GALO: That goes into the central themes of Game of Thrones, which consist of betrayal, revenge and honor, and all of the characters are constantly scheming and plotting against each other. The only comic relief we seem to get comes from Peter Dinklage who plays Tyrion Lannister. This season you work closely with him because your characters find some common ground. What was it like working with him? Is he as funny and witty as his character?

PP: I was very aware of his talent growing up. I had seen him in films and on stage in New York. I had every expectation of meeting an incredibly talented and intelligent person, but he just has this razor sharp intelligence and this dry sense of humor that made me understand how David and Dan would basically only go after him for the role of Tyrion. And from the get-go, working with him was a joy. He’s the smartest person in the room; he’s without question the smartest person, and he’s also, in working, very generous. He’s very playful. I mean yes, sure, he’ll joke around and make a light environment, but when you’re actually in the scene with him, he’s just very generous and very connected to you and listening, and it’s very inspiring. It’s also a great invitation to play as well. It’s an invitation to feel very free with the material. I don’t mean with the actual writing, but just in terms of the way that the tone can fluctuate from one beat to another. It all feels really fresh and as a scene partner, it invites you to play. It was a very special experience. He’s one of the best people I’ve ever worked with.

GALO: I imagine that auditioning for this role, and in general, was both grueling and nerve-wracking. The show has been so successful in its first three seasons — I know the creators weren’t sure if it would ever get there, especially, given the cliffhanger ending of season three. And I think Peter Dinklage even commented on it in an interview, saying, “Where do you go from there?” and “How do you top that?” Did you go in with any expectations, and were you already familiar with the books and your character’s role?

PP: I had to curb my expectations. I kind of had to force myself not to have any expectations, and really deliver what was being presented to just get to the core of it and discover that place we talked about, what actually motivates Oberyn Martell, and how it’s purely an emotional place. And alongside the actual work, there was my familiarity with the show — I was a fan before the audition even came around. I binge-watched the first two seasons, and by the time the third season rolled around, I was totally caught up and anticipating each Sunday. When it first came around, I was like, “what is this fantasy show on HBO? What is that?” It was like, “Okay, I’ll watch it! Everybody’s telling me to watch it, [that] it’s amazing. Okay, I’ll fucking watch it!” Fantasy isn’t a genre that I like…disdain. It wasn’t necessarily my bag, but that’s what’s so transcendent about the books and the show — it goes way beyond one’s ideas of fantasy genre.

I was a huge fan of the show before I ever auditioned for it, so I’ve never experienced anything like that — going to a location of something that I was so aware of and already so excited by, whether I had anything to do with it or not. I knew all of the actors. I was in love with all of their characters. There was an aspect of the entire series that was surreal, aside from actually having work to do. Of course, with it came tremendous challenges that were physical, emotional and the pressure of it. At that point, I was aware that this was a character in the books that readers really cared about; and, of course, I understand why — he’s a great character — [it was about] finding a way of taking the risk of satisfying them in the truest way, which [means] understanding what makes this guy tick.

GALO: Can you talk about what it’s like to be on the set, in terms of the places you shoot, because the sheer scale of this show is enormous.

PP: It looked enormous when I was there. It felt so epic. I’ve never been around production quality like that. I’ve never seen that level of artistry from every single department, and the passion that everyone had for it. It was overwhelming, to be honest. You’re seeing it actually being made, something that you’ve already sat at home, by yourself, watching on the screen and having your breath taken away, and then you’re actually seeing them make it. It was just as incredible as you would expect it to be, even more so — the Throne Room, for example, the location and the costumes. But what made it so doable was that David and HBO have put this team together that is really fucking good at what they do and really passionate about it. Strangely, there was this incredible ease to its makings because people were basically really friendly and really good at their job. And those two having a relationship with each other is what makes the show.

GALO: Taking a turn to some of the other stuff that you’ve been doing, you also finished shooting your other recurring role of Juan Badillo, a tough but charming FBI agent on Graceland. Can you talk more about your character and the kind of role he plays? Was there any hand-to-hand combat or gun training involved in playing an undercover cop?

