Pedro Pascal honored his late mom's memory by taking her maiden name
Pedro Pascal might be one of the most popular actors in Hollywood right now, but he credits his parents, Verónica Pascal Ureta and José Balmaceda Riera, for his success.
The Last of Us star was born in Chile on April 2, 1975. When he was 9 months old, he and his family became political refugees when his parents fled during dictator Augusto Pinochet's reign. They were granted asylum in Denmark before immigrating to the United States, where he and his sister, Javiera, grew up in Texas and California, he told TIME. After two decades in the U.S., his parents returned to South America with his two younger siblings in 1995.
“They were so brave, and without them, I wouldn’t be here in this wonderful country, and I certainly wouldn’t be standing here with you all tonight,” he said. “So, to all my family watching in Chile, I want to say te amo, te extraño ... which means, I love you, I miss you.”
Although his SNL debut was a hit with fans, it was a bittersweet experience for the actor. Pedro made his hosting debut on Feb. 4, 2023, the anniversary of his mother’s death in 1999.
“I was so scared that week that I was talking to her,” he told Esquire a few months later. “I talked to her, and it was really comforting. I had sort of the realization that it would be nice to talk to her more.”
Pedro’s parents separated sometime after their return to Chile and his mother died several years later. The then-unknown actor took Verónica's maiden name to honor her, changing his last name from Balmaceda to Pascal.
From their turbulent escape from Chile to their close relationship with the star, here’s everything to know about Pedro Pascal’s parents, Verónica Pascal Ureta and José Balmaceda Riera.
They were political refugees
When he was less than a year old, Pedro’s parents became political refugees.
“I wouldn’t say my parents were revolutionaries by any stretch of the imagination, but they were young, liberal college students,” Pedro said on the Smartless podcast in 2023.
While they weren’t active dissidents themselves, they did have close ties to those who were, specifically, Verónica's cousin who was “very involved in the opposition movement.” The Mandalorian star went on to detail the circumstances of their escape, explaining that his parents were forced to flee after helping an anti-Pinochet gunshot victim.
According to Pedro, a priest brought the gunshot victim to their house so that his father, a resident at a local hospital, could give him the medical care he needed. His parents also agreed to help hide the revolutionary, but after he was caught, they were wanted by the authorities.
“They came looking for my parents, and so then my parents had to go into hiding for about six months,” he said. Eventually, they successfully entered the Venezuelan embassy and were granted asylum. The family was then sent to Denmark before immigrating to the U.S.
They welcomed four children
Verónica and José celebrated the arrival of their first child, daughter Javiera Balmaceda Pascal, in 1972. Pedro was born a few years later in 1975. While Javiera and Pedro were born in Chile, Verónica and José welcomed two kids after moving to the U.S.
Pedro’s brother, Nicolás Balmaceda Pascal, was born in 1987, and the youngest member of the family, Lux Balmaceda Pascal, was born in 1992, when Pedro was 17 years old. Despite their age difference, Pedro has a close-knit relationship with his younger brother and sister.
In 2019, the actor celebrated Nicolás' birthday with a heartfelt tribute alongside a photo of him on Instagram. “He’s getting his PHD in pediatric neurology. He hates attention and he loves doing good. It’s his birthday," Pedro wrote in the caption. “To punish him for being younger, smarter and more handsome I thought I would announce this to the world. Happy birthday.”
Pedro is equally close with his little sister Lux, despite both of his younger siblings moving back to Chile with their parents when they were kids.
“She ruled the household right away. When my older sister and I would visit, we were like intruders,” Pedro told Esquire, adding, “She is and has always been one of the most powerful people and personalities I’ve ever known.”
In February 2021, the actor shared a sweet message of support to his younger sister after she publicly came out as a transgender woman. He posted a picture on Instagram of Lux on the cover of Ya, the Chilean magazine where she opened up about her transition for the first time.
“Mi hermana, mi corazón, nuestra Lux,” he wrote in Spanish, which translates to “my sister, my heart, our Lux.”
They lived in Chile, Texas and California
After fleeing Pinochet’s dictatorship, Verónica and José initially found political asylum in Denmark. However, they didn’t stay long, and the family soon immigrated to the U.S., where they settled in San Antonio, Texas.
