José Pedro Balmaceda Pascal (born April 2, 1975) is a Chilean-American actor. He began his career guest starring on various television shows before rising to prominence for portraying Oberyn Martell on the fourth season of the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones (2014) and Javier Peña on the Netflix biographic crime series Narcos (2015–2017). Pascal has starred as the title character on the Disney+ space Western series The Mandalorian since 2019. Outside of television, he has appeared in the films The Great Wall (2016), Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017), The Equalizer 2 (2018), Triple Frontier (2019), and Wonder Woman 1984 (2020).
Early life & Education
Pascal was born in Santiago, Chile. His mother, Verónica Pascal Ureta, was a child psychologist and his father, José Balmaceda, is a fertility doctor; he has an older sister, Javiera, and two younger brothers, Nicolás, and Lucas Balmaceda, an actor in Chile.
Pascal’s parents were Allende supporters and were involved in the opposition movement against the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile around the time of Pascal’s birth. Because of this, nine months after his birth, Pascal’s family was granted political asylum in Denmark. The family ultimately moved to the United States, and Pascal was raised in Orange County, California and San Antonio, Texas. By the time he was 8, his family was able to take regular trips back to Chile to visit his 34 first cousins. Pascal was involved in competitive swimming during his early years and took part in the state championships in Texas at the age of 11, but stopped competitive swimming after getting into drama class. He studied acting at the Orange County School of the Arts, graduating in 1993, and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 1997.
While at NYU, Pascal’s father was involved in a scandal with the Orange County fertility clinic he ran with two other men. His father, mother and two youngest brothers fled to Chile, where his mother died shortly after. Following her death, he began using his mother’s surname professionally both in honor of her and because people couldn’t pronounce his surname.
Pascal has appeared in several television series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Good Wife, Homeland, The Mentalist, and Graceland. He appeared as kidnapper Reggie in the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode “Weeping Willow” and appeared as Special Agent Greer in Law & Order: SVU episode “Smoked”. He was cast in the pilot for the 2011 Wonder Woman television adaptation, but the show was never picked up. In June 2013, he was cast as Oberyn Martell in the fourth season of the HBO series Game of Thrones. Pascal stated that he was a huge fan of Game of Thrones before being cast as Oberyn and was ecstatic to join. In 2015, Pascal was cast in the role of U.S. DEA agent Javier Peña in the Netflix original show, Narcos. In the movie Bloodsucking Bastards (2015), Pascal portrayed the vampire Max.
Pascal has extensive stage experience as both an actor and director; he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award and Garland Award for his role in the International City Theater production of Orphans, and has performed in classical and contemporary works. He has appeared Off-Broadway in Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison, Beauty of the Father by Nilo Cruz, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s Based on a Totally True Story, Trista Baldwin’s Sand, David Greenspan’s Old Comedy, Terrence McNally’s Some Men, and Shakespeare in the Park’s 2006 production of Macbeth. He is a member of New York City’s LAByrinth Theater Company.
In April 2015, Pascal co-starred with Heidi Klum in the music video for Sia’s “Fire Meet Gasoline”. In 2017, he starred as Agent Whiskey in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle and as mercenary Pero Tovar in The Great Wall. In 2018, Pascal co-starred as Dave York, the primary antagonist in the thriller sequel film The Equalizer 2; the film starred Denzel Washington.
Since 2019, Pascal has portrayed the title role in The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star Wars television series, which debuted on Disney+. The same year, he starred as Francisco “Catfish” Morales in the Netflix heist drama Triple Frontier. He also played Maxwell Lord in the DC Extended Universe film Wonder Woman 1984, directed by Patty Jenkins. Following delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the film was released to theaters and HBO Max on December 25, 2020.