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The Untold Truth Of Pedro Pascal

Pedro Pascal's time as a proper Hollywood A-lister only extends back 10 years, but in that time, the Chilean-American actor has entrenched himself so deeply into the world of films, TV, and pop culture that it feels like audiences have been collectively fawning over him for a lot longer than that.

A certifiable leading man, an accomplished thespian, a committed political activist, and an internationally recognized sex symbol, Pascal has been central to the past decade in entertainment like few other talents in front of the camera. Anyone who's into movies and TV knows that he's been collecting high-profile starring roles since his 2014 "Game of Thrones" breakout role, and that his snarky, self-deprecating goofball charisma has made him one of the most endearing media personalities even when he's not on set. Any remotely attentive follower of the celebrity world knows about his decades-long friendships with fellow internet darlings Oscar Isaac and Sarah Paulson.

But, for as much of Pascal as we see nowadays, there's still a lot about him that the casual fan may not know. A relatively late bloomer in terms of mainstream success, Pascal has a life and career trajectory just as full of suspense, improbable turns, wry humor, and — yes — heroism as his best ventures on the screen. Take a dive into the fascinating story of this great performer with these interesting facts about Pedro Pascal.

Pedro Pascal's family fled the Pinochet dictatorship

Pedro Pascal was born in Chile in 1975, and his proudly Chilean identity has always been central to his public image. But what not everybody knows is that the circumstances that prompted Pascal's move to the United States at a young age were incredibly serious.

In 1975, the United States-backed Chilean military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet was just two years in, and, as it happened, Pascal's family had developed close ties with the country's resistance movement at that time. His mother's cousin, Andrés Pascal Allende, was the nephew of overthrown socialist president Salvador Allende, and had an active leadership role in the Revolutionary Left Movement. And, although Pascal's parents weren't originally revolutionaries themselves, they eventually made a choice to help dissidents, which resulted in them becoming a target for Pinochet's infamously bloody and repressive regime.

As detailed in a 2020 Variety profile, Pascal's parents were then forced to go into hiding, temporarily leaving him and his sister in the care of their aunt. Then, when Pedro was just nine months old, the family managed to climb the walls of the Venezuelan embassy in Santiago and request asylum. From there, they fled the country to Denmark and finally to the United States, where they settled down in San Antonio, Texas. Not until eight years later was the family able to start taking trips back to Chile to visit the relatives and friends they left behind.

He took up his mother's last name as an homage to her

Pedro Pascal's full name is José Pedro Balmaceda Pascal, and, as per Spanish language naming custom, he originally went by his first surname, Balmaceda, after his father José Balmaceda Riera — that's how he was credited on early TV guest spots like "Touched by an Angel" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." But in 1999, he decided to change his artistic name from Pedro Balmaceda to Pedro Pascal to honor his mother, child psychologist Verónica Pascal Ureta, who died that year, shortly after having been able to move back to Chile.

Before settling on Pedro Pascal, he also tried out Alexander Pascal — after the classic Ingmar Bergman film "Fanny and Alexander" — in hopes that dropping both "Pedro" and "Balmaceda" would reduce the amount of casting director confusion he was met with due to his Chilean name, as he revealed to Variety in 2020. That name appeared on the credits of his guest appearance on "NYPD Blue" in 2001.

Verónica's death left Pascal rattled, and his career was brought to a near-standstill in its aftermath. The actor credits his start as both an actor and a human being to his mother, whom he has described as endlessly supportive and wise. "I always felt like she knew something that I didn't," the actor told People Magazine in 2020. "None of [my success] would be real if it weren't for her."

He got into theater after moving to California

During his early life, Pedro Pascal and his family moved around a lot. After relocating to the U.S. with baby Pedro in tow, the Balmaceda clan moved from San Antonio to Orange County, California when Pascal was 11 years old. That move was not the starting point of Pascal's infatuation with acting — as he dished during his appearance on "Hot Ones," he already had dreams of movie stardom by then — but it certainly helped crystallize those dreams.

Knowing her son was itching to use the move to California as a springboard into the acting world, Pascal's mother helped him find a place to start. That place ended up being South Coast Repertory, a well-reputed local theater company in Costa Mesa, where Pascal first started getting in with theater kids. In parallel to his time at SCR, Pascal also studied acting at his school, Orange County School of the Arts. In his senior year, he got the opportunity to watch "Angels in America" during its original pre-Broadway run, and the Tony Kushner play had a profound impact on him, solidifying his decision to make acting his career. He then moved again, this time to New York City, to pursue a degree from Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

To this day, Pascal is an active and prolific stage actor, having appeared in dozens of theater productions in New York throughout his career, with the most recent being "King Lear" at the James Earl Jones Theatre in 2019.

