Pedro Pascal is currently one of TV’s most beloved actors, but his rise to fame has been anything but easy. From the family tragedies that marked the start of his career to his days as a go-go dancer in Madrid and a struggling waiter in New York, Pascal has faced countless obstacles on his long road to success—and more than a few scandalous twists and turns in his personal life.
1. His Parents Hid For Their Lives
For psychologist Verónica Pascal Ureta and fertility doctor José Balmaceda Riera, the birth of their son Pedro should’ve been a joyous time—but instead, they were hiding in terror. For years, they had risked their lives working for the resistance movement against Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet. Fearing imprisonment or worse under the brutal regime, they left Pascal and his sister with their aunt to go on the run. A few months later, they made a daring move to save themselves and their family.
2. They Made An Epic Escape
After six months in hiding, Pascal’s parents risked everything to escape Chile. The brave fugitives managed to climb the walls of the Venezuelan embassy and claim asylum. They then fled with their children to Denmark as refugees before eventually settling in the US. Unfortunately, even in their new country, the family continued to face challenges.
3. He Endured Severe Bullying
Growing up, Pedro Pascal not only had to deal with frequent moves and learning a new language; he also faced relentless taunting. When his family moved from Texas to California after he finished fifth grade, kids bullied him mercilessly in his new school. Isolated and unhappy, Pascal turned to movies and plays for comfort—the first sign of his interest in an acting career.
4. He Found His Calling At A Young Age
Pascal was only a teen when he realized what he wanted to do with his life. His obsession with plays and classic movies led him to start taking acting classes, where he realized he had a natural gift for performing. He enrolled in an elite arts high school to develop his talents and went on to study at New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. But soon after moving to New York, a terrible scandal changed his family forever.
5. His Father’s Business Was Shady
While studying at NYU, Pedro Pascal learned that his father’s patients had come forward with some shocking allegations about him. Prosecutors alleged that Balmaceda and two other doctors involved in his fertility clinic had taken embryos from patients and implanted them in other women without the patients’ knowledge—but the scandal didn’t stop there.
6. Their Reaction Was Devastating.
On top of the claims about misused embryos, the investigators made another disturbing discovery. The clinic had nearly $1 million in unreported income, some of which the doctors allegedly taken for themselves. There was an indictment—and the consequences were devastating.
Pascal’s parents fled the US to return to the country they had left 20 years before. Just a few years later, disaster would strike the family again.
7. He Worked As A Nightclub Dancer
Before getting regular acting gigs, Pascal found other ways to embrace his love of performing. During his student years, he spent time in Spain and took a job as a go-go dancer at a nightclub in Madrid. He sported a bold look that included silver hair, eyeliner, and platform sneakers and spent his nights amping up the crowds who flocked to the club to enjoy the city’s famous nightlife. But soon after this carefree time in Spain, a tragedy changed his world forever.
8. He Experienced Heartbreaking Loss
Before he could fully recover from his father’s shocking scandal, Pedro Pascal received the most devastating news of his life. His beloved mother had tragically taken her own life. Losing his mom shook him to his core: Veronica had been his number one champion, the person he has described in interviews as “the love of [his] life! It’s no wonder he resolved to keep her memory alive in a very special way.
9. He Made A Moving Tribute
After losing his mother, Pascal found a way to dedicate his acting career to her. Although he’d previously used his father’s surname Balmaceda professionally, he decided to use Pascal, his mother’s surname, as his stage name. Not only does this last name honor the woman who did so much to support his ambitions…it also proved much easier for Americans to pronounce. Under this new name, he started appearing in some of TV’s biggest shows.
10. He Appeared On An Iconic 90s Show
Even some of the most devoted Pedro Pascal fans don’t realize that in the early days of his career he appeared on the beloved TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In 1999, Pascal starred alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar in the show’s season four premiere as a doomed college freshman turned vampire. Unfortunately, like many of his early TV roles, his time on the show lasted no more than an episode.