PP: With Juan Badillo, it was a really cool opportunity to have a more dramatic role than a role of action, raids or gunfire. He’s an internal affairs officer, and the cool thing about Graceland — there’s no spoilers here because I was only in the first season and I’m killed at the end of it. It already aired, so I can say that [laughs] — is it’s about undercover cops, so it’s all about different hidden agendas and constantly things twisting and turning. I come into it with a specific agenda, roping in one of the main characters, convincing him of something, and getting him to investigate his partner. And there are different layers revealed as the storyline continues where you see that lie. The initial agenda is actually loaded by this hidden agenda, and under this hidden agenda is this specific circumstance that reveals this. So there were cool one-on-one scenes with Aaron Tveit kind of manipulating circumstances from my desk, which was cool in an environment like that. There was action, and I was making scenes happen more from a hidden place.

GALO: You have also recently pursued your longtime interest in directing as well, leading the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre’s production of Yosemite. It seems popular for actors to expand their horizons this way and explore the different sides of the film and theater industries. Tom Hanks, Ben Affleck and George Clooney are just a few examples. What is it about being on the other side of the camera, or stage, that’s attractive to you and other actors?

PP: I’ve never been on the other side of the camera. My directing experience is in theater and I think that just comes from my home being in the theater. It’s where I got my training; it’s where I began my professional career. It’s a very close community in New York. It’s kind of a very large family. I’ve been a member of the Labyrinth Theater Company for years, and many of my closest friends are in that theater company, which is basically based on artists coming together in multifaceted ways.

And so, my first directing experience came from working with a friend of mine who had written a play, and she and I began to develop its production together — originating in the Labyrinth Theater Company and then getting produced by Rattlestick Theater Company, which is another amazing, innovative, 99-seat theater in downtown Manhattan that is totally uncompromising in terms of what it produces and in taking risks on new artists, which is what they did with me because I had never directed before. I was simply an actor trying to get by, living paycheck to paycheck, as I still am. That was really how I got my feet wet. On the very ground floor, I was developing with my friend, staging readings with Labyrinth and then going into a workshop with Rattlestick, followed by rehearsals and production. And thankfully, the director of the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, whose name is David Van Asselt –- a pro among the theater community in New York, in that he produces only new plays and gives wonderful opportunities to brand new playwrights, directors and actors — came in and had me back to direct Yosemite.

For me, in the experience of directing a cast and thinking of the big picture, it felt almost more suited to me in a way, because there are so many things to focus on. Whereas as an actor, it’s a little more of a singular experience and you’re at the mercy of much more, and there’s ownership, obviously, over what you do — the role that you’re playing; the role is yours. But it is one piece of a larger picture, where the director is kind of like a parent taking care of all aspects — working with the writer, actors, art director and the light and sound person. Being in that position, my brain felt comfortable having to focus on more than just myself, which I’ve never been terribly comfortable with anyway. I was very grateful to have that opportunity. You have more responsibility, and you have to be more specific in your vision because it’s not just you. And also, people bend to what other people’s input is, from every aspect of it — not just the actors, but, obviously, the writer and all of the artists involved.

GALO: It sounds like an overall fantastic experience. Is there anything else you’re working on now?

PP: I just wrapped [shooting] on this interesting film called Bloodsucking Bastards, which is a really gory comedy that is like Office Space meets Fright Night. That was a nice experience doing independent film. I haven’t had much experience in film; I’m really just getting my feet wet. That was a very collaborative process as well. That was a good group of people that had a very strong script, where people could develop it as we were shooting. I worked with a great actor named Fran Kranz — I really enjoyed his movie Cabin in the Woods — who’s also had some theater experience in New York. We wrapped that, and I’m currently shooting a recurring role on The Mentalist as well. I get to play the guy who’s romancing the female lead of that show, and that’s what’s happening now, continuing to audition and stuff — just back to the same old shit, man [laughs].

GALO: Do you think any more directing opportunities will come your way?

PP: I hope so. Right now, because of acting work, it’s brought me out to Los Angeles. As long as Labyrinth is alive, I will be a member of it, and hope to get the opportunity to develop something new, either as a director, writer or actor. I can only hope I will be given another opportunity to direct at Rattlestick again. At this point, it is a fingers-crossed situation because I don’t have anything specific that I’m working on as far as being a director is concerned.

Game of Thrones season four premieres on April 6, 2014 on HBO. For more information about the show, please visit

Video courtesy of HBO/Game of Thrones.

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Featured image: Actor Pedro Pascal. Photo Credit: Brent Weber.