solve a murder in the modern-day world of crime-solving tech and tricks. An old lion thrown into a world moving too quickly, Cotesworth shares one thing in common with his partner: Having to prove himself, but all over again. A bit like Patinkin proving he can also do comedy and not just the stern, wise mindful supporting character or co-lead.

The make-or-break element here will be the script, and if it truly allows Patinkin to unleash all of his talent. He’s gotten the lead role and one that carries laughs with it, but the dialogue and overall writing craft in “Career Opportunities in Murder and Mayhem” will determine if it’s must watch television or “phone in hand” entertainment. Redirecting an actor who has thoroughly established one ability over the years is one thing, but he needs good ingredients to work with.

Scanning the past shows run or produced by Weiss and McAdams, and you find network procedurals: “Stumptown,” “Chicago P.D.,” “The Mentalist” and “In Plain Sight.” What streaming platforms such as Netflix and Hulu have provided is a cut above what you would find on NBC’s weekly slate of shows and movies. One can only hope the writing finds a good meeting point in between what you’ve heard in the past 15 quirky detective shows and something unique and fresh.

Patinkin at the lead gets you halfway before the first hour even shows up. He’s a talented actor who really knows how to bury the lead when reading dialogue, and always finds a route to being provocative on screen, no matter the role. More than that, I don’t think there’s a more proudly Jewish actor. Patinkin’s relatives descended from Poland and Russia, and he was raised in Conservative Judaism. He attended religious classes every day from age 7 to 14 and sang in synagogue choirs.

Last year in an emotional video on “Finding Your Roots,” he broke down in tears finding out he had family who perished in the Holocaust. All of this just makes you root for him to continue his fine career in Hollywood.

If a bigger chunk of the pie in “Career Opportunities in Murder and Mayhem” along with a drama-comedy hybrid role show us quite another shade of his skills, we are for a treat this spring/summer.