11. He Struggled To Get Work
During the early 2000s, Pedro Pascal had small parts on some of TV’s biggest shows, but it took him years to achieve real recognition in the industry. Despite appearing on hit series like Law & Order, Homeland, and The Good Wife, his acting career didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Finally, he got cast in what seemed destined to become a hit NBC show—but it didn’t quite go according to plan.
12. A Pilot Failed To Go Anywhere
Getting cast in a pilot for a TV series based on a DC comic seems like a dream come true—but not for Pedro Pascal. He got a part in a Wonder Woman TV pilot, but this before comic book adaptations ruled the screens. Once again, fate dashed Pascal’s hopes, and despite the media buzz surrounding the pilot, NBC declined to pick up the series.
Luckily, he’d get another chance of making his mark on the Wonder Woman universe nearly a decade later.
13. He Was A Terrible Waiter
While trying to get work as an actor in New York in the early 2000s, Pascal worked as a waiter to support himself—but it was something of a disaster. In a video for Vanity Fair, Pascal estimated that he got fired from serving jobs “maybe close to 10 times”. Luckily, his experiences during these years didn’t turn out to be all bad.
In fact, while acting in an off-Broadway play, he met another future Hollywood star who would turn out to be one of his best friends in the industry.
14. He Wrote a Play
While struggling to get his career off the ground, Pascal tried his hand at writing as well as acting. In 2010, he wrote a play called Flaca Loves Bone, which premiered in New York City and Los Angeles. While Pascal directed the LA production himself, another famous performer directed the New York production—celebrated comedian Sarah Silverman.
While Pascal didn’t write any more plays, he didn’t leave his roots in the theater behind after making it big in Hollywood.
15. He Made A New Friend
While acting in one play in New York, Pascal became close with another actor who went on to become a Hollywood star. Pascal met Oscar Isaac while starring in an off-Broadway play called Beauty of the Father in 2005, and the two have stayed friends ever since. The two actors share a similar background, as children of Latin immigrants who became actors and faced long roads to success. However, it was another one of Pascal’s famous friends who would secure him his biggest part yet.
16. A Famous Friend Got Him His Big Break
Many of us got to know Pascal from his role as Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones, but he only got the part thanks to his close friendship with the actress Sarah Paulson. Pascal first met Paulson when he moved in New York in the early 1990s, and they immediately became close friends. Paulson knew one of the Game of Thrones showrunners and passed on Pascal’s audition tape. Luckily, the show’s creators weren’t put off by the quality of the audition.
17. He Auditioned With A Selfie
Pedo Pascal auditioned for the biggest role of his career that far—but he did it in an utterly misguided way. To get his part on Game of Thrones, Pascal filmed himself using selfie mode on an early-generation iPhone. Despite the video’s terrible quality, the power of Pascal’s performance thoroughly impressed the show’s creators. Before he knew it, he was part of HBO’s biggest show.
18. He Got Bruised Up
While playing the character of Oberyn on Game of Thrones, Pascal managed to hurt himself quite a bit while preparing for the show’s many fight scenes. While training in martial arts and learning how to wield Oberyn’s spear, Pascal got pretty banged up. Luckily, the bruises didn’t keep him from giving a knockout performance.
19. He Fell Asleep After Having His Skull Crushed
Oberyn met a spectacularly brutal end on Game of Thrones, but for Pascal filming this climactic scene was a bizarre experience. In an interview, Pascal explained that because they filmed the part where Gregor Clegane crushes Oberyn’s skull on a particularly hot day, he actually found the actor Júlíus Björnsson dripping cool fake blood on his face rejuvenating.
He even dozed off while the crew filmed him lying lifeless on the ground. But for viewers, Oberyn’s epic exit from the show was certainly not a snooze fest.
20. He Made A Lasting Impression
Like so many characters in Game of Thrones, Oberyn Martell didn’t live long on the show, but Pascal’s performance in the role lived on in the memories of viewers—and casting directors.
Despite only appearing in Game of Thrones for seven episodes, Pascal’s performance received critical acclaim and won him fame overnight. By the time his run on Game of Thrones ended, he had gone from scrambling for auditions to fending off job offers.
