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Interview: Ismael Cruz Córdova On Fighting the Fight on ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power’

When speaking to an actor about their work it is easy to be in awe of the talent they display on screen, but is it rare to be inspired in a way that truly changes you. That is exactly what happened when I spoke with Ismael Cruz Córdova about his portrayal of Arondir in Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Córdova’s insights into all that goes into his performance, which included bravely handling many of his own stunts, was impressive enough, but it is what drew him to acting and to take on this role that left a long lasting impact on me. His personal goal to help marginalized and under represented people usually left out of the Hollywood conversation, is a powerful one. I sat down with Córdova to talk shop and left feeling inspired.

That is not to say our conversation did not extend into much lighter topics. While stoic on screen Córdova shared plenty of smiles, laughs and stories ranging from his time on Sesame Street to having trouble remembering all the lineage of the densely-lored series. Be sure to watch my full video interview to see several sides of Córdova will surely enjoy. While Arondir actions are heroic, Córdova is the real hero. Below are a couple of the many highlights of our conversation.

Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Queen Regent Míriel), Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir), Charlie Vickers (Halbrand) Credit: Matt Grace/Prime Video

On what drew him to acting:

“I grew up in a place that was very silenced -quite a poor community of little self expression or with little viable opportunities to make yourself be heard or exist or anything like that. My passions were always an effort to find that kind of place where I could express myself or I could bring a voice to my people or I could stand against the kind of birthright oppression that you are born into when you’re coming from a poor environment. And, that wanting to have subjectivity and wanting to have a voice helped me stumble for a while up until I found myself acting when I got the scholarship to be the captain of the swimming team of this very important private school in Puerto Rico. I went from a very, very poor community to this opportunity. I was determined to be a doctor, a pediatrician, but I found acting. Not just acting: the drama, theater, directing, writing this whole side of art. I understood it was one of the most perfect intersections for everything that I wanted to do creativity, expression, cultural shifting, reframing. This is such a powerful tool that immediately I switched gears. Since I’ve been 14 years old, I’ve been pursuing it. Since I was 15, I’ve been doing it professionally with a very steep climb. But that’s what got me there and and that’s got me my start. Since then I’ve been fighting the fight.”

Credit: Ben Rothstein/Prime Video, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

On the why creating a new character in the The Lord of the Rings world was important to him and giving his all (and then some) to do it right:

It was my life, essentially. When I got the opportunity with everything that I’m telling you, I knew that I had the opportunity to create something that needs a new character. It’s also kind of out that you really haven’t seen much before. I wanted to make it special. I wanted to bring it out to the to closer to my experience or infuse it with with my own sensibilities. So, I created the movement mythology of it did Kung Fu, taekwondo, Wu shu Tai Chi, but I grounded it all in a couple of weird, Afro Brazilian martial art, you know? The Wood Elf is closer to the ground as the movements are more fluid and more like a minimalist animalistic in a certain way, like a Jaguar or that kind of thing. With that, I said, I wanted to do all of my stunts. And just about 90% of them, that you see in the show is me. I was training every day, eight hours a day or more learning all these skills, I just wanted it to be so special, and everything was riding on it – the world was gonna see it and a lot of detractors were gonna see the thing. I was giving them zero chances to be able to comment on it. There’s beauty in the creation of something new, and I didn’t take that for granted. It was grueling. It was grueling. I still have scratches and bruises and this and that. I really went for it. I mean, all the wire work, myself, the choreography. So for the most part, just like the there wasn’t a lot of CGI. There wasn’t just almost no doubling, either.”

This is just a small piece of our conversation. Be sure to watch the rest below. You can see all of Córdova’s work in season one of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power streaming exclusively on Prime Video.


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Written by Steven Prusakowski

Steven Prusakowski has been a cinephile as far back as he can remember, literally. At the age of ten, while other kids his age were sleeping, he was up into the late hours of the night watching the Oscars. Since then, his passion for film, television, and awards has only grown. For over a decade he has reviewed and written about entertainment through publications including Awards Circuit and Screen Radar. He has conducted interviews with some of the best in the business - learning more about them, their projects and their crafts. He is a graduate of the RIT film program. You can find him on Twitter and Letterboxd as @FilmSnork – we don’t know why the name, but he seems to be sticking to it.

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