With the late-2019 premiere of the Disney+ exclusive Star Wars television series The Mandalorian, Pedro Pascal’s name has been a constant topic of discussion in the entertainment industry. The buzz around Pascal is well-earned, as his portrayal of the show’s lead character — the Mandalorian a.k.a Din Djarin — was impressive, to say the least.
The arrival of the first live-action Star Wars television series was met with the bated breath of an enormous fan base with very high expectations. Upon its premiere, it was clear that series creator Jon Favreau certainly knew what he was doing when he cast Pascal as the show’s lead. After all, it takes a certain kind of actor to bring that level of allure to a masked character suited up in stiff, heavy armor. However, Pascal pulled it off flawlessly with the deeply layered verbal delivery of his lines and body language that subsequently spoke volumes.
Okay, so you’ve binged the entire first season of The Mandalorian and you’re still craving more of Pascal’s acting talents. And perhaps it would be nice to get a glimpse at his face for more than 10 seconds as well. Although joining the Star Wars universe has certainly skyrocketed him to a new level of fame, Pascal is no stranger to film and television.
With that being said, there are a handful of must-see roles that Pascal has had over the years.
Warning: Spoilers ahead for various films and television!
Game of Thrones (2014)
Other than The Mandalorian, Pascal’s most well-known role is that of Prince Oberyn Martell in HBO’s fantasy series Game of Thrones. He portrayed the suave Red Viper of Dorne for seven episodes of the show’s fourth season, a character that immediately became a fan favorite despite his untimely demise at the hands of The Mountain (…literally). Pascal was a fan of Game of Thrones before joining its cast, and it was clear that he worked hard to ensure his character would leave a lasting mark on one of the most epic television shows of all time.
At just about any given time throughout the course of Game of Thrones, there was a lot going on. The series had an enormous cast and constantly traversed back and forth across Westeros to follow the multiple ongoing plots during each episode. And yet, despite all of this, Pascal managed to truly stand out when he brought Oberyn Martell from the pages of A Storm of Swords to the screen. Pascal did not take the fact that Dorne is largely isolated from the rest of the Seven Kingdoms lightly; he brought to life a wonderfully unique and fascinating character that was nothing like any of the other residents of Westeros that had been introduced up until that point. Oberyn was a skilled fighter with a passionate temper and infamous sexual appetites, a multi-faceted personality which Pascal balanced impeccably. Though his death only came in at the show’s halfway point, and was followed by many more after, Oberyn Martell remained a sorely missed and beloved character by fans through till the very end.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
The action-packed and fairly comedic Kingsman films follow the exploits of a secret spy organization. Pascal appeared in the second Kingsman film, The Golden Circle, as Jack Daniels a.k.a. Agent Whiskey, waltzing on screen with a cowboy hat, a mischievous smile, and a smooth southern drawl. The Golden Circle was packed full of big names like Colin Firth, Channing Tatum, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges, Elton John, and Halle Berry. So Pascal had a large group of talent to contend with, but he still managed to command and steal the scenes that Jack Daniels appeared in. This is a testament to the confident and alluring presence that he consistently brings to his roles, drawing the rapt attention of viewers when he’s on-screen.
This wasn’t Pascal’s first role that required him to wield a weapon, but his character’s array of tools and the way he used them were far more complex and cinematically challenging. Though there were special effects involved in the magic behind Whiskey’s formidable lasso, Pascal still had to make his own contribution to the choreography of the scenes — the final product of which is one of the aspects that make his character so appealing.
Agent Whiskey ultimately is revealed to be a villainous traitor to the Statesmen, but Pascal brings depth and humanity to him before the big reveal in such a way that the audience can be fooled into trusting him up until the moment that things go south. And also, it’s worth mentioning that it’s debatable as to whether or not any other actor could pull off that winter cowboy look quite as well as Pascal did — yeehaw.
The Great Wall (2016)
The Great Wall, which was Pascal’s first studio film, begins as an action film following a band of European mercenaries traveling across ancient China in search of black powder. William Garin (Matt Damon) and Pascal’s character, Pero Tovar, eventually find themselves at the Great Wall and are taken prisoners by a secret army called the Nameless Order. Action then quickly morphs into fantasy as monstrous alien creatures — known as Tao Tei — descend upon the Wall.
This is yet another role in which Pascal is situated in an ancient fantasy world, but his character is quite different from that of Oberyn Martell. Though the two share a snappy, somewhat hardened, and sometimes humorous attitude, that is where the commonalities end. Whereas Oberyn is all bare chest, flashy robes, and sensual punchlines, Tovar is rugged, battle-scarred, and suited up like a soldier (Think Oberyn in “The Mountain and the Viper”, but less martial arts-style spear twirling and more rough sword fighting.) Tovar isn’t the main character in this story, but nonetheless Pascal makes good use of his screen time to make the character memorable.
To even better appreciate Pascal’s role in The Great Wall, it’s important to recognize that being cast in this film was a huge personal landmark in his career. Pascal has said that he grew up with a love for foreign films, and he’s been a fan of director Zhang Yimou’s work since he was a teenager. “I’m not lying when I say … there wasn’t a moment in my life that I ever imagined I would get to be in a movie directed by Zhang Yimou.”
Triple Frontier (2019)
Triple Frontier follows the story of five friends, who are also former special forces operatives, that get the gang back together in hopes of taking down a South American drug lord and making some cash along the way. The friends in question are an all-star cast, including Pascal’s real-life pal Oscar Isaac and also Ben Affleck, Charlie Hunnam, and Garrett Hedlund. This film was all location-based shooting, which presented a considerable physical challenge for the cast (but they all certainly pulled it off!) And in particular, Triple Frontier took Pascal back to Colombia for a portion of its filming, where he had already spent an extended period of time for his television series Narcos.