21. He Was In A Spicy Music Video
One surprising opportunity that Pascal received after Game of Thrones was starring in a music video with supermodel Heidi Klum. In the video for Sia’s song “Fire Meet Gasoline,” which also served as a promotion for Klum’s new line of lingerie, Pascal and Klum star as a couple in the throes of a steamy love affair. While Pascal didn’t get to do a lot of acting in the video, it did a great job showing off his smoldering good looks. And he also got offers for more serious roles.
22. He Starred In His First Studio Film
Pascal’s dreams came true when he got cast in a big studio film starring one of Hollywood’s biggest actors and directed by a filmmaker Pascal had admired since he was a kid. The Great Wall was the first English-language film of Chinese director Zhang Yimou and starred Matt Damon. Although the movie didn’t do that well at the box office, Pascal had time of his life cracking jokes with Damon. But it was his next TV role that would really ensure Pascal’s lasting fame.
23. He Went Undercover
One of Pascal’s biggest roles after Game of Thrones was as DEA agent Javier Peña, who pursued notorious kingpin Pablo Escobar in the Netflix series Narcos. Pascal went to extreme lengths to prepare for the part. He and his co-star, Boyd Holbrook, trained with real DEA agents, who put the actors through simulations of undercover operations designed to give them a feel for the work.
Their research paid off, and the show received rave reviews—but then it started to get dangerous.
24. He Feared For His Safety
Narcos became one of Netflix’s most acclaimed shows, but after three seasons, the cast and crew experienced a devastating loss. In 2017, authorities found the body of Carlos Munoz Portal in Mexico, where he had been scouting new filming locations for the series. After Portal’s passing, Escobar’s brother warned Netflix not to film shows about his family in Latin America without their permission.
Although Netflix went ahead with a fourth season, Pascal decided it was time to get out. Luckily, he had an exciting big screen role lined up.
25. He Got A Second Chance
While the Wonder Woman TV pilot never went anywhere, Pascal got another opportunity to be part of the Wonder Woman franchise—this time on the big screen, in an even juicier role. The director Patty Jenkins offered him the role of supervillain Max Lord, a charismatic but sinister businessman, in the movie Wonder Woman 1984.
While the movie got lukewarm reviews, Pascal’s unhinged performance delighted critics. Soon after playing a villain in Wonder Woman, he returned to the stage to play another type of bad guy.
26. He Made His Broadway Debut
While Pedro Pascal had been starring in plays since the 90s, he didn’t make his Broadway debut until 2019, when he featured one of the most highly anticipated productions of that year. Pascal played the role of Edmund in a ground-breaking, gender-bending production of King Lear starring veteran actress Glenda Jackson as Lear.
But while Pascal played villains in King Lear and Wonder Woman 1984, he was making a name for himself as a hero in another hit TV series.
27. He Donned A Mask
Since 2020, Pedro Pascal has starred as the title character in Disney+’s hit Star Wars spinoff series The Mandalorian. While some fans may not have liked the idea of the hunky actor wearing a mask for most of the series, his standout performance as has won over critics, Star Wars devotees, and new fans alike.
In The Mandalorian, Pascal plays a gruff loner tasked with escorting a vulnerable youngster through a dangerous environment—a plot that when you put it that way sounds remarkably similar to his next big show…
28. It Wasn’t Always Him Under The Helmet
One advantage of Pascal having to conceal his face on The Mandalorian was that filming could continue even when his busy schedule didn’t allow him to be on set. In season one, the showrunners filmed entire scenes with stunt men filling in as Mando wearing Pascal’s suit and helmet.
Pascal later recorded the dialogue when he returned to the set. However, the one time in season one that he wasn’t wearing a helmet, disaster struck.
