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Performer of The Month - Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of December - Pedro Pascal

This article was written by CJ Allan, Donna Cromeans, Karenna, and Laura W. The article was edited by Donna Cromeans (DJRiter). The open and close of the article were written by Donna Cromeans. Prepared for publishing by Aimee Hicks.

Since its premiere, The Mandalorian has presented fans with the Star Wars take on classic westerns. Such classic westerns The Searchers and True Grit presented the classic single-minded, stoic loner tasked with finding and protecting a young charge and on their journey together finds a special bond and discovers they have a heart after all. Following the adventures of Mandalorian Din Djarin and the child for two seasons has given a modern twist on that story intertwining with Star Wars history. In the latter episodes of Season 2 he demonstrated just how far he would go for his young charge. He leads a rag tag group in search of Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) who has taken the child for the empire. And in the final episode of Season 2, appropriately entitled The Rescue, the talented actor behind the mask of The Mandalorian, Pedro Pascal, gives us The Mandalorian at his warrior driven finest, fighting nearly insurmountable odds all for a child that to whom he had become oddly attached. While the action-packed episode, which culminated in one of the most talked-about cameos on television this season, it was not the warrior Mandalorian that touched fans. A simple quiet moment at episode’s end that demonstrated everything the character was and allowed Pascal to show the heart behind the warrior. For a Mandalorian, his helmet was who he was, but Pascal shows the man behind the mask when he removes that revered helmet to say goodbye to Grogu with tears in his eyes. For this heart-tugging moment and his skill in creating The Mandalorian, Pedro Pascal was selected as SpoilerTV’s Staff Choice December Performer of the Month.

Continue reading below to find out our thoughts regarding his performance. After reading, please leave your own thoughts in the comments.

Pedro Pascal spent much of the first two seasons of The Mandalorian acting from behind a helmet yet managed to give personality and depth to the character of Din Djarin. Voice acting is underrated, and Pascal's performance brings the skills required for a successful voice performance into the spotlight. In which episode prior to the season two finale did he give his strongest performance from behind the helmet?

CJ: Well the winner here must be the speech at the end of The Believer (2x7), using Moff’s words against him. You can hear the intensity in Pascal’s voice and feel his stare through the helmet. The line “He means more to me than you will ever know”, sent chills down my spine and set up the finale to be the epic conclusion it turned out to be.

Donna: I’m sure my colleagues will write, and deservedly so, about that an extremely dramatic moment in The Believer. However, I want to call attention to another one of those quiet, moments, where through his voice and body actions, Pascal showed yet another side of The Mandalorian. In The Jedi (2x5) we got further proof of the emerging humanity in the character with his amusement of how his young charge responded to the name they had just discovered. A tilt of his head and hint of laughter and amusement in his voice every time the child responded to, “Grogu” just added another layer to this complex character. He even shows his teasing nature when he would call the name with different voice inflections just to see how “Grogu” would react. He was almost childlike in playing with a new toy that brought him joy.

Karenna: Voice acting is often a thankless, creditless job, passed off by many as easy because it doesn’t require any sort of physicality. However, thinking that overlooks how much easier having the benefit of facial expressions is to communicate a character’s emotions and creating a connection with the audience. Double kudos goes to Pascal because Mando is not a particularly vocally expressive person either, meaning that he must shelter much of his character’s depth and personality beneath several layers of calm. Pascal’s effectiveness at convincing us to love Din from the first minute even though we hardly ever see his vulnerable sides emphasizes the massive skill that needs to go into a convincing voice performance.

Laura: I would definitely say his best performance besides the finale was The Believer. He was relentless in his fight and in his protection, and that shone through even despite the helmet. Clearly, you couldn’t see his face, but through his voice, you can sense how he’s feeling: his ease, his fear, his guilt. Pascal does a phenomenal job at bringing these emotions out when they’re integral.

The scene where Din removes his helmet the most significant one of the season, if not the show so far, in terms of the story and character development. What did Pascal bring to that scene that impressed you?

CJ: I think I have watched that final scene of saying Goodbye to Grogu so many times. I could swear you can hear his heartbreaking through his voice. The part of that scene that really sells it, by far, is what is not said. The hand touch to the face, Mando’s eyes closing to try and keep his emotions in check. Pascal really helps to convey the raw emotion the character is feeling. On a side note: one thing that adds to the performance is the music, it adds to the performance and the emotion (you can find it officially here - 1:55 hits those feels)

Donna: The answer to this question can be summed up in one word, in my opinion, humanity. Progressively throughout the series, Pascal has shown the more compassionate or human side of the man behind the mask. However, this moment was more than breaking his code, and one really must wonder who he did it for more. He wanted Grogu to know how much he meant to him, and the only way to do that is for him to see his face, his emotion, and yes, his tears. Again though, did he really do it for the child or did he need to do it for himself to remind himself there was a human behind the mask. This was perhaps Pascal’s finest moment, a bit ironic, too that for a show about a great warrior it was a quiet connection with a child that had the greatest impact.

