So far, 2023 has been The Year of Pedro Pascal. The beloved Chilean-American actor is renowned for his serious acting chops in both dramatic and humorous roles, and he’s pretty much everywhere right now. Whether you’re a fan of Star Wars or a diehard horror fan, you’ve probably heard Pascal’s voice all over TV lately.
Lately, fans on social media have pointed out that Pascal has pretty much become “the Internet’s Dad” for his roles as Din Djarin from The Mandalorian and Joel from The Last of Us. But Pascal’s been acting for a while now, and those are hardly his only iconic roles! Many fans remember him from other critically acclaimed series like Game of Thrones or Narcos.
Today, in honor of The Year of Pedro Pascal, we’re breaking down some of his most famous roles from across both film and television. Whether you know him as Joel or as Din Djarin, we can all agree on one thing–Pedro Pascal is the guy you need to call if there’s a uniquely-talented youngster who needs a gruff escort across a dangerous fictional world.
Before Pedro Pascal became a household name, he was credited as Pedro Balmaceda. He only filmed a couple of roles under that name, but one of them was Eddie, the gawky college freshman who befriends Buffy in the first episode of season four. Just look at his adorable little baby face! Pascal was just 24 in this episode. And yes, he does get turned into a vampire. One of the vampires in the on-campus nest run by mean girl vamp Sunday refers to him as “Dead Eddie,” and every time the internet raves about Pascal, I have to smile. Knowing what’s in store for the actor makes watching this episode a lot like looking at someone’s old yearbook.
The Good Wife was something of a surprise hit when it landed on CBS in 2009. Despite its somewhat schlocky-sounding name and overtly soapy premise, the series was genuinely compelling prestige-tier TV. The concept was downright scandalous– Alicia Florrick, the wife of the Cook County State’s Attorney, navigates the political and legal world after her husband is publicly caught in an affair.
Pascal’s appearance in the series as smug attorney Nathan Landry lasted only six episodes. However, it was one of the actor’s first, and most notable, recurring appearances on network TV. Landry’s role is mostly antagonistic, as he fights to keep Florrix’s husband in jail and attempts to prevent him from getting out on bond.
The role allowed Pascal to showcase his dramatic chops and showcases him in a more villainous light than many of his future roles would. Fans of the actor who want to see an intriguing early TV role of his should check out the first season of The Good Wife–they might just find themselves sucked into the seven-season-long legal drama, too.
Most TV viewers were first introduced to Pascal during his sting on Game of Thrones, during the show’s fourth season. He portrayed the fan-favorite character Oberyn Martell, also known as “The Red Viper,” a prince from the kingdom of Dorne who allies himself with Tyrion Lannister. Pascal won fans over immediately with his charismatic portrayal of a genuinely-good man in the usually-bleak world of Westeros.
Oberyn’s strong sense of justice, compelling martial prowess, and utter disregard for Cersei Lannister’s nonsense made him an instantly-memorable character. Pascal’s performance solidified the tragic hero as one of the most interesting parts of Game of Thrones, putting him among the ranks of Ned Stark and Robb Stark as heroes who had far too little time on screen in the fantasy series.
Oberyn’s battle with “The Mountain,” Cersei Lannister’s towering bodyguard, is one of the most visually-stunning fight scenes in the entire series. As the Red Viper bounds and springs through the arena, he defies the Mountain’s bulk and brings the brute down with dozens of smaller cuts. Of course, this being Game of Thrones, you know there’s a brutal twist in store for the prince. He’s just too good for Westeros, after all.
Pascal’s first headlining, recurring TV role came in the Netflix drama series Narcos. He plays Javier Pena, a real-life DEA agent who was instrumental in bringing down dangerous criminal cartels like Pablo Escobar’s operation and the Cali Cartel. Pascal has stated in interviews that he worked closely with the real-world Pena, who helped him stay in character and offered some harrowing insight into his days as a law enforcement officer.
Narcos is a tense, realistic series that presents an only partially fictionalized account of the DEA’s attempts to intercept the drug trade from Central America. The show is unrelenting in its depiction of organized crime, law enforcement sting operations, and the high-stakes lives that gangsters and agents both live.