29. He Got Injured On Set
In the season one finale of The Mandalorian, the character of Mando finally removes his mask to heal his wounds—but there was one detail that fans may not have known. Some of the cuts on Pascal’s face in that scene were real, not just makeup. Before filming the scene, Pascal walked into a piece of plywood on set and badly cut open his face. The crew rushed him to the hospital where he received seven stitches across the bridge of his nose.
After this dramatic end to the first season of filming, Pascal turned his attention to another big screen role.
30. He’s A Superfan (Who Played a Superfan)
Pascal is a huge fan of Nicolas Cage, and in 2020 he signed on to play the most meta role imaginable—a huge fan of Nicolas Cage. Pascal says that Cage is the actor who’s had the “biggest influence” on him as a performer, and in the movie The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent he not only got to work with Cage (who plays himself) but also draw on his lifelong admiration of the actor while playing a Cage superfan.
But while Pascal’s performance in the movie received acclaim, once again it was a TV role that made him into one of the biggest stars of the year.
31. His Nephews Talked Him Into A Role
When Pascal learned he was in the running for the role of Joel in the HBO adaptation of the video game The Last of Us, he wasn’t sure what to think—until his nephews talked him into pursuing the part. When Pascal told his sister he was considering a role based on a hit video game, she wasn’t that interested, but her kids could barely contain their excitement. His nephews begged him to take the role, fueling his enthusiasm for the part. Plus, there was another reason he wanted a part in the show.
32. He Got To Work With His Idol
Pascal also jumped at the chance to star in The Last of Us because of co-creator Craig Mazin. Pascal was a huge admirer of Mazin’s acclaimed HBO series Chernobyl and was desperate to get a chance to work with the talented writer and director. He had no idea working with Mazin on his new show would prove to be his biggest opportunity yet.
33. He Forgot He Got The Part
While you’d think getting cast in one of HBO’s biggest upcoming shows would be memorable, Pascal’s journey to becoming Joel was a strange ride. After staying up late hoping for a call from the showrunners, he took an Ambien to help him sleep. When he woke up the next morning, he checked his phone—and what he found left him stunned. He saw a message of congratulations, but he didn’t know what it was for.
Well, it turned out that he’d gotten the call about getting the part shortly after taking the pill and when he woke up the next morning, he had no memory of the call. However, some video game fans weren’t thrilled about his casting.
34. His Facial Hair Caused Controversy
When Pascal took on the role of Joel in The Last of Us, fans of the video game claimed he wasn’t fit for the part because of his facial hair. While Pascal typically sports a mustache, he can’t grow a full beard, and fans of the game were angry that Joel in the show wouldn’t have the beard he has in the game. Luckily, Pascal’s performance managed to win over even the most devoted fans—perhaps because he explicitly went against HBO’s instructions.
35. He Disobeyed Orders
When Pedro Pascal started working on The Last of Us, the showrunners forbade him and the rest of the cast from playing the video game—but Pascal couldn’t help himself. While Mazin didn’t want actors to simply copy the characters from the game, Pascal wanted to get a feel for the world and started playing while preparing for the role.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good at it—not nearly as good as his nephew. Luckily, disobeying orders didn’t prevent him from making the role his own while bringing to life the touching relationship between Joel and Ellie.
36. He Bonded With His Co-Star
During the filming of The Last of Us, Pascal bonded with his co-star, Bella Ramsey, who plays the young girl Joel must lead out of danger, over their experiences on another hit HBO show. While their paths never crossed on Game of Thrones—Ramsey played Lyanna Mormont in season six whereas Pascal’s character perished at the end of season four—they both credit the show with launching their careers.
According to Pascal, “It made us come from a family without knowing each other already”. But this close connection wasn’t apparent the first time they met.
37. Their First Meeting Was Weird
Although Pascal and Ramsey’s on-screen chemistry and off-screen friendship has delighted viewers since The Last of Us premiered, the actors weren’t sure how well they’d click when they first met. The actors never did a chemistry read together before getting cast, so the first time they met was during a Zoom seminar on workplace harassment. But then it got even more awkward.
