The breakout star of the fourth season of “Game of Thrones” may very well be Pedro Pascal, whose role as the swaggering, swinging Oberyn Martell grows more pivotal with each episode.
“He’s a badass, he’s dangerous,” said Pascal in an interview this week ahead of Sunday’s seventh episode of the season which finds Martell coming to the rescue of the imprisoned Tyrion Lannister in a scene that sets up a doozy of a plot twist.
“He does things without fear, he hates all the right people,” Pascal continued. “But he’s also unpredictable and whole. He’s a father and a good partner, and very much motivated by hate.”
On “Game of Thrones,” Martell is known as the Red Viper and hails from a family that lords over the southernmost region of the continent of Westeros that is the brutal setting of the show. He travels to King’s Landing as the official representative of his family to attend the royal wedding, but when King Joffrey is assassinated, he finds himself thrust into the political intrigue that ensues. At the same time, Martell is pursuing his own personal agenda of revenge for the murder of his sister.
Pascal, 39, said he was a fan of the show before he auditioned for the part, which he said he found “particularly delicious.” The role also allowed him to draw on his own background to portray the character.
“I had this strange instinct that he sounded like my father,” said Pascal, who as a child fled his native Chile with his left-leaning parents after a military coup toppled the democratically elected socialist president, Salvador Allende, in 1973.
The character’s accent contrasts noticeably among the almost aristocratic British accents that pack the show.
“I got the impression that Oberyn was ushering in an ‘other’ element,” said the actor, who otherwise speaks with no noticeable accent. “Everything is different in that world, and it seemed to me that it would be important to have a new sound.”
Even by the shows standards, the audience’s first introduction to the character is eye-opening: Martell is seen with his paramour at a brothel, choosing a male lover for what is expected to be a sex marathon.
“The world is a world of extremes,” Martell said of the explicit scenes, which have been criticized as exploitative and misogynistic. “And I think it treats the things that people find scandalous or over the top … with awareness. I think they definitely take tremendous risks with the storytelling. I think the real risks are executing storytelling that won’t shy away from the reality.”
He declined to discuss spoilers about his character’s role in upcoming episodes — though now that the Red Viper’s lust for revenge has intersected with Tyrion Lannister’s fate, one thing is for certain: what follows will certainly involve a bloody showdown.
“All I can say is, enjoy it,” Pascal said. “You can’t really expect to hold on to any particular event. Anything can happen at any time.”
New Yorkers can see Pedro Pascal this summer in The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production of "Much Ado About Nothing." Pascal plays the role of Don John.