In a fascinating editorial choice, Narcos is interspersed with archival footage of the real-world versions of the characters it follows. This helps ground the series in reality, reminding the audience that the horrors of the series aren’t from the imaginations of talented writers, but are instead recountings of real events.
One of Pascal’s first prominent roles on the big screen came in 2017 with Kingsman: The Golden Circle. The sequel to the fan-favorite Kingsman: The Secret Service, which hit theaters in 2014, The Golden Circle continues the adventures of Eggsy, a rebellious young man who joins the secret spy organization known as the Kingsman.
In the sequel, Pascal portrays the whip-toting Agent Whiskey, a Texan spy who uses his mastery of the lasso and hand-to-hand combat skills to take down bad guys and protect the world from supervillains. The comic book-style plot is a perfect way for Pascal to showcase his more lighthearted side, and also offers him a chance to flex his endearing Southern accent.
The Kingsman franchise is extremely well-regarded for its fast-paced action, which Pascal has said was even more intense to shoot than Game of Thrones. The series is renowned for its character-driven action sequences, such as a notable scene of Whiskey fighting off attackers in a bar using his signature lasso.
Some fans consider Pascal’s biggest role to be in The Mandalorian, where he plays the title character, Din Djarin. Din is a stoic Mandalorian bounty hunter who wanders the galaxy, bringing in criminals and making his way one day at a time. His life changes forever when he meets Gorgu, a green-skinned alien who is wanted by the remnants of the Galactic Empire.
Interestingly enough, fans scarcely see Pascal’s face in the series. Din follows a bizarre religious order of Mandalorian called the Children of the Watch, and they all believe that a “true” Mandalorian should never remove their helmet in the presence of other people. As such, Pascal spends most of his screen time on the show obscured under the iconic T-shaped visor of a Mandalorian warrior.
Still, Din’s swagger and voice are unmistakable–no one else could pull off that weighty stride or the surety and physicality that Pascal brings to the role. When the shooting starts and Din gets to work, you can tell that he’s a man that no one in the galaxy wants to cross. And, in those rare scenes when the helmet comes off, Pascal imbues the stoic fighter with a genuine humanity that makes him one of the most likable characters on TV.
While the second Wonder Woman film might have polarized fans and critics alike, no one can argue that Pascal didn’t bring his A-game to the role of the main villain, Max Lord. Lord is a classic DC comics villain who is usually seen in Wonder Woman comics, and his specific brand of evil is all too familiar.
Lord represents the corrupting power of money and success. His catchphrase in the film is that “life is good–but it could be better!” He seeks a mystical artifact that will allow him to grant any wish he wants as long as the wisher is physically touching him. He concocts a dangerous plan to grant everyone on earth their wildest desire by finding a loophole in the artifact that allows him to broadcast his power all over the world.
Pascal brings a uniquely charming twist to Max Lord that helps solidify him as simultaneously charismatic, dangerous, and somehow pitiable. Sure, 1984 isn’t as good as the original, but it’s still a blast, and one of Pascal’s coolest roles on the big screen.
The biggest show of 2023, The Last of Us, gives Pascal another chance to flex his dramatic chops as a reluctant father figure to a gifted youngster. The HBO Max series is a straight-up adaptation of the beloved PlayStation 3 game of the same name, but it introduced a number of compelling changes that make it just as fresh as the original.
Pascal and co-star Bella Ramsey are both pivotal to the show’s success. The overbearing weight of the post-apocalyptic backdrop would be downright depressing were it not for the human touches that the leads bring to the series. While Pascal’s Joel is a dangerous man who is haunted by his past, he’s also a genuinely kind man who still thinks about his late daughter, even twenty years after her passing.
Fans of the game have applauded the series for sticking to the fundamentals that made the PlayStation 3 original such a gripping title when it was released back in 2013. However, the series is also bold enough to make adjustments to the narrative when needed, helping the story flow more smoothly and naturally as a passive viewing experience than as an interactive series of gameplay levels. Either way, it’s impossible to overstate the star power that Pascal brings to the small screen.