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10 Quick Questions for Mandy Patinkin

Actor stars in new Hulu series ‘Death and Other Details’

spinner image mandy patinkin against yellow ombre background
Photo Collage: MOA; (Source: Christopher Polk/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

Award-winning actor Mandy Patinkin, 71, stars as detective Rufus Cotesworth in the new Hulu murder mystery series Death and Other Details. “I read the script for the pilot, and I thought it was quite witty and wonderful and fun,” he says of the show, which premieres Jan. 16. Patinkin shares his upcoming projects as well as his love for life, traveling and spending time with his 2-year-old grandson.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Your new show is titled Death and Other Details. Do you consider yourself a detail-oriented person?

I’m not sure. I don’t like to think about death, and I don’t like to think about details. I like to take walks and sing songs and play with my grandchild, and figure out what we’re going to have for dinner. I like to figure out if we — my wife [actress Kathryn Grody] who doesn’t like to cook — can make anything different other than rice and vegetables.

So you’re the cook in the family?

I like to cook and [my wife] likes it when I cook, but we’ve gotten a little lazy as times roll out. We have certain favorites. My mother [Doralee Patinkin Rubin] was a great cook, and she wrote two cookbooks. I make tuna burgers, and the tuna burgers are my favorite thing from when I was a kid. I make them whenever I want comfort food.

spinner image violett beane as imogene scott and mandy patinkin as rufus cotesworth in a still from death and other details
Patinkin stars alongside actress Violett Beane in Hulu's murder mystery series “Death and Other Details.”
Courtesy: Hulu

Your new series takes place on a luxury cruise ship. Are you a fan of cruises?

We did it once years ago. I think it was one of the worst experiences of my life. The biggest memory was when we jumped off the boat to swim to this area near the island, and before you arrived … the boat horn went [off, signaling it was time to reboard]. The minute you got anywhere, it went “Hurry up back.” It was like being in the garden, where as soon as you’re enjoying the play, they want you to do something else. I’m not the poster boy for cruises.

Other than cruising, do you enjoy traveling?

I love, love, love traveling. I love being on the move. The morning of July 5, I took my electric car — that I was afraid to ever take any long distance other than about 90 miles — I took it all the way down from upstate New York to Hollywood, Florida, to visit a dear friend of mine and take some walks with him. Then I drove from there with my dog, Becky, from Hollywood, Florida, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Then to the middle of Colorado [for] family stuff, and then my wife met me there, and then she and I drove all the way back home. I’ve been on tour doing solo concerts since about 1989. You get in the car, you go to the airport, you fly to the place, you get in the car, you go to the hotel, you sleep, you go to the theater, you do the concert — and then you reverse the whole process to the next city. You’re always moving. And that’s what I love. It makes me feel alive. And I’m very relaxed. If the plane gets canceled for any reason, there’s nobody more OK with it than me. I’m happy to just sit there or go to a hotel for the day.

On your solo road trips, how do you pass the time?

Well, no one can believe this, but I like quiet. I like absolute quiet. I look at the scenery. I love it. I must say, I had one conversation about Winnie-the-Pooh with a friend of mine, and while I was on the road trip he sent me a link to an extraordinary British recording — like a book on tape — of these Brits doing it with Stephen Fry and I think Jane Horrocks and Judi Dench and other people. It was one of the greatest things I ever listened to. I listened to it twice. That was all I listened to in the five weeks I was on the road. My wife and I have a deal. If she’s in the car with me, she brings her earphones because she likes to listen to podcasts 24/7. So she sits there and listens and I drive in the quiet.

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Do you have any goals for 2024?

I’m working on a couple of new concerts with my piano player/collaborator Adam Ben-David. I just did a play reading of a new play … and we’re going to work on it more. I found it really captivating. So I’m going to be putting some time and energy into that. We created our own television series from our social media — my wife and myself and my son Gideon [Grody-Patinkin]. His writing partner/director friend Ewen Wright wrote it. … We have the pilot made already and we have the other scripts in the can, and so as soon as things settle down from the strike, we’ll be trying to find a new home for that. That’s our number one goal.

So, it doesn’t sound like you plan to slow down anytime soon?

I feel like there’s enough of a break coming, and I don’t want to waste my time right now. I love being alive, I love my family and I love the world, and I love beautiful days. A beautiful day today — I took a gorgeous walk and ran a concert [in my head]. I run a concert so I don’t forget the songs. I’ve got about 12 hours of songs in my head. And that’s how I begin my day. It’s sort of a walking, singing meditation.

What’s your favorite thing to do when not working?

To spend as much time as I can with my grandchild. I got him a fish tank. I spent two weeks getting the water adjusted. I got a few fish and so we’ll do that. He’s getting to that point where he’s saying everything and he’s game for anything and everything. I just put new straps on all our snowshoes so that they’re ready for the first snow and cross-country skiing. We live in upstate New York, so we get [to do] a lot of cross-country skiing and family fun stuff. We hang out a lot and do a lot of hiking. That’s our game.

Looking back, do you have any regrets?

No. I got to tell you, I think the mistakes in life that we’ve made — which some call them mistakes, some call them regrets — I think those are the greatest gifts we’re ever given. Because the corny answer is the successes, they pat you on the back and send you on your way. But the mistakes or the troubles, they’re the ones you turn them upside down, inside out, and they teach you who you are. And without them I don’t know who I would be. Every one of them is essential to my growth, my existence. And so I always tell my children, my friends, my loved ones, anybody who is willing to listen, that every time you have a difficulty, a trouble or whatever, consider it a blessing, consider it a gift. Because that’s where you grow and that’s where you learn.

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Is there any other life advice you like to share?

I have two pieces of advice. The first I give is in e.e. cummings’ words: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.” The other piece of advice … was [spoken by] my dear friend Mark Harrington, who unfortunately passed away a number of years ago. … We were in Colorado and we got the call and we quickly rushed home. He got his strength together and he sat up in the bed and I gave him a spoonful of morphine and he looked at us and he said, “Have fun.” Those are the last things he said to us. The next day, he went off in the wild blue. I must say, it’s the best goal anyone could wish for. And it’s easier said than done. But any day that you don’t have fun, just remember, tomorrow’s another day, and you get another chance at it.

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