We first meet Oberyn Martell, the intense character played by Pedro Pascal this season on Game of Thrones, at Littlefinger’s brothel. But as we learned later in the season-four premiere, he hasn’t come to King’s Landing strictly for its carnal delights; he’s there to avenge his sister’s death at the hands of nefarious Lannister goon Gregor “The Mountain Who Rides” Clegane, a major plot line this season. Pascal chatted with Vulture at the premiere party for season four about becoming “boy candy” and how his bisexual character, also known as the Red Viper, is punk-rock.
Oberyn is a favorite of many who have read the novels. Were you aware of his popularity going into the role?
I hadn’t read the books, but I was a fan of the show, and maybe I was in a little bit of denial about what the reaction would be. I think that maybe I had a sense that if people were anticipating my character, if he was beloved, that they would definitely kind of tilt their heads — or their heads might spin around 180 degrees entirely, like The Exorcist, at the announcement. [Laughs] That may have happened for some people, because they don’t know who the hell I am. So I kind of expected some of that. And then I tried to avoid it, because I just had a job to do. And I want to do it to its best potential, to fulfill the people who [were] anticipating [Oberyn’s arrival]. And it’s very, very important to everybody that fans be satisfied, you know?
The show has spelled out a few things that were only implied in George R.R. Martin’s novels, such as Renly and Loras’s relationship or, as we are seeing now, your character being bisexual.
The Red Viper enjoys life. He does not discriminate in his pleasures. This is the way he understands life, to live it to its fullest. And to limit yourself in terms of experience doesn’t make any sense to him — what’s beautiful is beautiful. And I love that what George R.R. Martin created is this brilliant, progressive person who makes a lot of sense to me. He’s a lover and a fighter. He’s going to do it, everything, to its fullest. So why leave out girls or boys, you know what I mean? That’s what’s so amazing about this character that George R.R. Martin created and David and Dan are translating onto screen: It’s just very punk-rock. It doesn’t make any sense to him to limit his experience of pleasure, so it’s not making a point, but it literally doesn’t make any sense to deny yourself something beautiful, whether it is wine or food, a man or a woman, being a father or being a lover or being a fighter. Always live to the fullest. I think that’s a brilliant, kind of progressive thing that they’re telling in this story. They’re really seizing the opportunity to get a very cool message across.
Game of Thrones pushes the boundaries with its sex scenes, but it looks like we’re heading for a pretty big one, what with all the people Oberyn and his mistress were selecting.
Is it the first orgy? No, wait, that can’t be! Bronn hasn’t had an orgy yet? He has threesomes. But if you’re talking about orgy, like multi-gendered, then yeah, yeah. Shooting those scenes, that was a lot of laughs. We all had as much fun with it as possible. Everyone did. If anyone was uncomfortable, it was diminished by all of our willingness to kind of just jump in together. None of us were alone in this, which made it delightful. I loved it.
For any of your upcoming nude scenes, do you show it all? Because we’ve been asking for more male nudity on the show.
Nobody asked me to hide anything. I was all in. When does Game of Thrones ever fail you in terms of like not going all the way with something? They give you candy from both sides. I’d insist upon it!
Which takes the pressure off some of the other actors …
Because I’m the one who has to usher in all the boy candy? That’s a lot of pressure, actually. I didn’t know — I never thought of it that way until now, but now it’s done. [Laughs.]
And now you’re going to be a crush object for both men and women.
Let’s hope! I think it’s great. All I can say is let’s hope that that happens, because that’s sort of what Oberyn should be.
There’s also a moment when your paramour tells it like it is: “I’m a bastard, she’s a whore.”
Yeah! Like, let’s just not bullshit. Let’s just cut to the chase, which is what Oberyn does too — he gets there, and he wastes no time, on so many different levels. “This is why I’m here. This is what I’m going to do. And … I’m just going to have fun.”
Even at a Lannister wedding?
The sins that I’m avenging do not belong to Joffrey, so he’s none of my business. But I’m certainly not going to hang out with the guy. [Laughs.]