Warning: This contains spoilers from Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode “The Mountain and the Viper”…
Prince Oberyn Martell won. He toppled The Mountain, the deadliest swordsman in Westeros. Victory was in his grasp. But merely killing Ser Gregor Clegane wasn’t enough. And now Dorne has lost a prince, and HBO’s Game of Thrones has lost another beloved character.
Some fans weren’t sure what to think when Oberyn was first introduced in the fourth season premiere (yet another character to remember?). Yet the fearless, polyamorous Latin-esque Red Viper quickly charmed, and by the end of the season — especially after his heart-breaking chat with Tyrion last week — Thrones fans were firmly on Team Viper. Then, in Sunday’s hour, he was taken away from us. And it was all because Oberyn didn’t just want to win his trial by combat content, he wanted The Mountain to publicly confess the heinous wartime crimes he committed against the Martell family.
“It’s a classic tragic flaw situation,” showrunner Dan Weiss told EW. “He’s a character who can’t leave well enough alone. He can’t help poking the hornet’s nest. He does it with great amusement throughout the season. He finally does it to the wrong person at the wrong time. The results left a big giant mess on the floor of our set.”
When first we met Pascal on the Thrones set in Croatia last September near the end of his time on the show, the Chilean actor seemed to relish shooting every moment. Below he talks about his character’s premature fate.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This season reaction to your character has been tremendous, are you getting recognized on the street now?
Pedro Pascal: There are these moments where I’m in New York City right now and doing rehearsals Much Ado About Nothing for Shakespeare in the Park, and I’m walking home and riding the train like I have for 20 years in New York City, and every now and then a stranger will give me a smile and thumbs up, or ask me to remove my headphones to ask if I’m Oberyn Martell the prince of Dorne. Everybody has been really sweet about it.
Are people surprised when you don’t have the accent?
A couple people have acknowledged I speak with an American accent. I hope they’re not too disappointed.
The rumor is Thrones is going to Dorne for season 5. How would you feel if all the actors in that country have to replicate the accent you invented for Oberyn?
I’ll feel a little guilty. I’m sure they will find actors who will bring their own sound to it. Hopefully they will not force them to abide by my bi-warrior Latin lover accent.
How much training did you have for your big battle?
None actually. I just kind of showed up and knew what I was doing. No, I was in stunt rehearsals with the incredible team here, and they actually gave me the opportunity back in Los Angeles to take classes in acrobatic martial arts and sort of learn how to hold the spear and stuff. I would say that I’m comfortable with movement, but not with props. So, putting the spear in my hand, I kind of had to start from scratch.
What was shooting the fight like?
It was really intense. It was a three-day shoot. We were in the arena that was exposed to sunlight for the entire day. [I was] layered, though agile, but still covered in armor and flying around like a wasp. Just flying around this 6-foot-8, 420-pound guy, who literally had a sword that went from the ground to my chin.
I never got hit, but I definitely could have stretched a bit more. There was costume rippage.
In your mind, what did your character do wrong?
Getting too close and being too far delivered by his own passions. Because ultimately, it is about defeating this man who raped and killed his sister, but before he can do that, before he can end this man’s life, he needs a confession. He needs to hear it. And interestingly I had this great conversation with [Thrones co-star] Lena Headey about Oberyn’s journey, and how even though it ends badly, he still hears the confession, you know? I don’t even need to go on after that once it’s been said out loud. And the ecstasy of achieving that, even though it’s being achieved in the instance of my demise.
What was your last day on set like?
It was really lovely and peaceful. It was the scene strolling through the garden with Lena Headey and the last thing they shot was when I was looking out into at Adriatic Sea. Then I tore off my costume and jumped into the ocean. Then I said goodbye to everybody and got in the van and rode to the airport.
What will you take away from this experience?
Playing the best character I have ever played in the greatest cast I have ever been a part of, and working with HBO and [showrunners] Dan and David was an opportunity of a lifetime. I wouldn’t know how to simplify that into a pat answer.