© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / by Frankie TAGGART | Three years after his break in the ratings juggernaut, Pedro Pascal can count himself as a genuine A-lister, with roles in big budget movies like upcoming spy comedy "Kingsman: The Golden Circle
BOGOTA - 9 September 2017: As the dashing foreign prince Oberyn Martell on "Game of Thrones," Pedro Pascal seduced and swashbuckled his way into viewers' hearts and, without doubt, many an R-rated day dream.
But when fans approach the 42-year-old Chilean-American, they are more likely to want to pose with their hands clasped, vice-like, around his skull than their arms around his waist, he jokes.
Pascal's Red Viper stole season four of the HBO hit, partly due to his sex-symbol swagger but also because his graphic, skull-crushing death ensured his iconic status in a series which does not shy away from toe-curling violence.
Three years after his break in the ratings juggernaut, Pascal can count himself as a genuine A-lister, with roles in big budget movies like upcoming spy comedy "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" landing on his agent's desk.
But it is his starring part as DEA agent Javier Pena in Netflix's Colombia-set underworld crime drama "Narcos" that has taken the actor's popularity to the next level.
"When we finished shooting season two, I had to go straight to the UK and start working on 'Kingsman,' and that was where I first started to feel the popularity of the show," Pascal told AFP in Colombian capital Bogota ahead of the season three premiere last week.
"They love 'Narcos' in England. People were like 'Javier Pena?' all the time," he says, affecting the Estuary English vowels and glottal stop of a Victorian pick-pocket.
"I was like, 'Wow -- I've graduated from Oberyn.' So it's interesting, especially since Netflix has this incredible capacity to put these shows into the homes of so many different countries."
- Crushed skull -
The "Thrones" faithful, he says, always want to talk about Martell getting his eyes gouged out and head crushed in the bare hands of the towering, monstrous knight Ser Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane.
"They all want to stick their thumbs in my eyes," he grins.
A relatively late bloomer at Hollywood's top table, Pascal had toiled since the late 1990s on TV shows -- often one-off appearances in crime procedurals -- before "Thrones" came calling.
He was born in the Chilean capital Santiago to opposition activists involved in the movement against military dictator Augusto Pinochet, but Texas became his childhood home after his parents fled the US.
He already knew something of Colombia before "Narcos," having visited on a family holiday at age 13, and again for the 2011 TV movie "Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe" for the USA network.
"I had a really nice time. I didn't have as much work to do so I had more fun, and that meant making friends and going to people's parties... and getting an impression of the cool hipster scene in Bogota," he recalls of the later visit.
"Shooting ('Narcos') here, my experience of living in Colombia is in complete contrast to the story that we are telling."
Many kingpins from the peak of Colombia's 1980s and 90s drug wars met grisly ends or are in languishing in US federal prisons, yet Pascal and his co-stars frequently field accusations that the show glamorizes narco-trafficking.
- 'Glamorous' -
"I don't think the show is totally irresponsible about glamorizing what it is. It is glamorous, you know, and it's also dangerous and violent, and everyone falls. It tells the whole story," he says.
"It doesn't make me want to do coke and it doesn't make me want to be a drug dealer, and for other people it might."
On the big screen, Pascal's handful of movies have includes the largely ignored vampire comedy "Bloodsucking Bastards" and the unloved Chinese fantasy blockbuster "The Great Wall" opposite Matt Damon.
But his next role as an American secret agent in the upcoming "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" will be his most high-profile film role by far, casting him opposite a plethora of Hollywood's elite.
"It's just a bunch of out-of-work actors that finally got a job, like Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Elton John," he deadpans.
"It's just a little cast. I was patient with them. I was able to share my knowledge and my experience so I think they come out okay. They've learned a lot."
He reveals he got the part of Agent Whiskey because director Matthew Vaughn saw the first season of "Narcos," when Pascal's Agent Pena wasn't yet the central character viewers follow in season three.
"Pena is not marginal, but very supporting in season one, and he got a little OCD on my character," Pascal says.
"I mean he put me through a very extensive casting process, but it was because of 'Narcos.' It was Pena that he starting shaping the character Agent Whiskey on. Thanks 'Narcos.'"