He was a competitive swimmer for some time

Like all the most interesting actors, Pedro Pascal has led many lives. Although he started getting serious about acting at a rather early age, he had another promising career path available even before that — a career in the sports world, for that matter. Years before he started diving deep into challenging roles, Pascal was diving into Olympic pools.

As a child, he had a strong run as a competitive swimmer, winning awards and even going so far as to compete in the Texas state championships at age 11, as he revealed in a 2014 Reddit AMA. Eventually, he fell in love with drama and quit competing — but still described himself, decades later, as being "very comfortable in the water."

While taking Vanity Fair's lie detector test in 2022, Pascal revealed that he had no plans to get back into competitive swimming. Probed for a reason, he simply said, "Because I'm too lazy."

He supported himself by working as a waiter

Most movie and TV stars have a long and winding road to success, but it could be said that Pedro Pascal's was even longer than most. Although he started acting in short films in 1996 and booking TV show guest spots in 1999, it took more than a decade of weathering the often limited and stereotypical options available to Latino actors in Hollywood before he started landing truly substantial roles. During that time, like a lot of struggling actors, Pascal supported himself with a day job. And, by his own admission, it was one he wasn't particularly good at.

As Pascal told Vanity Fair, he used to work as a waiter while trying to find success as an actor, but his temperament sometimes clashed with the job's requirements. "If I liked you, I liked you, and if I didn't, I didn't. And that didn't necessarily go well with having a bunch of customers," he said. As a result, Pascal was fired — again and again and again. "Upwards of, I don't know, maybe close to 10 times," he revealed.

He became close friends with Robin Tunney on the set of The Mentalist

One of the first roles that brought Pedro Pascal a higher measure of visibility was Marcus Pike, the FBI agent on CBS's "The Mentalist" who romances Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney) and nearly marries her, further complicating the series-long relationship tension between Lisbon and protagonist Patrick Jane (Simon Baker). Although Pascal only appeared in seven episodes, the two characters' relationship was compelling enough to fuel years of tabloid speculation about a potential offscreen fling between Pascal and Lisbon. Pascal, who's notoriously private about his personal life, has never addressed the rumors directly — but he has spoken about becoming close friends with Tunney.

In a 2019 interview with GQ about his most iconic characters, Pascal noted that "The Mentalist" was important in his life because it was the job that introduced him to Tunney, whom he describes as one of his best pals in real life. "She was kind of like the film indie queen through the '90s, just so beautiful and such a good actress, and then we became such good friends," Pascal remarked.

He got the idea to audition for Game of Thrones from an acting mentee

Recurring roles on "The Mentalist," "The Good Wife," and "Graceland" had already contributed significantly to raising Pedro Pascal's profile by the time he appeared on "Game of Thrones." But even so, playing Oberyn Martell on the HBO fantasy series, a whole fifteen years after his TV acting debut, was undoubtedly Pascal's big breakthrough. And he fought hard for that moment, too.

As Pascal revealed in an interview with Seth Meyers in 2016 (via Collider), the idea to try out for the role of Oberyn came from a younger fellow USC graduate who he was mentoring at the time. The pupil in question was getting ready to read for Oberyn even though he'd never seen "Game of Thrones," and asked Pascal for help with his audition. Pascal, who was a massive fan of the show, identified deeply with Oberyn and decided to also put in an attempt at getting the role.

After helping his mentee record his audition, Pascal recorded a tape of his own on his iPhone, and then called in the help of an old friend — Sarah Paulson — to get that tape into the right hands. As it happened, Paulson was friends with actress Amanda Peet, who is married to "Game of Thrones" co-showrunner David Benioff. After a few calls, the audition tape reached Benioff and fellow "Game of Thrones" captain D. B. Weiss, and the rest is history.

He got along well with the real Javier Peña while shooting Narcos

If "Game of Thrones" was Pedro Pascal's first dip into mainstream stardom, Netflix's "Narcos" was his first opportunity to be the lead of a high-profile project. Although his character, DEA agent Javier Peña, fulfilled a more secondary role to Boyd Holbrook's Steve Murphy in the first two seasons, he eventually became the de-facto protagonist in Season 3. Pascal's performance as Peña in the season earned him some of the best reviews of his career.