38. He Tried Something Different
Pedro Pascal was 45 and Bella Ramsey only 17 when they landed their roles on The Last of Us—which made things a little uncomfortable when it came to getting to know each other. Because of their age difference, Pascal decided to reach out to Ramsey through her mom because he wasn’t sure how to interact with a teen.
Luckily, they quickly overcame their awkwardness and developed an adorable friendship.
39. He Wrote The Sweetest Note
Pascal and Ramsey have talked at length about the fun they had working together on The Last of Us, and recently Ramsey described a heartbreaking note Pascal wrote her after they finished filming. According to Ramsey, the note said, “How interesting that something so huge and life-changing should happen so early in your life and so late in mine”—a remark that highlights his own long road to fame compared to his young co-star’s.
But while Pascal is very open about his friendships, he has remained tight-lipped when it comes to information about his dating life…
40. He’s Kept His Romantic Life Under Wraps
Pascal has mostly kept his dating life a secret, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating about the handsome actor’s possible love interests. Over the years, the media has linked him to many glamorous women, including his Game of Thrones co-star Lena Headey, star of The Mentalist Robin Tunney, and even his close friend Sarah Paulson. However, Pascal has never confirmed whether any of these rumored relationships are true.
One thing we know for sure, however: He doesn’t have any kids—despite his reputation as “the daddy of the internet”.
41. He Has Major Dad Energy
After playing a series of reluctant father figures on shows like The Mandalorian and The Last of Us, Pedro Pascal has developed a reputation for being a major “daddy”—even though he doesn’t have any kids himself. With his rugged good looks, cheeky sense of humor, and talent for playing tough but mature and sensitive men, this late-blooming star is clearly having a moment as the internet’s latest crush.
But does Pascal plan on going from being an internet daddy to a dad in real life any time soon?
42. His Schedule Makes It Hard To Commit
When Pascal gets asked why he doesn’t have a partner (that we know of) or children of his own, he often blames his hectic schedule. In an interview in 2017, he said, “If I want to get involved in something, I want to pay attention to it, and I want to nurture it. It takes energy to be with someone—physical energy, emotional energy—and you want them to be happy. So I haven’t had time”.
While Pascal isn’t sure whether he wants a family of his own someday, he loves being an uncle to his nephews and goes out of his way to support his siblings.
43. He’s A Devoted Brother
Pascal is super close to his brother and two sisters and is very supportive of them and their careers. He recently attended the 2023 Oscars with his sister, Javiera Balmaceda, to support her work on the film Argentina, 1985, and he’s been hugely supportive of his sister, Lux Pascal, who’s also an actor.
Lux has spoken out about how Pascal has been one of her biggest champions. He stood by her side when she recently came out as transgender. Plus, Pascal has stayed close to his controversial father.
44. He Stands By His Dad
Despite his dad’s indictment on charges related to the fertility clinic scandal, Pascal has maintained a close bond with his only living parent. He often posts pictures with his dad on his Instagram account and thanks him for his support of his career. Sadly, his father’s fate is still hanging in the balance. Last year, he returned to the US to plead guilty to the tax evasion charges.
Unfortunately, his future doesn’t look as bright as his famous son’s.
45. He Has A Legendary Coffee Order
If you’re wondering how Pascal manages to star in two of the biggest shows on TV, juggle an array of new projects, and still have time for his fans, part of the answer may lie in his caffeine consumption. Recently, a fan captured his Starbucks order on camera, and it included no less than six espresso shots over ice. That’s a lot of caffeine, but with everything he has coming up, he probably needs it.
46. He’s Not Going Away Anytime Soon
In addition to filming new seasons of The Mandalorian and The Last of Us, Pascal features in a few exciting new projects due for release this year. He stars opposite Ethan Hawke in Pedro Almodovar’s Strange Way of Life, the acclaimed Spanish director’s first English language film. Pascal is currently filming a movie called The Uninvited. Plus, he’s returning to HBO in the true-crime series My Dentist’s Murder Trial. Now that Pascal has finally made it in Hollywood, he won’t be disappearing from our screens anytime soon.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32