There, they started going to basketball games and the movies, sometimes several times a week, to soak up the American culture.
“My parents were so young and they were Chilean immigrants in San Antonio, Texas. It was all about going to movies, rock concerts, and Spurs games,” he told longtime friend Sarah Paulson in 2014 for Interview magazine.
“I would go to the movies very often with my father, because he just loved to go to the movies,” the Game of Thrones alum added. “The primary influence in my life was movies. It was an interest that never went away.”
When Pedro finished the fifth grade, though, his father was offered a job in California, so the family relocated to Orange County. Speaking to Variety in 2020, he opened up about the move, saying, “There were two really, really rough years. A lot of bullying.”
Eventually, his mother enrolled him in a performing arts high school in the area, and his interest in acting flourished. A few years later, there was another personal change when his parents decided to return to their home country with their two younger children.
“My sister and I were born in Chile and raised in the States, and my [younger siblings] were born in the States and raised in Chile after my parents moved back in 1995,” Pedro told TIME.
They valued education
Movies and TV were a big part of Pedro’s early life. Along with going to the theater with his family, he grew up watching plenty of horror movies and HBO programming — content that, he says, was probably too mature for him.
During an interview with Wired in 2023, he explained that his parents were relaxed about his screen time choices as long as he did well in school.
“Obviously there’s a variety of immigrant experiences in the U.S., but it tends to be really strict in one way and really open in another way,” the Narcos star said. “If my parents liked what they were watching, they rarely sent me out of the room. But I had to get good grades or I wasn’t allowed to watch s---.”
José was a fertility doctor
Both of Pedro’s parents were highly educated and held advanced degrees. José was a fertility doctor at the University of California, while Verónica was a child psychologist.
However, in 1995, José was investigated in connection with the UC Irvine fertility scandal, according to the Los Angeles Times. He, along with his partners, were accused of switching frozen embryos without patients’ consent, along with tax fraud and other allegations. He denied any medical wrongdoing, and amid the investigation, the couple and their two younger children relocated to Chile.
In 2017, Pedro opened up about the experience in an interview with his cousin Paula Coddou for the Chilean publication, La Tercera newspaper.
"It was a period of great fear,” he said in Spanish. “I grew up with my family in the U.S., and one day to the next, there was no longer a home to return to. Suddenly, the idea of the safe nest had disappeared. It was shocking because, in the previous years, I took for granted the privileged life we had in California.”
He went on to explain that his parents were dealing with marital struggles at the time, which left him worried, especially for his mother. “Everything felt fragile.”
Verónica died in 1999
José and Verónica eventually separated after moving back to Chile, and Pedro faced another family tragedy. On Feb. 4, 1999, Verónica died.
“For me, it was the hardest time,” the actor told La Tercera. “I haven't been able, and I don't know if I can one day, completely reconcile how my parents separated and the tragedy that came after that separation."
Pedro continued, "The circumstances of my mother's death made it very hard for us to keep her memory as the person she was. It just hurts so much.”
In 2021, Pedro paid tribute to his mother with a heartfelt Instagram post.
“Mom, here you are in Denmark at 22. Married, refugee and mom of two,” he wrote alongside a photo of her. “Years later you get two more, another son and another daughter. We are doing great, we are taking care of ourselves. Not a day goes by that you are not with us and we thank you for that. Happy birthday, mom.”
Pedro credits his mom for his success
Over the years, Pedro has been open about his close relationship with his mother.
“She was the love of my life,” he told La Tercera. “I think about her every day. ... I live for her even though she's gone, and that gives me purpose."
After her death, the actor, who was born José Pedro Balmaceda, took her maiden name of Pascal to honor her. Explaining his decision, he shared, “My mom named me Pedro. So, the decision was made to call me Pedro Pascal, a name that fits me more than any other.”
Speaking to PEOPLE in 2020, he credited his mom with his acting success. “None of it would be real if it weren’t for her,” he said. “She was always incredibly supportive, never a stage mom. I always felt like she knew something that I didn't.”
For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on People.