Pedro Pascal Takes A Direct Approach
The son of Chilean parents who fled their country to escape the 1970s unrest, Pedro Pascal has become one of Off-Broadway’s busiest actors in the past few years. But he’s recently been pursuing his interest in directing as well, and is currently helming the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre’s production of Yosemite, a new play by Daniel Talbott that stars Kathryn Erbe and Seth Numrich.
The play concerns a family in crisis: an older brother, a middle sister and a younger brother. “They’ve been sent out to the woods by their mother to bury their infant sibling, who has stopped breathing in its crib and been dead about three days,” he explains.
Indeed, Yosemite has challenged him to find action in the lyrical language. “Through language, these characters are trying to escape the situation they’re in,” says Pascal. “It’s just them and their words that are so purely motivated by the emotional need to survive.”
Having Numrich as a lead has been a boon, too, because the actor — who just left the Broadway company of War Horse — starred in Talbott’s earlier play, Slipping. “Seth has provided an important insight to Daniel’s work for me,” he says. “I can bring a new perspective, and he can sort of help me get deeper with the material.”
Pascal’s interest in directing started very young, he says. “I began thinking about it as far back as high school, to the point where I was considering going to university for that,” says Pascal. “But I didn’t get into those schools. I got into the acting schools. And so that was my ticket to New York.”
Pascal’s first professional brush with directing came when he hooked up with the LAByrinth Theater Company, where he first met actress Florencia Lozano. “We became friends and worked together in a production of Macbeth, and she started talking about this play she wrote, underneathmybed, and we started working on it,” he notes. Eventually, he directed readings of it, and ultimately Rattlestick’s artistic director, David Van Asselt, entrusted a full production to him.
“I feel in a lot of ways more suited to directing, because there’s so much more responsibility there, and every part of your brain is working creatively,” says Pascal. “I’m working with the playwright, with the design team, with the actors, with the text. If I’m not occupied in that manner, then I feel a bit restless.”
For now, though, he has to alternate directing and stage acting with wallet-fattening acting roles in film and TV, including the short-lived FX series Lights Out and CBS’ hit drama The Good Wife, in which he has a recurring role as a dogged attorney. (Unfortunately, the pilot for TV’s Wonder Woman, in which he had a crucial part as a detective who might have become the heroine’s love interest, wasn’t picked up.)
His stage work, however, has been a far cry from those roles. In Jordan Harrison’s Maple and Vine, which recently ran at Playwrights Horizons, he played two different gay men, one a bespectacled dandy at ease in his skin, the other an achingly repressed factory worker. He worked close with director Anne Kauffman to put each character into relief. “I think that the very different qualities of the two characters came pretty naturally. I just understood each of them separately, in a clear way.”
Pascal has also been cast in gay roles in such diverse plays as Nilo Cruz’s Beauty of the Father, Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa’s Based on a Totally True Story, and Terrence McNally’s Some Men, but says that sexuality was not a sticking point for him. “I think that the characters’ sexual preference is secondary to everything else that is going on,” he says. “They’re just human beings.”