With Narcos Season 3 about to start streaming on Netflix, I recently landed an exclusive interview with Pedro Pascal. If you’re not familiar with the show, the excellent crime drama chronicled the hunt for Pablo Escobar in its first two seasons and now that they reached the end of the infamous kingpin’s story, they’re taking on the next chapter in the rise of the Colombian drug trade — the rise of the Cali Cartel. Led by four powerful godfathers, the Cali Cartel succeeded Escobar, growing the cocaine trade into a global enterprise and forging one of the most powerful crime syndicates in the world. But unlike Escobar, who loved to dominate headlines around the world with his brutal killing of anyone that stood in his way, the Cali cartel is the polar opposite, preferring to keep its violent actions out of the headlines.
During the interview Pedro Pascal talked about why he thinks people love watching shows about criminals, the way his character Javier Peña has changed as a character between the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3, how much he knows about the arc of the season before filming begins, the popularity of the show around the world, the way the show gets made, how Narcos creates characters that aren’t just black and white, and a lot more. In addition, he talks about how he got involved in Matthew Vaughn Kingsman: The Golden Circle and if he still watched Game of Thrones. Check out what he had to say below.
COLLIDER: First of all I love Narcos. I’ve seen the first five episode of Season 3, it’s great.
PASCAL: Awesome. Thank you.
But … to start with a fun question, do you still watch Game of Thrones? And what are your thoughts on last night?
PASCAL: I didn’t see last night so just stop right there. I was on a plane. I’m up to Episode 6 so I have yet to see last nights episode and I’m hiding from the world until I do.
So you’re as spoiler phobic as all of us.
PASCAL: Yes, I am very, very spoiler phobic. I have returned to my role as audience member after season four and am completely up to date and I can’t wait to be completely caught up.
Yeah, I’m gonna tell you a secret: it’s good. That’s all I’ll say.
PASCAL: Yeah that’s what I’ve heard. My sister was like, “Oh my God!” I was like, “Shut up!”
I’m glad you get into it as much as all of us.
PASCAL: Oh yeah. Definitely.
Back to Narcos: People love to watch shows about criminals. Why do you think that is?
PASCAL: I think that like the show Game of Thrones, our fascination with power struggles is pretty unanimous. And that’s what Narcos is. We’re dealing with an industry of drugs and all of the forces fighting against it and positioning themselves in power against it or with it. And so they’re talking about billions of dollars, a multi billion-dollar industry, which invites all of the chaos and violence and obviously extravagant life styles that is so otherworldly to us average audience members. I think that there is just a general fascination with the story of power struggles that is obviously so dominant in this world, in this storytelling.
How would you describe the way Peña’s changed as a character between the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 3?
PASCAL: Well Peña finds himself in a really interesting, precarious position in season three where, established in seasons one and two, is a man who is very comfortable working in the shadows and on his own terms and suddenly he’s much more exposed and there are a lot more responsibilities that he has to be committed to, as far as this strange promotion he’s been given. He’s definitely not following anybodies rules. And so going up against the beast that is the Cali cartel in the position that he’s in and to discover day after day how to fight this animal that is so different in the Escobar empire is a very unpredictable experience. It was unpredictable for me to act it because I didn’t know what was going to be happening from one episode to the next. I had to find out … I had to wait until a script was handed to me to know.
It’s interesting you say that, because I was going to ask you how much you try and learn about the arc of the season prior to filming, and how many scripts are you normally given?
PASCAL: Well it was easier to have an understanding of what the arc would be in seasons one and two because I knew that the Escobar storyline would be taken care of in two seasons and knowing that the character that I play was a real agent that was a part of that history. It was different to begin, I knew less about the Cali cartel, so I found it more fascinating, the new information that I was discovering and the research that I was doing for season three and it was a far more insidious operation where the society that they are controlling, they are much more implemented into. It makes it a lot harder to take down. And as far as season three was concerned, and in contrast to season one and two, I was really, really finding out what I was going to be doing from episode to episode.
Because sometimes, for example, with Game of Thrones they usually finish all 10 scripts before filming begins.
PASCAL: Yeah – No, we were writing as we were going.
That must be interesting.
PASCAL: Yeah, it was very interesting. It kept me on my toes that’s for sure.
When you went in and met with Narcos and with Netflix and they were pitching you on the show, did they pitch you on “we have an idea for a show that could run 5 seasons?” Or they just pitched you on a two-year arc for the Escobar, and then “let’s see what happens.”
PASCAL: They clued me into a two-year arc. They weren’t specific and they didn’t limit it strictly to that, but I was definitely under the impression that I had a job for at least two seasons. And that’s it.
Netflix seems to be … they don’t really tell creators or anybody their numbers or the viewers. Are you as in the dark as the rest of the world?
PASCAL: Oh yeah. Even more so I would say. It seems like information from the outside closes me in as much as being on the inside. I’ve no idea what the numbers are, or the algorithms, I do know that the more and more I travel into the world people are recognizing me more and more for Narcos and that’s all over the world and that gives me somewhat of an impression that people are watching I guess.
Well the thing I think a lot of people forget is that Netflix owns worldwide rights. So they’re not just aiming at the American audience, I’m sure that Narcos is incredibly popular in Mexico, South America, in Asia; it’s everywhere.
PASCAL: Yeah, it’s true. In Europe very, very, very popular in Europe. They seem to really love it in Spain and in the UK.