“You’d think that you would have to go through a very, very arduous process of auditioning,” says Pedro Pascal of booking his major role in Wonder Woman 1984. “Prove it to them, show them that you can do it. But they didn’t do that to me, and I was just shocked. And so that’s how it happened. It was one of those things that will probably never happen again, but I’ll take it.” It seems like just another sizzling shimmer on the hot streak that Pedro Pascal is currently on. A hard working character actor since the mid-1990s (with credits including NYPD Blue, The Good Wife, Touched By An Angel, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and many, many more), Pascal grabbed hold of the public consciousness when he played the charismatic Prince Oberyn Martell on the TV phenomenon, Game Of Thrones. A skilled warrior, roaring pants-man and unlikely moral compass, Oberyn was one of the show’s truly likeable characters, which made his horrific death – in which his skull was crushed by the bare hands of the mammoth mountain, Gregor Clegane, in one of the show’s most inventively gruesome moments – even more unbearable. It remains, however, an unforgettable pop cultural moment.
That led to Pascal’s role in the hit Netflix crime drama, Narcos, and then to his headlining turn in the smash hit Disney + Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian, which has been pivotal in course-correcting a certain galaxy far, far away after a few divisive big screen efforts. Pascal now scores another plum role, this time essaying the role of powerful 1980s businessman and big time bad guy, Maxwell Lord, a DC Comics mainstay who now gives Diana Prince major cause for concern in Wonder Woman 1984. The role almost feels like a pre-destined one for the Chilean-born actor, who actually appeared in David E. Kelley’s notoriously failed 2011 Wonder Woman TV pilot starring Adriane Palicki in the title role, and also featured for Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins in another failed TV pilot in the form of 2015’s Exposed. Pedro Pascal’s moment is very much now…
What was your experience of the 80s?
“Well, I was born in 1975 in Chile, and I got to the States in 1977, so I grew up in 1980s North America. We were enormous consumers. My parents were very young, so they took us to many movies and concerts. I saw more than I would ever see in my adult life. I saw The Police in Austin when I was four-years-old, and Iggy Pop opened for them! I saw The Pretenders, Madonna – that was my sister’s birthday present – Tears For Fears, The Rolling Stones, Guns ‘N’ Roses. My mother was obsessed with Prince. That was my parents’ idea of doing something with the family, rather than a birthday party with a pony or something like that. It was the San Antonio basketball team games, movies and concerts. And cable TV, when I was seven-years-old. I wasn’t allowed to see The Breakfast Club though. My dad was like, ‘These kids complaining about their parents all day long! You’re not seeing that!’ But it was our first VHS rental, because they had a last minute cancellation with a babysitter and they’re like, ‘All right, we’ve got to rent the movies to make them sit and just not do anything while we’re gone.’ And they were like, ‘Fine. Rent The Breakfast Club!’”
What about comic books?
“I didn’t get into comic books until later, when my parents had two more boys. I started to look at comics to start forcing them on my little brothers, because I thought that would be interesting. My experience with DC superheroes would be the Richard Donner Superman movie, which is brilliant. And Underoos [children’s underwear]. My sister had Wonder Woman and I had Spiderman. And then the comics that I got into later in life were the darker graphic novels.”
Do you feel pressure with being involved with such a beloved franchise and character?
“I do. But what’s so lucky about this experience is that I was being held by Patty Jenkins. It was a safe, creative, exploratory experience, just as much as any small stage play that I might do in New York. It was very weird, and endlessly surprising for me to feel so creatively fulfilled and challenged, in something that’s a mega budgeted, super popular genre film. That is a testament to so many things involved, but primarily it’s about Patty. She loves actors and really demands that you bring your best self to it, because she’s providing the best experience. It was an exciting and creatively challenging experience. More so than I’ve had in the past. I wasn’t just about navigating the special effects and action. It was an acting challenge, and a truly creative experience.”
Did you still have fun though?
“Oh, yeah. I couldn’t believe it. And it’s being used in the movie! Kristen and I were having so much fun, and then suddenly we were flooded with shame because we felt like we were wasting an entire crew’s day because they wouldn’t be able to use any of the stuff that we were doing. We were laughing so hard and making up lines. And then Patty showed me the clips and it’s in the fucking movie! Pardon my French. I couldn’t believe it. I never thought that they would use that stuff, but it’s in the movie.”
You character, Maxwell Lord, is a powerful business magnate in the 1980s…was Donald Trump any kind of influence?
“Trump was such a presence in the 1980s. He was such a representation of that have-it-all mentality: go after it by any means necessary. I think sadly that somebody like Maxwell Lord probably would’ve idolised Trump in the 80s. And then he would’ve grown out of it and not voted for him. We didn’t really discuss Trump though. There were maybe some visual references. Lindy Hemming, our costume designer, is a genius, and her mood board had a lot of references. There was Gordon Gekko from Wall Street. The polish of somebody like that was mixed with the tackiness and smartness of somebody like Trump. There was also that eighties power suit, American Psycho kind of quality…but not polished…more, a little tacky, which we love!”
What do you think of the female aspect of the Wonder Woman films?
“There’s something in the films that is very moving for everyone. When you see Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, crossing no man’s land to defeat the enemy in the WWI scenes, and doing it on her own….wow, that was just such a viscerally powerful and moving thing to see. It was very strange to be moved to tears over an action sequence. It happened to me and it happened to all my friends. There is just something so completely feminine about this. And I mean that word not to isolate it from anything else, but as in what is part of all of our experience in just being human beings. The power of her femininity. The nurturing aspect and the badass-ery in all of it. And to see that encompassed in this superhero so beautifully through the vision of Patty Jenkins is beyond politics. It’s just a valuable experience for everybody because it is our experience.”
What project was it where you realised that things were changing for you in terms of your career? Narcos? Game Of Thrones? Was there a single moment for you? Was there one single moment?
“It’s called a head squish. Yeah, absolutely. I was doing a play in New York while the fourth season of Game Of Thrones was airing on television. I’ve lived in New York for twenty years, so I used to ride the subway to work every day. And as the role continued through the season, the way that I would get reactions on the subway was really interesting. People would just make eye contact with you and you’d get this big smile. And so the luck of getting to follow up Game Of Thrones with something like Narcos was just luck. It’s just luck…you feel like a passenger to the experience. What the hell did I do for that to happen? I was a jobbing actor since I was in my early twenties, but it all changed when I did Game Of Thrones.”
How do you feel about the fan attention?
“Well, I was thinking about this. I’m no spring chicken, if you know what that means. So, as far as large exposure is concerned, I am sort of fully cooked. There’s still tons for me to learn. There’s still tons for me to experience, but I am a little set in my ways. And in the morning, the only thing that really matters to me is getting a coffee. And so I still feel much more connected to who I am, than to what people think you are. But if I haven’t showered, and if I’ve got just one eye open, looking for a coffee shop, and you’re taking pictures with people, I mostly feel bad for them that they’re getting such an ugly picture!”
Wonder Woman 1984 is released in cinemas on December 26. Click here for our interview with Gal Gadot and Kristen Wiig.