Pedro Pascal on a whole new ‘Narcos’

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Pedro Pascal on a whole new ‘Narcos’
The actor is reprising his role as Javier Peña in the Netflix show's third season

MANILA, Philippines – It was perhaps his character Prince Oberyn’s infamous gruesome death-by-thumb on Game of Thrones that catapulted Pedro Pascal to fame. But the Chilean-American actor has moved on to less tragic roles since.

Pascal will be appearing in Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the second film in the spy comedy series, which is set for US release on September 29. He is also returning to Narcos, the hit Netflix series about Colombia’s drug cartels.

In Narcos, he plays US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent Javier Peña, who, along with his partner Steve Murphy, brings down the legendary drug dealer Pablo Escobar after pursuing him for two seasons. By the end of the second season of the show, Escobar is dead, and Peña returns to the US as a new drug cartel rises out of Escobar’s ashes.

Peña enters the show’s third season flying solo as Murphy is written out of the story. The new season, which went up on Netflix on September 1, has Peña winding up in Colombia once again to deal with the new cartel.

Netflix provided Rappler with a transcript of Pascal’s round table interview with foreign media in Colombia, during which he talks about his Game of Thrones death, his character’s new challenges in Narcos, and how playing a DEA agent helped him land his role in Kingsman.

When people approach you in the street, do they want to talk to you about Javier Peña, or about Game of Thrones?

Pascal: Depends on where we are. When we finished shooting Season 2, I had to go straight to the UK and start working on Kingsman, and that was when I started to really feel the popularity of this show, because they love Narcos in England. And people were like “Javier Peña?” all the time, and I was like “Wow I’ve graduated from Oberyn?”… It was interesting to see the characters compete.

What do they want to know about Game of Thrones, is it that gruesome death scene?

Pascal: Yes, they all want to stick their thumbs in my eyes.

[On Narcos] With Murphy gone, you are now the only one the public already knows in the show. How did it change things for you in terms of character development and also responsibility?

Pascal: It changes a lot for the character for sure. This is a person who is not accustomed to having responsibility. He does things on his own terms. What you see in seasons 1 and 2 is somebody who is much more comfortable working in the shadows and playing by his own set of rules. And so, to take that away from him by giving him a promotion is an interesting irony. It takes power away from him, in a way. His position is more transparent, and he’s not comfortable with that. I liked that. As an actor, I liked that very much – for him to be less comfortable.

When you spoke with the real Javier Peña, what does he think about the concept of the war on drugs, and the fact that he had to work with bad guys to get to the really bad guys?

Pascal: I’ll confess that I don’t actually really know what Peña did and what his real experience was. I don’t, and I was afraid to ask. And yet, he gave permission for us to show that Peña crosses lines that he shouldn’t. So, the truth is – and I’m sorry if the answer is very boring – we really just hung out and drank beers, and he really just took me through photo albums of his experience in Colombia. I’m very liberal, so I didn’t ever want to find out that we had opinions that were too contrasting, so that we could collaborate appropriately, so we could create a character.

Was there a conscious effort to tweak the tone from seasons 1 to 3?

Pascal: I don’t know if there was a conscious effort. I think there was an inevitability that the story is different. The Cali cartel is very different than the Medellin cartel. In our first two seasons, Pablo Escobar is a tsar, he’s a king. And so it’s fighting one king in control of the industry. With Cali, it’s 4 godfathers very implemented into the society they’re controlling, so it changes the narrative structure because the story is very different and much more complex and sprawling. The truth is that after Escobar, the cocaine industry grew. The Cali cartel had more money, they had more power, they had more reach…That means being in the pocket of so many different elements of society. That means more characters and more unpredictable things that happened.

Do you think we’re seeing a new phase in globalization of Latino culture?

Pascal: I generally hope. Two of the greatest directors in the world are from Mexico. I think three years in a row, even though one of them won twice, a Mexican director won the Oscar for Best Direction. I can only hope that Narcos, again, is something that is introducing people to Latin talent, and I hope that it’s in fashion. But I don’t like the idea of it being in fashion, because it is real. It’s an inclusiveness that is part of our reality, and therefore it should just be represented as much as possible in pop culture – whether it be in film, or in television, or what have you. If Narcos can help that along, then that’s great.

After Game of Thrones and Narcos, you’re getting big roles and big predictions. How do you feel about arriving at this point in your career, having tried for so long in smaller parts on TV

Pascal: Relieved! And grateful. It was very lucky, it’s all really lucky. It’s not like I was sitting on my ass waiting for something to happen. I was busting my butt, but I think that the incredible luck for a project like Narcos to come on the heels of a role like Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones is very lucky. There’s a golden era of television that’s happening, and has been happening for some time. And to be a part of two projects that are good examples of this era is very lucky. I owe everything to these two things, in terms of whatever opportunities come my way now.

Are you excited for [Kingsman] to come out?

Pascal: Yeah I’m really excited, it was an overwhelming experience, and working with [Kingsman director] Matthew Vaughn. I got that job because of Narcos. He saw the first season of Narcos, and Peña is not marginal, but very much supporting in season 1. He got a little OCD with my character, and he put me through a very extensive casting process. But it was because of Narcos, it was Peña that he started shaping the character Agent Whiskey on.

Catch Pedro return as Javier Peña on Narcos. All 10 one-hour episodes are now out on Netflix. –

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