Karenna: When we first meet Din, he is pretty much your stereotypical “lonesome cowboy.” He lives for and by the Mandalorian code, of which the #1 rule seems to be “never show your face.” As Mando has grown, however, we’ve seen his unfaltering loyalty to the code questioned and slowly broken down as the safety of The Child becomes more important to him. All this culminates in the touchingly intimate moment in the finale, where Pascal so perfectly portrays Din’s decision to let Grogu see his face before they are separated. A character whose main impetus was once the duty of a warrior to the Mandalorian code is now, so clearly and touchingly, thanks to Pascal, the love of a father for his son.

Laura: This is where Pascal’s brilliance comes in: this role relies on a voice. You can’t see his face when it’s behind a helmet, yet, when he takes the helmet off, he’s almost entirely silent. Every emotion he usually tells through his voice, he can finally show on his face. And you can see it all. The heartbreak at leaving Grogu, who’s become something of a child to him; the fear that something will happen if they’re separated; the joy at feeling touch on his skin from another living being for the first time in several years. This scene quickly became one of my favorites in the Star Wars universe, and it’s all thanks to Pascal.

Most of Pascal’s scenes during The Mandalorian have been with the puppet, animatronic baby Grogu. How difficult do you think it was making those scenes convincing acting with an inanimate object? Of his human co-stars and guest stars who would you like to see the character of Din have more interaction within future episodes?

CJ: The behind-the-scenes documentary (which I totally recommend) really show the details of the animatronic which I personally think helped to bring the character to life for the actors. I honestly believe by the end Pascal probably saw it as one of his own children by the end. The effects team really brought the puppet to life. I’m looking forward to seeing Din Djarin interacting with more Mandalorian’s. With the possession of the Dark Saber, I can feel him being torn between duty and hunting for bounties.

Donna: As any performer who has worked often in a sci-fi, fantasy, or heavy special effects production would likely attest, they must become adept at performing opposite inanimate objects all the time, i.e., the infamous tennis ball on a string. I think modern technology has made that much easier for them with the advances in animatronics, etc. that can create incredibly life-like creations for an actor to react to. I found Pascal’s scenes with Giancarolo Esposito, Moff Gideon, so brilliant and masterful, however, I would like to see, and am glad they’ve left the door to that possibility open, is for Din to work more with the wonderful Ming Na’s Fennec Shand.

Karenna: I can only imagine how insanely difficult it would be to act with your main scene partner to be, essentially, a glorified stuffed animal (although a cute one, for sure). It just speaks to Pascal’s commitment to the role that he can not only act with a puppet as his #1 foil but fully convince the audience of the unbreakable bond between Mando and Grogu, so much so that we found ourselves in tears as the two said their goodbyes. In future seasons, it may just be the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan in me, but I would love to see Mando work more with Ming-Na Wen’s Fennec Shand. In the seasons’ last episodes, their fighting alongside each other was a fun new dynamic to explore, and they both played against each other very nicely.

Laura: I would imagine it’s incredibly difficult to take your character, make him into a pseudo-father for this puppet, and then treat it like a real child. I can’t imagine how hard just the scenes of the two of them are. Of his human co-stars, I would absolutely love to see Rosario Dawson return to play Ahsoka, but since she’s getting her own series, I don’t think that will happen. Their time together was electric, and I wish we’d gotten more.

In the character of Din Djarin, The Mandalorian brings together protagonists of past and present, the familiar renegade gunslinger of old Westerns and the beloved conflicted hero type of today who must reckon with whether their future lies outside the only life they have known. How is the character positioned to have multigenerational appeal, and why is Pascal in particular the rare actor who could pull this role off?

CJ: When people hear Star Wars they instantly think of sci-fi and don’t think of the depths of genre’s The Mandalorian covers. Pascal has had a tough job this season covering action, western, samurai, comedy, and raw emotion. The Mandalorian is more than sci fi now and is a fully developed drama series. Pascal can change a scene just from the tone and sharpness of his words but has a likability that comes through in every scene.

Donna: The character easily follows an anti-hero trajectory that is so prevalent in so many classic westerns and early Star Wars films. Pascal is the perfect actor for this part because he brings an ideal combination of skills and appearance to that type of character. Not quite the typical or traditional Hollywood leading man heartthrob, Pascal has that everyman look, the look of a man who has lived a hard life, learned from those lessons, and has no trouble using his very expressive face and mannerisms to convey so many sides to the same character. He also has the talent and skill to make you believe he could portray a cold-hearted killer in one film, quiet tortured hero in another, and would be capable of doing broad comedy.

