Ismael Cruz Córdova is the future of Middle-Earth in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
For over 60 years, the world J. R. R. Tolkien created has inspired and transformed. It has creatures that have shaped childhoods, languages that many have wanted to learn, and has supported many throughout the darkest times of their lives because that’s what books do. That evolved when these books transformed into movies. And many loved them for introducing this world to more people.
But there’s no doubt about it, there’s always been something missing from The Lord of the Rings books from day one, and there was something missing from the movies when they premiered as well. For some, it might’ve not been that obvious. But for many, who have grown up consuming media through the lens of those who have never lived their experiences or looked like they did, it was obvious.
That’s where Arondir comes in and where Córdova’s journey starts.
According to the Puerto Rican actor, he’s been ready to take on this role and make people feel seen even before he even booked The Rings of Power and was working on projects like Miss Bala or The Undoing. “It feels like a confirmation that the journey that I started many, many years ago when I became an actor is coming to fruition and that I’m on the right path. I feel I’ve felt ready.”
Córdova feels like he’s not the only one either. “Our people feel ready to take these stories, ready to occupy these spaces.” And knowing this, how ready they are, makes him acutely aware of the responsibility of playing Arondir in The Rings of Power, “I feel an incredible amount of pressure and responsibility that I fully welcome. You know, this is not something that makes me feel daunted or any of those other negative things. It makes me feel galvanized and just honored to be able to bring our people into this world.”
Playing Arondir in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power is also for kids that look like Córdova. Because no matter which way you look at it, forms of media teach us things about this world. It tells us what’s right and wrong, and how to navigate our daily lives. But it also limits us; putting us into boxes and telling us we don’t belong in specific spaces. Córdova playing Arondir is an opportunity to get rid of those boxes and prove to kids that they belong.
For Córdova, knowing that kids would be inspired by him and his character, and probably cosplay him for Halloween or Comic-Con, “that’s been a driving force.” And it was like that from day one when he was fighting and gunning for this role. “That was one of the things that I really saw in my mind’s eye that I wanted to impact. I wanted to see these kids being able to go pick their outfits and not have to make a leap in fulfilling or imagining themselves through another character that didn’t look like themselves. I wanted to pick the costume that actually looked like them. Just like them.”
That circles back to the beginning of this interview, where we talked about the many years that The Lord of the Rings has influenced readers and viewers worldwide. Because the people who “looked like” these Middle-Earth characters, they’ve been ahead. They’ve been included and validated by this fantastical world that’s made them feel like they could be anything; including elves, hobbits, or dwarves.
Now, because of Arondir, there will be a new generation of fans who will experience that validation. Or, as Ismael Cruz Córdova so eloquently put it, “When we see ourselves, we begin to exist. We allow ourselves to exist and to grow.” And he can’t wait for that to happen. Neither can we.