“Game of Thrones” bosses knew they found something special when they cast Pedro Pascal as Prince Oberyn Martell.
Executive Producer D.B. Weiss called him “an amazing, versatile, powerful actor,” and throughout the season, Pedro’s lived up to the praise at every turn, most especially in Season 4’s Episode 7.
Visiting Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) in his cell, Oberyn told the only Lannister he can stand a gut-wrenching story about visiting Casterly Rock as a youngster. His story, detailing the hatred Cersei (Lena Headey) had for her baby brother when she was just a young girl, cut Tyrion to the bone. But before he left the cell, Oberyn had a character-defining moment when he told Tyrion, “I will be your champion,” for Tyrion’s trial by combat.
And with his character about to finally get into the arena opposite Cersei’s champion, Ser Gregor Clegane/The Mountain, hoping to avenge his own sister’s death, Pedro spoke with AccessHollywood.com about what to expect. But first, as he took a moment away from rehearsals for “Much Ado About Nothing,” for Shakespeare in the Park in New York City, we had to address Pedro’s superb scene with Peter.
AccessHollywood.com: Let’s start out by talking about the scene with you and Peter in the cell. Have you watched it back?
Pedro Pascal: Absolutely.
Access: Tell me about filming that and getting it right. That was an incredible moment.
Pedro: It was really emotional for me, watching the episode, because the memories started flooding back. That was my first day on set. It was my first day in full costume and it was my first sort of, well not sort of — it was basically my first day of shooting and I was fairly intimidated to put it lightly because obviously, it was clear to me that it was a very important scene, not only for the arc of my character, but even more so, I think, for Tyrion, because I think David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss] have adapted something so beautifully from the books that is just this incredible layer offered to fans about Tyrion and how he’s been sort of at odds with his circumstance since his birth. And to be able to be a character that sheds light on that, or really finds a way to put words to it, and to sort of align himself with Tyrion through something that is quite vulnerable, really, was really exciting. … I think it’s such a beautifully written scene and Alik Sakharov, the director, was just my champion (laughs) as was Peter.
Access: When you finished that scene, especially with what you got to say at the end of it and that amazing reaction that Tyrion gives to Oberyn’s announcement about being his champion — how do you celebrate doing a moment like that?… It’s dropping the mic. It’s like, bam!
Pedro: Well, there was opportunity to like sink your teeth into such rich material and then, it was made so much fun to do with Peter because he’s such a wonderful actor and he’s a very, very generous artist, so it was really an invitation right from the get-go to play. So it was like playing this scene with a wonderful actor, being directed by Alik, who I think is just brilliant. So it was really sort of the masterful kind of post-work that was put into the scene, because I didn’t necessarily know that it was going to kind of have this like very inspiring kind of build of music and… I didn’t understand completely that they were [going to light me] a little from below to kind of like give me a taller stance. To say the line, ‘I will be your champion,’ it felt so sort of like seamless, sort of like existing in the actual world of the scene that it was something that was just totally felt and that was one scene that ultimately I didn’t see in post at all. The first time I saw the scene was watching it on television and understand, it was my very first day on set, so it was also the scene that I was furthest from in terms of time and memory, so I really got to kind of like see it completely fresh, almost like I was never a part of it (laughs).
Access: So, on to what’s next and it is something we’ve been building toward all season long, which is Oberyn getting into the ring. Tell me about the training.
Pedro: Well, I was flown to Belfast to meet David and Dan and I was sent into costume fittings and very early into a fight rehearsal and then flown back to Los Angeles and there, I was, very gratefully, signed up to train with Master Hu, who is a Wushu martial arts instructor – and Master, actually.
Access: That’s insane.
Pedro: Yeah, it was pretty insane. And this guy was the real deal. He showed me the movies that he was in with Jet-Li, the Shaolin films and it was incredible. He had a couple of weeks to basically show me the basics and to give me a head start to what was ultimately going to be very extensive fight rehearsals with the incredible fight team [and sword master] C.C. Smiff on set. And when I had sort of down time, it was really kind of occupied by rehearsals for the fight.
Access: Preview the fight then. How insane is this going to be? This is almost like gladiators, right? In an arena?
Pedro: It’s in an arena. It is just a gorgeously decorated set in an incredible location. I’ve not seen anything like it in life or on the show and it’s me, you know, Pedro Pascal playing Oberyn Martell. Pedro Pascal who is 5’11” and 165 lbs. up against the man who holds the official title of the World’s Third Strongest Man. He literally came back from a competition in China, where he won the title of the World’s Third Strongest Man. He’s 6’9”, 420 lbs. And so, you said the two of us at the center of this incredible set and it has a lot of the main characters there as well. You have the entire Lannister family, you have Ellaria Sand, my paramour, played by Indira Varma, Tyrion’s life is on the line, we’ve got a few hundred extras. It’s pretty epic!
“Game of Thrones” returns Sunday night with Season 4, Episode 8, “The Mountain and The Viper,” airing at 9 PM ET/PT on HBO.
-- Jolie Lash
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