Even with this impressive cast lineup, Pascal manages to holds his ground in his portrayal of Francisco “Catfish” Morales. Catfish is the quieter one in the group of five, with a personality that gives off far less of a presence than Isaac’s determined Pope or Affleck’s hot-headed Redfly. He’s brought on the mission not only for his special forces training, but also because he’s a pilot (and that money they’re taking needs to fly.) Throughout the film, he’s also generally the driver when a vehicle is involved. Though Catfish was written to fall more into the background among the group, his character is coded as an important pillar to ensuring the success of the mission.
Pascal also makes the absolute most of his lines when the spotlight falls on Catfish, especially in the moments when things really start to hit the fan and his calm and quiet demeanor quickly slips away in the blink of an eye. In those scenes, Pascal quickly flips a switch and portrays a man that carries a heavy weight on his shoulders finally hitting his breaking point. At the point in the film when the helicopter carrying their bounty begins to struggle on the team’s journey through the Andes, Catfish is concerned but wears the stoic attitude of a pilot. But then when disaster is truly imminent and quick decisions need to be made, palpable anger and panic bleed out into the orders Pascal shouts out to the team.
Prospect is one of the smaller productions on this list, and it’s truly a hidden gem. Pascal is given a well-deserved chance to flex his muscles as a lead actor, and he and Sophie Thatcher carry the film beautifully from start to finish. Stranded on an alien moon after the death of her father, Thatcher’s teenage character Cee is forced to fend for herself. Pascal’s character, Ezra, enters the film as what appears to be a villainous character, as he is responsible for the unfortunate situation that Cee finds herself in. The two are forced to work together to fight for survival throughout the course of the movie. Across Pascal’s work, it’s clear that he has a knack for establishing a rapport and great chemistry with just about any actor that he shares a scene with, regardless of gender or age. Prospect is a wonderful example of this, as the plot line of a rough-around-the-edges “bad guy” character teaming up with a teenage girl could have easily flopped with the wrong duo. However, Pascal was able to portray a beautifully dynamic personality in Ezra, carefully threading trust between the characters as he begins to drop the walls of his intimidating exterior.
One of the film’s strongest scenes is when Cee is forced to cut off Ezra’s arm in order to save him; Pascal’s performance is mesmerizing as he is tasked with unveiling an unseen layer of vulnerability from within his character while also remaining strong for the young girl in front of him. As the film’s conclusion draws near, it’s borderline heart-wrenching to see that Cee is left to make the difficult decision to leave an injured Ezra behind (but she doesn’t, just kidding!) Managing to make the audience feel and root for a character that isn’t necessarily introduced as a hero is a trait of a talented actor, so hats off to Pascal for this incredible performance.
Narcos is undoubtedly Pascal’s strongest role in his career thus far, and also his first as a series regular for a television show. The Netflix series follows the true story of the criminal exploits of Pablo Escobar and other drug kingpins in Colombia through the years. Pascal portrays real life (now retired) DEA agent Javier Peña, who is paired up with DEA agent Steve Murphy (played by Boyd Holbrook). Murphy flies in from the United States at the opening of the series, and he’s in for a rude awakening when he meets his new partner Peña and learns that being a DEA agent in Colombia is an entirely different ball game than the world that he’s used to.
From the moment that Javier Peña shows up in his first scene, Pascal threads a magnetically captivating undertone into the essence of his character. Whereas Holbrook’s Agent Murphy is all sharp edges, he contrasts greatly with Peña’s laid back and charming personality. But, as with many of Pedro’s roles, this character is far more dynamic than first meets the eye. As the severity of the situation at hand grows and the casualties continue to pile up, Peña changes, adapts, and evolves because of what he’s been through and what he’s lost in the process. Pascal’s delivery of the complexity of his character, especially when he reaches the point of desperation to eventually break DEA protocol, is enthralling.
Following the events of Pablo Escobar’s death at the end of the second season, Holbrook’s character exits the show while Pascal’s Peña is called back to Colombia to assist in taking down the DEA’s next target — the Medellín Cartel. With Holbrook gone, this left Pascal responsible for narrating the third season from the perspective of Peña. Narration was key throughout the show, as it helped set the mood and guide the audience through the unbelievable events that took place. Though Agent Murphy had been the sole narrator for two seasons, the transition to Agent Peña’s perspective was seamless. Pascal took on the new facet of his role with ease and truly helped carry the success of the show’s final season in Colombia.
And if that’s not enough … perhaps it’s the killer combination of aviators and a mustache, or maybe it’s the way he effortlessly switches between English and Spanish, but whatever it is … Pascal’s performance in this series is a true achievement of his career.
King Lear (2019)
The big screen isn’t the only place where Pascal has flexed his acting talents, as the New York-based actor has also made the rounds in quite a few different theater productions throughout the years. Most recently, he made his official Broadway debut with his performance as Edmund in King Lear, director Sam Gold’s revival of the William Shakespeare classic. The play previewed in February of 2019, and then ran from April through June at the Cort Theatre.
Pascal’s work as an actor over the years has challenged him to transform into vastly different characters, and he does so with ease. He’s juggled different accents, languages, time periods, and worlds, and though his signature mustache often remains, he manages to completely absorb himself in the persona of each of his roles. It’s also worth examining the fact that morally gray characteristics are a common trait in many of his characters, even if they may otherwise have very little in common. Portraying this type of complex character is a specialty of his, which will hopefully lead to even more challenging and impressive roles for Pascal in the future.
Catch Pascal is his latest upcoming role as Max Lord in the sequel film Wonder Woman 1984, which will hit theaters on June 5. Season 2 of The Mandalorian is also on the horizon, set to premiere this fall.