Over Labor Day weekend, Pedro Pascal tried to be “as lazy as possible” — not just to ward off a bad cold, but also because he was prepping to return to Colombia to shoot the second season of Narcos. “It’s a pretty arduous production,” he said of his new Netflix series, in which he plays a DEA agent stationed in Bogotá going after drug lord Pablo Escobar.
You could say Pascal’s playing one of the good guys, if it weren’t for some of his morally ambiguous choices, such as making the call to execute one drug lord (instead of arresting him), sleeping with his confidential informants, and going rogue to save one of them.
By the same token, you could say Pascal’s the villain of his new horror-comedy film, Bloodsucking Bastards, if it weren’t for the fact that he increases productivity and improves confidence and morale for a certain (soulless) portion of the office population. Does it matter if he’s a vampire so long as he gets results? Pascal chatted with Vulture about his vampire résumé, how the DEA tried to kill him, and why he’d be willing to play a plant if it gets him back on Game of Thrones.
One of your first acting gigs was as a lost freshman turned vampire on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so you had some experience to pull from when filming Bloodsucking Bastards.
Correct! That was one of the first jobs I got after I graduated, being a vampire — albeit briefly. That was a brilliant thing Joss [Whedon] did, because he set my character Eddie up as, “Oh! This is Buffy’s new friend. This is a new character for season four. No, just kidding — he’s dead.” It’s a funny thing because Buffy is such a wonderful show, and it’s something that I got into kind of late in life now that it’s available for streaming. Now that I’m removed from having been on it, I got to really experience the show in all of its brilliant allegory.
A movie like Bloodsucking Bastards can exist because of a show like Buffy. The humor is a lot more broad, but it still is a genre-mixing story, which Buffy really ushered into pop culture. My idea of Bloodsucking Bastards was kind of Office Space meets Buffy. Everyone else says Shaun of the Dead, but it’s kind of Fright Night as well, because you have the main character aware of something very suspicious going on, and then my character coming in and taking over this poor guy’s world. I love mixing horror with comedy.
Buffy wasn’t the only show where your character’s screen time was cut short …
Yeah, exactly. I had a little bit more time on Game of Thrones, but it was still sort of a big in, big out. I can’t say if I prefer one over the other because it’s sort of exciting to kind of develop a character over time and become part of a family. But there isn’t anything negative I could say about the experience of Game of Thrones. It was ideal in every sense. I would have loved for it to have gone on longer, but I got so much out of the brief time that I was there.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll return in a flashback, depending on what they do with Bran’s weirwood-tree visions.
Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I would be a leaf on that tree! I don’t care! I love those guys.
At least you have more job security on Narcos, because the person you’re portraying, Javier Peña, is still alive.
I just got an email from him today, so he is very much alive! He was saying that he had a lovely exchange with a girl at a FedEx store who told him she really liked our character on Narcos.
He apparently took you for some DEA undercover training, right? What was that like?
Boyd Holbrook and I went to Virginia to meet with our counterparts, Steve Murphy and Javier Peña, and we went to Quantico and sat in on some courses and did some tactical training, learned to shoot all kinds of weapons, the works. They put us through all of it. It was pretty incredible and crazy. There was definitely an advantage to being an actor in terms of the tactical simulations because it was kind of an acting exercise, except heightened. They would give you a sheet of paper and a description of a scene — like you drive up to this yellow house on the right, park the car in the driveway, get out, knock on the door, and buy marijuana from the person who answers. This is how they train their students.
In this one circumstance, I had a scenario where I go, knock on the door, and a guy answers. Apparently, I’ve bought drugs from him before, and I need to buy some more at this stage in the investigation. The guy kept inviting me into the house, and I had this instinct to not go in the house.
Then a light went on in my head, and I said, “No, no,” and made every excuse in the book: My back was hurting, my car was running. It got to the point where I basically said, “You know what? Let’s forget it. Let’s not do this.” Because he kept telling me that I was making him nervous, so I threw that back in his face and said, “You’re making me nervous. It was so easy last time, and now it’s not, and I don’t know why that is. I should go.” And I think his instruction was, no matter what, he had to try to sell the drugs, and as a tactic, my walking away was a way for me to complete the mission. And it worked.
Right afterwards, the instructors said, “Congratulations! Here’s what was supposed to go down. You were supposed to come in the house. And then this second guy was going to come out and surprise you, and he was going to see your gun and take your gun. And then a third guy comes out that you weren’t expecting either, and while he’s distracting you, he shoots you in the head.” And then he shot the blanks off in the room! They had a need to finish the scenario where they could kill me, even though I hadn’t given them the chance!
Were the DEA agents Game of Thrones fans? Did they just want to make your head explode?
There’s something really charming about being a fan of the show myself, and stepping into a totally different world, one that actually exists, where I’m making contact with people who are directly involved with the drug wars, and actually cruising around the halls of DEA headquarters — and then having someone geek because they love Game of Thrones and want to take a selfie and stick their thumbs in my eyes, or have me stick my thumbs in their eyes. It was all kind of wonderful.
There’s a degree of moral relativism on Narcos, especially toward the end of the season. The so-called good guys become willing to do just about anything to catch Pablo Escobar.
My interpretation is that the character of Javier Peña is a little further along than the character of Steve Murphy in terms of that moral ambiguity. He already has one foot in both worlds. He can insinuate himself because he speaks the language, and he was down there before Murphy got there. What’s interesting is how he exposes himself once he sees someone else change, as he sees Murphy change. It isn’t until then that he can even question whether he’s doing the right thing.
In episode one, we’re introduced to your character as, “This is the asshole.” Do you really think he is one?
Other than the fact that he sleeps with all of his informants …
But that’s out of respect and admiration! He just really loves women. Like, he thinks they’re better than men. The intimacy comes from a connection that is made, and it gets all kinds of gray, but his true feelings emerge from what is ultimately work. He wants to take care of his informants, whether he’s screwing them or not. You can’t get me out of bed!