How Pedro Pascal quietly became the biggest star in the world

    (Evening Standard Composite)

(Evening Standard Composite)

Few childless men feel comfortable calling themselves “daddy”, and of those who are okay with it, most should be shunned. And then there’s Pedro Pascal — the actor who’s accepted that he’s “the father of the internet,” so comfortable staring into a reporter’s camera lens at the premiere of The Last of Us earlier this month and saying, “I are you cool, slutty dad” into the mic, loud and clear.

If you didn’t know Pascal beforehand, this particular kind of confidence might seem self-aggrandizing, like a graduate of Matty Healy and John Mayer’s school of forced charisma. However, Pascal’s charisma is the real deal and, luckily for us charm-hungry citizens, he’s got it in droves.

The Chilean-born actor, 47, has been a cult favorite among select groups of diehard fans for years. Maybe they’ve fallen for him as the smooth-talking, tight-pants-wearing DEA agent Javier Peña in Narcos, one of Netflix’s first “Originals” in 2015. Or as the smooth-talking, billowing-robe-wearing Oberyn Martell, who has a depressing had a brief role in HBO’s Game of Thrones – but gave enough performance to stick in people’s minds. Others have been calling Pascal Papa since the day he donned his beskar helmet as The Mandalorian, in what has become one of the most successful Star Wars prequels since, well, the prequels.

For many, however, the Pascal reckoning is happening here and now. For the past three weeks he has graced our screens in his latest role as Joel Miller. This is yet another reluctant father figure and protagonist of the apocalyptic thriller series The Last Of Us, an adaptation of the hugely popular video game of the same name.

Pedro Pascal in reluctant father role number two: Joel Miller in HBO's The Last of Us (HBO/Sky)

Pedro Pascal in reluctant father role number two: Joel Miller in HBO’s The Last of Us (HBO/Sky)

As soon as the series launched, Pascal became all everyone could talk about. He has received critical acclaim for his performance as Miller, attracting even more viewers who enjoy his good looks and behind-the-scenes interviews. You could say he’s always been so loved and people just enjoy having him in a role where his face is uncovered for 95 percent of the runtime – but this feels different.

Just check your Twitter or Instagram and it won’t be long before some form of Pascal pops up. Earlier this week, a photo of him with Murray Bartlett, alumnus of The White Lotus and guest star on episode three of The Last Of Us, made netizens’ heads spin. It also got hundreds of thousands of likes – and just the kind of thirsty comments you’d expect in the reply section below.

Two of his past interviews have resurfaced and become viral sensations for the first time, including a clip where he evaluates who the “bigger dad” is to him and fellow actor Oscar Isaac (the two are good friends). He was also recently announced as the next host of SNL, on an episode that aired on Feb. 4. In short, we are in a state of complete Pedromania.

Celebrating New Year's Eve with bestie Oscar Isaac in 2021 (Pedro Pascal/Instagram)

Celebrating New Year’s Eve with bestie Oscar Isaac in 2021 (Pedro Pascal/Instagram)

It wasn’t always like that. Pascal may have popped up on hit TV shows since the start of his career, but he rarely got a chance to stick around. He started off clean-shaven and had a baby face in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer way back in 1999 when he was still acting under the name Pedro Balmaceda. Later that year, his mother Verónica Pascal committed suicide, so he took her name in honor, but also because Americans often had trouble pronouncing Balmaceda. After a few more network TV bit parts with a one-episode lifespan, Pascal landed six episodes of The Good Wife. He played, in his own words, an ‘asshole lawyer’ who takes on Julianna Margulies.

His next stint was in The Mentalist where Pascal was cast as a rival love interest who threatens the relationship of the two protagonists played by Simon Baker and Robin Tunney. Never one to mince words, Pascal said of the role, “There I was a bit like the sad love interest”. He added that the writers “[brought] someone in so people would go crazy that these two [leads] may not end up together”.

Pascal attends the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on January 19, 2020 (Getty Images)

Pascal attends the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles on January 19, 2020 (Getty Images)

In between these roles, Pascal served on other American crime series such as CSI and Law & Order. However, it wasn’t until Game of Thrones that he became a familiar face given the sheer size of the fantasy series. He often credits the role for changing his life, telling Entertainment Weekly in 2022, “Game of Thrones was this incredible, ideal experience playing this beautifully written, iconic character who has a big in and a big out in one very, very solid season of the series. All I can say is that I had the time of my life and without that role I wouldn’t be here.”

It opened doors and he started getting lead character roles in TV series like Narcos and big budget movies including Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle. But his biggest break came when he was chosen to play Din Djarin in The Mandalorian, an opportunity that would prove to be the role of a lifetime.

At the 2019 Game of Thrones season eight premiere (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

At the 2019 Game of Thrones season eight premiere (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

However, playing Mando also came with its own risks. The core of the character revolves around keeping his face hidden under his helmet with an almost religious allegiance. This means sacrificing valuable face-on-screen time, but also portraying a character with no discernible facial expressions. Few actors had pulled it off as deftly as Pascal, who admits it was all down to his theatrical experience. “I’m not even sure I could do it without the amount of direct experience I’ve had of being on stage,” he told Entertainment Weekly in 2020, “understanding how to pose yourself, how to put yourself somewhere physically frame and tell a story with a gesture, with an attitude or with a very, very specific vocal intonation.

Despite playing a faceless character, Pascal somehow managed to win over viewers all over the world. His simmering underground popularity only continued to rise as The Mandalorian progressed from season one to season two. Now that he’s taken on the mantle as Joel in The Last Of Us, Pascal’s sympathy has almost boiled over.

Starring equally beloved sidekick Grogu (Baby Yoda) in The Mandalorian (Disney+/PA)

Starring equally beloved sidekick Grogu (Baby Yoda) in The Mandalorian (Disney+/PA)

It has as much to do with his personality as it does with his acting. Pascal is energetic, engages in interviews and always flirts in a healthy way whenever possible. He’s not overly opinionated and will happily belittle himself if he feels it’s right (he was once compared to “Orlando Bloom if he got kicked in the face” by a fan, and happily agreed to the comparison. ) He is a vocal leftist and supporter of LGBTQ+ rights, especially in regards to his sister Lux, who is a transgender actor and activist. For a long time, he interacted with fans, offering humorous responses to thirsty mentions on his Twitter — though he’s since (heartbreakingly) deleted his Twitter.

However, he maintains some mystery by keeping his private life virtually a secret. His only official relationship was with Law & Order actress Maria Dizzia, though he’s been linked to co-stars Robin Tunney and Lena Headey before (he does, however, consistently refer to them as his “good friends” when asked, so we’ll may never know the truth.).

Man of the Hour: Pedro Pascal (Getty Images for Variety)

Man of the Hour: Pedro Pascal (Getty Images for Variety)

This may factor into his status as everyone’s crush right now, given that he hasn’t closed that all-important wish-fulfillment door: is he gay, is he straight, could he be somewhere in between? Is he single, is he taken, is he secretly married to a mid-level producer he just never takes to red carpets? Without the answers, anything is possible.

In the end, it’s not that hard to understand how Pascal achieved world domination: he’s a good actor, he’s attractive, and he has a show that airs on the HBO prime slot.

But there’s an additional layer that his peers (Jacob Elordi, Jeremy Strong and Theo James) have yet to reach and may never reach: there are plenty of good actors. There are plenty of attractive actors. There are plenty of actors with charisma – but not all of them have overdone it as much as Pascal. The man has that good old-fashioned flirtatiousness, and we absolutely love it.

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