Karenna: I am an enormous proponent of the idea that The Mandalorian works not because it’s a Star Wars property, but because it harkens back to the quiet, contemplative, formulaic, but endlessly entertaining TV and film westerns of the 1950s and ’60s. To make that kind of leading role work, an actor must be able to eschew the showiness of the typical contemporary hero roles for a part that is much quieter and more contemplative. Pascal manages to take on that role and make it his own, perfectly calling to mind the levelheaded mastery of a Ford or Kurosawa protagonist, while adding engrossing elements of a man questioning his purpose and a father looking after his son.

Laura: I think this character has multigenerational appeal because he’s consistently meeting new people, in new times, new places, for new reasons. He’s usually not going back to the same people he knew -- unless for a circumstance like this episode -- and that’s the fun thing about it. We always get some new, or old (!), part of Star Wars lore to enjoy with him. Pascal is perfect for this role because he has chemistry with absolutely everyone with whom he acts. As Din, he seems to mesh with everyone he meets seamlessly, and that’s what makes you want to root for him, too. He helps anyone in need, not just people he knows, or people he’s going to use and then kill for profit.

Which was Pedro Pascal’s strongest moment as Din Djarin? What made it special? Was it who he was in the scene with or something special he brought to the scene?

CJ: I’ve got to go back to it, but that final scene saying goodbye to Grogu. I could break this scene down and talk about it for hours. His words to Grogu to go and be brave as you can hear him struggling to say goodbye. The slow helmet removal, representing him finally letting his guard down, letting his emotions show, and Pascal hits every beat. He made it feel like the words he said to Grogu were Din Djarin’s words to himself so he can move forward. See I’m rambling. If anyone wants to discuss this for hours, you know where I am.

Donna: The answer here is obvious. As skilled as he was in making Din a character viewers liked and rooted for, it was when he showed the emotional side of the man behind the mask in a poignant farewell to baby Grogu in The Rescue that was his finest moment. Everything he had been making us believe about the character behind a mask, was suddenly there on full display. The strong man unafraid to lay himself bare, tears in his eyes, to express how he felt in that special moment.

Karenna: Pascal’s moment saying goodbye to Grogu was phenomenal, but what stood out even more to me in terms of technique was in episode 7, when Din must remove the helmet to find Grogu’s location. It is then that we see just how thoughtful Pascal’s performance as Din really is. The reluctance and conflict he portrays both before and after Mando takes off the helmet is captivating. The complete social ineptness that ensues was hilarious. Eagle-eyed fans even pointed out on Twitter and elsewhere that Pascal employed several physical acting techniques that enhanced his performance to another level, like fully turning his head to look at things in his peripheral (like one would do if they usually wore a helmet, for instance).

Laura: I hate to sound like a broken record but that final scene in The Rescue, between him and Grogu, with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) watching was wonderful. For me, I think it really was getting to see that Grogu is no longer just something Din thinks he must protect, but something he wants to protect, that made it really special. And you can see that in his face.

What are your final thoughts on Pedro Pascal winning this recognition for The Mandalorian?

CJ: It goes without saying (as I’m about to say it), The Mandalorian is visually stunning, the music is outstanding, and the writing and direction is never to fault. But, without Pascal as lead, this show could have easily lost it’s magic, simply because we wouldn’t want to relate to this cold, blunt, bounty hunter, traveling through space. Pascal, from episode 1, has shown the emotional journey of Din Djarin through his words and body language, he shows his fear of showing emotion until he lets us (and his friends) in by removing his helmet. It’s the fact that he talks less when his helmet is off but shows the emotion we hear in his voice when the helmet is on, that makes Pascal one of the most versatile actors currently on TV.

Donna: This is a completely deserved and long overdue honor. Pascal was masterful in bringing life to Din Djarin and doing most of that from behind a mask.

Karenna: Well-deserved! Pascal is making a name as an actor on the rise, but I still remember him for his great turn as an FBI agent on USA’s Graceland almost a decade ago. All this name recognition and high honors were, in my eyes, bound to happen for him eventually; I’m just glad I get to be one of the ones heaping on the praise.

Laura: I am so incredibly happy for him. It’s one hundred percent well deserved, and I’m so grateful I get to join this group to write about my thoughts on it as well. Big socially distant hugs and congratulations to him!

From the beginning, The Mandalorian has brought a new aspect to the Star Wars history. The story of the stoic bounty hunter tamed by the small child will be remembered for honoring the franchise’s rich history by bringing a new, iconic character, Din Djarin, into the fold. None of that would be possible without the incredible talents Pedro Pascal brought to the screen in bringing this character to life. For his amazing work throughout two seasons but especially in the Season 2 finale of The Mandalorian, The Rescue, Pedro Pascal has deservedly earned the honor of being selected SpoilerTV’s Staff Choice December Performer of the Month.

Please use the comments to discuss all your favorite parts of Pedro Pascal’s performance in The Rescue.

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