“Welcome to my mansion!” Pedro Pascal jokes, before waving me over to the red velvet armchair set up next to him. No, the Last Of Us actor doesn’t live at the Paramour Estate, but he seems right at home seated in what’s been transformed into a gilded parlor to immerse you in the universe of Merge Mansion.
To celebrate the mobile game's newest update, which has players entering the Boulton family mansion for the first time, publisher Metacore has turned the Spanish-style venue into an escape room-like experience that takes you from the study to the ballroom and beyond as you decipher clues. It’s also a live-action production with actors playing in-game characters like protagonist Maddie, strobe lights and fog, and at one point, you’re crawling through a false fireplace. As I recount the experience to Pascal, his eyes light up. “Going into one room, and the safe opening, and putting the knife in the bust, and the money coming out of the chimney, and then going down in the kitchen. And the pies,” he smiles, as if salivating on the hopeberry pies that were brought to life from the game. “It's just delicious.”
Pascal isn’t just a fan of the Merge Mansion experience; he’s a part of the game’s lore. If you’ve been perusing YouTube the last couple weeks, you might’ve seen the actor as Detective Tim Rockford in a series of viral ads promoting Metacore’s puzzle game that’s similar to Candy Crush, but with a deeper narrative that has 2 million active users fully subscribed. In the short films, Detective Rockford, like the game’s fans, is trying to figure out what Grandma Ursula, played in previous commercials by Kathy Bates, is hiding. And while the role might seem like an unexpected choice for the Mandalorian star, knowing Pascal’s journey and hearing him talk, it actually makes perfect sense.
“I love a good mystery, and I love it in books. I love it in movies. I love it in television,” says Pascal, who grew up entranced by the board game Clue. “So to sort of discover that within the gaming world, and in such a kind of contained and specific way, that there’s a way to play out mystery with this kind of atmosphere and this tone, it is right in my wheelhouse. … And I think I look cool.”
This is hardly Pascal’s first run in the world of video games. Of course, there’s his portrayal of Joel in HBO’s blockbuster phenomenon The Last Of Us, the TV adaptation of the 2013 Naughty Dog video game of the same title. He also voiced villain Paolo in action-adventure game Dishonored 2. And the noir-esque vibe of Merge Mansion’s ads, which once again has Pascal putting on his detective hat, is somewhat familiar territory, echoing his time as DEA agent Javier Peña in Netflix’s Narcos, which he describes as one of the best TV shows he’s ever worked on.
Pascal says he’s not a gamer — “I lack the skill,” he claims, and the hand-eye coordination for mechanically heavy titles — but he is an avid mobile game player. “I’ve got games on my phone for sure. [Merge Mansion] is one that I get down with.” He also plays Diamond Mine and was a Candy Crush devotee until he couldn’t get past a certain level (we’ve all been there). I let him know that casual gamers are still gamers, which seems to please him.
Casual gamer or not, coming off The Last Of Us, Pascal has become the gamer dad for the rest of us in the gaming world. He even appeared at the 2022 Game Awards along with costar Bella Ramsey and the game’s original voice actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, which he says was the only time his nephews called him to share their excitement. “Star Wars wasn't enough, the HBO [show] wasn't enough. Being at the Game Awards [was]. So not only do I understand the popularity [of games], but I understand that the popularity is directly correlated to the fact that the stories are so good and that it's a new way of telling them.”
Being at the center of great storytelling is what Pascal has long strived for, and he counts himself fortunate to have been part of such incredible projects. “Oh gosh, I honestly feel like it may come to a point where modesty starts to feel false, but I will say in a practical way, there's so much luck involved as far as getting to be a part of projects that hit a note with audiences, or a role that does, which was my incredible fortune with an already established iconic show like Game of Thrones, and then the luck of the next thing being Narcos, and then starting the Disney+ streaming experience with The Mandalorian.”
That trajectory now includes what, at first glance, seem like simple mobile game ads. The Merge Mansion spots might not secure their place in the Academy Museum, but they are a part of the lore of Pedro Pascal.
And, well, it’s fun.
“The result of a film set is entertainment. The experience of this,” Pascal says, arms extended wide, a big grin on his face, “is entertainment.”