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'Mandalorian' star Pedro Pascal sympathizes with 'Wonder Woman' villain

Wonder Woman catches Max Lord (Pedro Pascal, center) in her lasso. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
Wonder Woman catches Max Lord (Pedro Pascal, center) in her lasso. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Wonder Woman's greatest power isn't her magic lasso or bulletproof bracelets -- it's her compassion, even for her foes. Wonder Woman 1984 presents her with a sympathetic antagonist in Max Lord (Pedro Pascal).

"To have the most impact in terms of villainy, there has to be a humanity that one can relate to," Pascal told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "We all have a darkness that we're all capable of. So the more human a bad character, I think, the more effective."

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Lord is an infomercial pitch man who takes a shortcut to success via a magic artifact that also gives him deadly powers. Although most people won't be confronted with the sort of magic Lord discovers, Pascal said the temptations to which Lord succumbs are universal.

"We're all easy victims to what some exterior idea of success is," Pascal said. "We all want to win, by any means possible. I think that's, sadly, very human and something I can psychologically fall victim to myself."

By the time Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) meets Lord, she is in a vulnerable place, too. The previous film was set in 1918 and saw Wonder Woman assist American and British forces in World War I.

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In 1984, she is living as her alter ego, Diana Prince. Diana hasn't aged a day since 1918, but her friends in the first film have grown old and died, causing Diana to be lonely. She hasn't made any new friends until she meets Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), a new researcher at her museum.

"She kind of isolated herself from the world," Gadot said in a Zoom press conference. "Her only goal is just to help and better mankind."

Unfortunately, the same power that corrupts Lord also corrupts Barbara. She turns into the villainess Cheetah. Wiig said the loneliness that initially makes her seek a friendship with Diana ultimately sends her down a dark path.

"We didn't want it to be the sort of typical mousy girl turned villain," Wiig said at the press conference. "What is it about her that makes her so lonely and so invisible and what does she really, really want?"

While Wonder Woman faces threats from two powerful antagonists, Diana hopes to use her powers selflessly. Diana faces temptation, too, however, co-writer and director Patty Jenkins said.

"She's not perfect, either," Jenkins said during the press conference. "Her own struggles and journey [is] to do the right thing. Being a hero is not an easy thing."

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In the comic books, Lord was a businessman who received telepathic superpowers from alien invaders. Wonder Woman 1984 gives him different powers via a different mechanism, though Pascal didn't spoil what those are.

"Every aspect of it is not what you would expect," Pascal said.

Even Lord is surprised by his powers. Pascal said he enjoyed playing Lord's sense of discovery of his own might.

"That's sort of like a fun way to play him," Pascal said. "If you want something so badly and you start to get it, it's kind of astonishing."

Pascal joined in The Mandalorian in 2019, but the actor said he was working on it simultaneously to Wonder Woman 1984. Both projects adapt popular source material -- comic books in the film's case and the Star Wars universe in the Disney+ series.

The similarity Pascal sees is that both of his projects are faithful to their source material, but push them in new directions.

"I love that directors and producers are being given the opportunities to have original takes with material that is so familiar to all of us," Pascal said.

Setting the Wonder Woman sequel in the year 1984 made it personally relatable to Pascal, he said. The 45-year-old actor recalled seeing the films Gremlins, Footloose and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when he was 9.

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Pascal hopes Wonder Woman 1984 can evoke films like those for the kids of 2020 and make adults nostalgic for that bygone era.

"The thing that impacted me the most when I saw this one was the memory of being so transported as a kid when I went to the movies," Pascal said. "So I find that to be the most valuable thing that people are finally going to get to see."

In The Mandalorian, Pascal plays Din Djarin, a heroic bounty hunter who never takes his armor or helmet off. You may see Lord's face in Wonder Woman 1984, but the flashy suits and television persona are "as much of a suit of armor as Din," Pascal said.

As for his Mandalorian armor, Pascal said it is tailored tightly to his body.

"It fits like a glove and it continues to," Pascal said. "We're talking about from the tips of my toes to the very, very tippity top of my head. It isn't easy to be in a perfectly fitted glove, for every inch of your body to be gloved."

Season 2 of The Mandalorian concluded Friday. In the new season, Din meets popular Star Wars characters Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson). He also learns the name of his little companion.

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Din has spent the series protecting a creature fans have dubbed Baby Yoda, because he is a young version of the same species as the famous Jedi master Yoda. The show officially called him The Child, and Din called him The Kid until he learned his name is Grogu.

"I've never said Baby Yoda," Pascal said.

Wonder Woman 1984 is in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday.

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