Like most of the principal characters in "Narcos," Javier Peña was based on a real person. The real Peña and Murphy both worked as consultants on the Netflix show, and meeting the real-life inspiration for his character was a key part of Pascal's process. As he told GQ, he met Peña before even meeting the showrunners, and the two got along well. "He was a great guy. He's just a really relaxed, easygoing guy, he's not expecting anything from you, he's not putting any kind of pressure on you," the actor said. "He's just like, 'Hey, what's up? I like Coors Light, what do you like?'"

He initially thought The Mandalorian was casting him as Boba Fett

Din Djarin on "The Mandalorian" holds the distinction of being one of Pedro Pascal's most iconic roles so far, without being quite so associated with him as some of the other ones — which makes sense, considering the fact that he's playing a guy who's got a helmet on nearly 100% of the time. In that sense, it's a role that truly mirrors the nature of Boba Fett, the legendary Mandalorian bounty hunter who even some "Star Wars" fans don't know was played by Jeremy Bulloch in the original films.

In contemporary "Star Wars" projects, Boba Fett is played, of course, by Temuera Morrison. But, for a brief moment in time, Pascal thought that he was the one stepping into the green-armored bounty hunter's boots. Back when he first met "The Mandalorian" creator Jon Favreau in his office, Pascal saw illustrations and concept art for Din Djarin and assumed him to be Fett. When Favreau finally revealed that Pascal would be playing "the Mandalorian," he immediately surmised that to be just an adjective in reference to Fett's cultural background. "I was like, 'WHAT? I get to play Boba Fett?' He said, 'No, he's not Boba Fett. He's the Mandalorian.' I couldn't have imagined a better moment," Pascal recounted (via CBR).

He had a connection to the Wonder Woman universe prior to Wonder Woman 1984

Having broken out as a hot up-and-comer in Hollywood during the 2010s, it was inevitable that Pedro Pascal's career path would eventually lead him to the set of a superhero film. In 2020, he starred in "Wonder Woman 1984" as oil mogul villain Maxwell "Max Lord" Lorenzano. Interestingly, however, the Patty Jenkins film wasn't his first brush with the "Wonder Woman" universe.

As it happens, Pascal had nearly gotten his ticket to stardom years prior to Oberyn's season on "Game of Thrones," all the way back in 2011, when he played Ed Indelicato on the infamous, unaired "Wonder Woman" television pilot penned for NBC by David E. Kelley, starring Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman. A police officer who serves as a bridge between Diana of Themyscira and human law enforcement in the comics, Indelicato would presumably have been a major character in the series — but the pilot was ultimately not picked up by NBC. Even so, Pascal was proud of the project, telling Entertainment Weekly in 2020 that he was devastated when it got scrapped. "I love Adrianne Palicki. I love David E. Kelley. And I thought it was a very, very risky and interesting take in terms of what they were trying to do," the actor said.

Funnily enough, Pascal had also previously worked with "Wonder Woman" and "Wonder Woman 1984" director Patty Jenkins on another unaired pilot, 2015's "Exposed."

He loves to namesearch

In addition to his incredible performances and blazing onscreen charisma, a major reason why Pedro Pascal became so beloved so fast is his generally lovable personality in real life. Fans of the actor are well aware of his optimistic relationship to fame and his tendency to goof around and have fun with his own celebrity status — but what not everybody knows is that Pascal also has a habit of checking in on his own social media fandom.

While taking Vanity Fair's polygraph test, Pascal admitted to having the occasional look at Instagram fan accounts devoted to his status as a heartthrob when he's feeling down, with his favorite being an account by the name of "Pedro Pascal Fan Account." Later on in the same interview, he also confessed to sometimes searching for his own name on X, formerly known as Twitter — a tendency that has resulted in various delightful interactions with fans over the years, as his most devoted stans might remember.

He is a passionate ally to the LGBTQ+ community

Pedro Pascal's massive fan base includes a significant queer contingent — but it's not just because of his movie star looks or his grizzled, silver fox charm. Fittingly for an actor who first emerged onto the world stage playing a dashing, unapologetic bisexual man, Pascal has been a vocal advocate and ally to the LGBTQ+ community throughout his life.

