Actor Pedro Pascal, whose full name is José Pedro Balmaceda Pascal, was born in Santiago, Chile, on April 2, 1975. Eventually, he moved to San Antonio, then Orange County, California, where he took drama classes. Pascal got his start doing guest roles on shows like Law & Order, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and NYPD Blue before he hit it big with Game of Thrones, Narcos, and now The Mandalorian and The Last of Us.
Pascal has become such a beloved actor that there is even a podcast, Podro Pascal, dedicated to celebrating his work. Here are 10 facts about the genre-bending star.
1. His parents sought political asylum.
Pascal was born in Chile in 1975, during Augusto Pinochet’s authoritarian regime. His parents didn’t support the dictator and were eventually forced to flee the country. “Helping some people hide got them into hot water—eventually they got to the Venezuelan embassy and claimed asylum,” Pascal told TIME. “We were sent to Denmark and then the U.S. My sister and I were born in Chile and raised in the States, and my little brothers were born in the States and raised in Chile after my parents moved back in 1995.”
2. He was a competitive swimmer.
Before he became an actor, Pascal competed in swimming, including state championships in Texas. “I’m too lazy [to get back into it],” he told Vanity Fair. “I was naturally hairless when I quit swimming.”
3. He made a typo in his Instagram handle.
Pascal’s Instagram name is Pascal Is Punk, but he meant it to write Pascal Is A Punk. During a Vanity Fair lie detector test, a journalist asked him if he considered himself to be a punk. “Yes, I do,” he said. “When I created the Instagram account, I expected 12 people to follow for the rest of my life. I never knew what a big deal it would turn into, so I never changed it, and I just can’t be bothered to change it now.” Currently, he has more than 7.9 million followers—so a little more than 12.
4. He changed his last name to honor his mom.
Pascal’s mom, Verónica Pascal Ureta, didn’t live long enough to witness her son’s enormous success; she died by suicide in 1999. But to honor her, he changed his professional last name from Balmaceda to Pascal. “She was always incredibly supportive, never a stage mom," he told People in 2020. "None of [my success] would be real if it weren't for her.”
5. His dad wouldn’t allow him to see The Breakfast Club in the theater.
During an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Pascal said when he was 10 years old, his dad didn’t want him to see The Breakfast Club (though his dad was fine with his young son seeing First Blood). He said his dad thought it was a movie about “a bunch of kids complaining about their parents,” and wouldn’t let him see it in the theater. “I was absorbing quite a bit of John Hughes at the time, as we all were, maybe,” he said. “The Breakfast Club was rated R, and I wasn’t allowed to see it until it came out on VHS.” At first his dad didn’t want to rent the movie, but when his parents could find a babysitter, they allowed a viewing.
6. He worked as a waiter—and was terrible at it.
Vanity Fair asked Pascal about when he used to wait tables. He said he wasn’t good at his job, and almost got fired about 10 times. “If l liked you, I liked you,” he said. “And if I didn’t, I didn’t. And that didn’t necessarily go well with having a bunch of customers.” When Pascal hosted SNL, he played an Italian waiter in one sketch.
7. He is Nicolas Cage’s “biggest fan.”
In 2022, Pascal starred alongside Nic Cage in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent. In real life, Cage influenced Pascal’s career. “I am his biggest fan,” Pascal told Variety of the Con Air actor. Between bites of spicy hot wings, Pascal told Hot Ones his favorite Cage movies are Raising Arizona, Peggy Sue Got Married, Face/Off, and Moonstruck.
“I’ve got a soft spot for Moonstruck,” Pascal said. “It’s actually highly, highly intelligent choice-making in his acting... It’s grounded in the scene, has all of this theatrical context to it. He’s still believable.” He also said Cage’s films have had “a personal place in my development as an aspiring actor and, to this day, in my DNA a little bit.”
8. He doesn't intentionally choose father-type roles.
In The Last of Us and The Mandalorian, Pascal plays surrogate father-type roles. In an interview with Radio Times, the actor explained that he didn’t take those reluctant father roles on purpose. “You sort of step through the doors that open,” he said. “I think this kind of reluctant-father dynamic was familiar to us all along from films and TV before The Mandalorian came around. Although maybe there is something about me … It doesn’t go into my conscious decision-making as far as work is concerned. But maybe as far as what I can contribute to the character, it comes from a protective part of me. I can be very protective of my friends and family. But I ain’t got no kids!”
9. He created his own Satanic language.
Before Pascal was famous, he appeared in a 2001 episode of NYPD Blue as a goth guy named Dio, who had a Sharpie’d pentagram drawn on his palm. As police question him, he licks his palm and chants in a Satanic voice. On Hot Ones, he talked about the character. He asked the show’s producers: “’Do you have Latin words I’m supposed to learn?’ ‘No, dude, make it up.’” So he made up the language.
10. Prince’s “Purple Rain” is his favorite song.
When Hot Ones host Sean Evans mentioned hearing that “Purple Rain” was the song Pascal most wanted to hear at his funeral, the actor replied that “It’s my favorite song. It’s the most moving song. I didn’t go to church. I was raised by HBO, Spielberg, and Prince. For me, ‘Purple Rain’ is the most emotionally cathartic, the most musically sophisticated song that I can think of. If it’s casually or spontaneously playing somewhere, I don’t have [the] emotional space to go there, because it moves me so deeply.”