Pedro Pascal: The Chilean American Actor Making a Name in Hollywood

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Pedro Pascal is unmistakable. His strong features (uniquely sexy nose, intense eyes, a face that balances chiseled angles with softness) and all-in portrayal of a wide range of characters has made the Chilean American actor a household name. But his Hollywood breakout didn’t come until later in life — after years of persistence amid family tragedies.

Pedro Pascal’s Tumultuous Early Life Began Under Pinochet’s Terrifying Reign

José Pedro Balmaceda Pascal was born April 2, 1975, in Santiago, Chile. His mother was a child psychologist, and his father was a fertility doctor. Pascal was born under Augusto Pinochet’s military regime. While his parents didn’t openly oppose the dictator, they did so in secret. He told Time Magazine that his parents got in “hot water” after helping some of Pinochet’s opposers hide. His family claimed asylum at the Venezuelan embassy and relocated to Denmark when he was still an infant. From there, the family emigrated to Texas and then California.

According to Biography, Pedro Pascal’s father was implicated in a University of California Irvine fertility clinic scandal in 1995. He and other physicians were charged with ethics violations related to taking embryos from unknowing patients, as well as tax fraud. His father avoided arrest by moving back to Chile, along with Pascal’s mother and his two younger siblings. Pascal stayed in the United States with his older sister and the two moved to New York City. His father would later plead guilty to the tax charges, but not until 2021.

In 1999, Pascal’s mother tragically took her own life. Up until her death, Pedro’s family used the last name Balmaceda. Pascal was his mother’s last name and Pedro adapted it to honor her after she passed away.

Pascal Developed a Love for Acting and Cinema at a Young Age

Pedro Pascal grew up watching movies because his father loved them. Pascal told Time that his dad would bring the family to movie theaters 2 or 3 times a week. The early exposure created an interest in the arts for young Pedro, who enrolled at Orange County School of Arts until he moved to the East Coast. In New York, Pascal attended New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of Arts.

Pascal befriended fellow actress Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story) while studying at New York University. He also was landing plenty of one-off roles, primarily in TV and shorts, as well as performed on-stage, notably in Macbeth at the Shakespeare in the Park series in NYC’s Central Park. In his early career, he used the name Pedro Balmaceda as well as Alexander Pascal. He appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Touched by an Angel, NYPD Blue, Law & Order, The Good Wife, Lights Out, CSI, Red Widow, Nikita, and Homeland. While these shows were pretty huge, Pascal usually played minor roles. It was great for building a resume, but, at the age of 38, he still hadn’t been blessed by the hand of fame. Sarah Paulson helped him change that.

How Actress Sarah Paulson Helped Pedro Pascal’s iPhone Audition Get Noticed by Game of Thrones

In an interview between Pascal and Paulson, nearly 20 years after they met, they brought up how Pascal suddenly became world famous. It was his role as Prince Oberyn on Game of Thrones. He auditioned on his iPhone.

“I found out about the role, and I taped [an audition] with my iPhone,” Pascal reminisced to Paulson. “I told you that the fourth season was absolutely ruined for me because I had just taped the 17 pages audition for this amazing new part. You said, ‘Send that to me immediately.’ You showed it to Amanda Peet, who is one of your best friends. The two of you watched it, liked it—.”

“No, we more than liked it. We flipped out,” said Paulson. “You can’t say this about yourself because it would make you a total a**hole, and I don’t think you believe this about yourself anyway, but it was so f***ing brilliant. I sent it to Amanda, and she showed it to David [Benioff; Peet’s husband] right then. The rest of it has to do with casting directors and auditions and other things that happen.”

Pascal told Time that the iPhone audition involved his friend holding the iPhone in one hand and the pages of a script in the other. His friend read the other parts while Pascal tried out for Oberyn.

From GOT to Wonder Woman to The Mandalorian: Even the Sky Can’t Hold Pascal Back

So, Pedro Pascal blew the minds of a trail of Hollywood veterans with an iPhone audition and the rest is pretty much history. As Prince Oberyn, aka The Red Viper. Game of Thrones garnered a massive and worldwide fanbase that any character with a name would be permanently recognizable on into eternity. Pascal became a highly sought-after actor after GOT. He played DEA agent Javier Peña in the Netflix series Narcos, which tells the story of Pablo Escobar and other drug lords over its 3 seasons.

In 2020, Pascal had 2 major roles and 1 that appealed to fans of the cult classic Princess Bride. He was Inigo Montoya in the Princes Bride TV series. Then he played Wonder Woman’s nemesis, Maxwell Lord, in 1984. He also played Marcus Moreno, Missy’s dad, and retired superhero, in We Can Be Heroes, the sequel to Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D.

But there was a much larger project in the works. Pascal was cast as the titular character in The Mandalorian. He’s been wearing the almighty helmet ever since while Star Wars fans are left drooling over his acting instead of his face.

Currently, Pedro Pascal lives in New York City. He’s an outspoken supporter of LGBTQIA+ rights and is close friends with Sarah Paulson and Oscar Isaac.

Read More: Meet Anya Taylor-Joy: The Actress Taking Hollywood by Storm

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