He has used his social media platforms many times to show support for LGBTQ+ rights and the queer movement, with a particular focus on uplifting Black trans women, per PinkNews. Even more notably, he has been a fierce lifelong supporter of his sister, actress Lux Pascal, who has credited Pedro with being a guiding light during her transition process. "[Lux] is and has always been one of the most powerful people and personalities I've ever known. My protective side is lethal, but I need her more than she needs me," Pascal told Esquire in 2023.

Although he has received a lot of credit for being so vocal about his love for his sister and the transgender community more broadly even in a time of reactionary backlash against trans rights in the United States, Pascal doesn't take his allyship lightly. "My entire heart is set on, you know, the marginalized underdog. It's not a choice. Like, how dare anyone not support the people that are deserving of support ... The truth is that I don't think I do nearly enough," he told Wired in 2023.

He remains politically outspoken and engaged to this day

When it comes to Pedro Pascal, political engagement and activism run in the family. In the nearly five decades since the actor's clan fled the Pinochet regime, Pascal has not distanced himself from progressivism, nor has he ever shied away from voicing his political beliefs and fighting for them.

In 2022, he famously became one of the most high-profile celebrity supporters of Chilean presidential candidate and former student leader Gabriel Boric, of the left-wing Social Convergence party. The actor and the then-candidate engaged in a social media chain in which Pascal posted a picture of himself wearing a Boric T-shirt, after which Boric posted a picture of himself wearing a T-shirt with that picture, and so forth. Boric went on to win the election and become Chile's eighth president since the re-democratization, in what was internationally noted as a major political breakthrough for the Chilean left.

Pascal's activism has gone beyond supporting Boric. He has also taken to Instagram to celebrate Donald Trump's defeat at the 2020 U.S. presidential elections, voice his support and admiration for Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and criticize the U.S. Supreme Court's 2020 anti-LGBTQ ruling, among various other displays of outspokenness throughout the years. Before he distanced himself from social networks, Pascal was also known to frequently clap back against reactionaries and conservatives who attacked him for his positions. More recently, he also joined the picket lines in the 2023 SAG-AFTRA actors' strike.

He and Bella Ramsey had never met prior to working on The Last of Us

When the casting for HBO's adaptation of "The Last of Us" was announced, fans were quick to note that the network had seemingly returned to the well of its most notorious hit series to find performers for Joel and Ellie, as Bella Ramsey had also previously appeared on "Game of Thrones" as Lyanna Mormont. But the hit post-apocalyptic zombie series could not properly be described as a "reunion" for Pedro Pascal and Ramsey, as they had never actually met while "Game of Thrones" was being made. In fact, they had never met at all prior to joining "The Last of Us."

The two actors revealed to Game Rant earlier this year that they only got the opportunity to meet when production commenced. Thankfully, chemistry developed easily between them, and their bond ended up mirroring Joel and Ellie's own gradual bonding on the show. "Maybe it was intentional on Neil [Druckmann] and Craig [Mazin]'s behalf. To not give us time to, like, meet and bond. I think it worked really well," Ramsey said.

Pascal concurred, adding, "And we did get to take it from there and we liked each other immediately, but we knew each other by the end. And that was a really, really fascinating experience."

Working with Pedro Almodóvar and Ethan Hawke was a dream come true for him

In recent years, Pedro Pascal's meteoric rise through the Hollywood ranks has resulted in him drawing the attention of several major auteur filmmakers, including Ethan Coen, Ridley Scott, and the duo of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck. One project from Pascal's recent run, however, has been particularly meaningful for him as an opportunity to work with a director he deeply admired: Pedro Almodóvar's "Strange Way of Life."

The 2023 queer Western short film brings Pascal together with Ethan Hawke, in a story about former lovers in frontier America being reunited and then torn apart again by a series of violent circumstances. When Pascal was offered the part, he jumped at the opportunity to work with Almodóvar without a second thought. "He absolutely opened up an entire world of storytelling, color, culture, rebellion, and sexuality that was just absolutely intoxicating, dangerous, hilarious, heartbreaking, and encompassing the whole spectrum, but with such a signature style," Pascal said of the revered Spanish director in a 2023 interview with Insider.

Almodóvar, incidentally, was not the project's only draw: Pascal was also eager to work with Ethan Hawke, whose movies he'd grown up watching. "To get to work with Ethan, whose movies I've seen since I was a little kid, who I've seen on stage off-Broadway, on Broadway, whose books I've read, whose plays I've seen him direct ... Taking it all in was incredible," Pascal told Insider.