Ismael Cruz Córdova On Arondir's Military Enlistment, His Love Story With Bronwyn, And Relationship With Theo [Exclusive Interview]

Major spoilers ahead for "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power."

Ismael Cruz Córdova plays Arondir the Silvan Elf serving in the Southlands in "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power." Arondir is a foot soldier, and a new character created for the Prime Video series. He is willing to give everything to save the people he protects, despite the fact that they resent him for it. The people of the Southlands were on the wrong side of the last battle against the evil of Morgoth and Sauron, and since that day, the elves have been there, keeping a close eye on them.

Arondir has fallen in love with a human healer named Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi) and cares deeply for her son Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin), which could get complicated, considering their lifespans. I recently spoke to Córdova at an event in Los Angeles. He talked about how Arondir has similarities to people who join the military, playing a new character and some of the responses to it, Arondir's love story with Bronwyn, and how close he is to Muhafidin on set.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

'I love my character. I really do'

It's nice to have a character that's new, and it's nice to have a character where I have no idea what's going to happen. So do you find it freeing to be doing this?

I do. I think it goes one way or the other. There's a potential to have a lot of pressure and then there's the other side of what you say, that's freeing. And I think I lean to the freeing side because there's so many layers to my character that we're going to either be ... I don't think there's any way to embrace him — lukewarm. And I've seen that you know? Some people are just like, "I hate it."


And some people are like, "I absolutely love it." So I went for those people who are going to feel the impacts of it, regardless it's a point of conversation, you know? And there's, again, part of the conversation has been, "Do I look like the elves that people have in mind? My skin color? My hair?" All of these things ... but also myself as a Tolkien fan; when you read, sometimes you're like, "But what happened in between point A to point B?" It's like, "Boy, I wonder what happened in there." So I love these characters that come in and kind of have those journeys and connect certain points and allow you to even feel how insanely expansive Tolkien is. Because he created these worlds to be populated by perhaps adaptations or even our own imaginations. When you're reading the book, that's the space that you have for yourself as an audience member to insert yourself there. Maybe you're not any of the hobbits or Harfoots or you're like, "Oh, but maybe I was a neighbor of," you know?

Yeah, totally.

And you're like, "They don't quite but," and you're are able to envision yourself. Which to me, as an actor, writer, director, all these things, there's a moment where you have to tether with the character so that you can care. And I think that's kind of what we did. But I find it very freeing. I love it. I love my character. I really do.

I know that you guys are filming now, but I mean, you're obviously right here now, but do you know what's happening to your character? Because I know they've got a five-season plan.

The showrunners are writers. Everyone is very ... they're very good at keeping the mystery alive for all parties involved.

' I think he decides to be a martyr and then ends up being the sole survivor'

That's cool. Do you like that better? Not having an idea?

No. I mean, it poses its own challenges because you're like, "What? How?" You have to craft, create a character. You have to prepare. But sometimes you do over-prepare. So sometimes it's great to be moment to moment. I like that I have a clear sense of my character's essence. And now, after the first season, it's even more clear to me my place in the world that we're showing. Because this is truly an ensemble show, and I love to know my lane. I love to know my contribution because I think that's at the heart of this whole thing as sentimental ... one of these stories could work without the other.

No character is all omnipotent; they're not all-powerful. So it's just fantastic for me. It's humbling and informs me as a person. So I'm very happy that I have my lane, I have what I do, and every day I get to discover. It poses its challenges, but if we're going to keep this mystery and allow the audience to have this magical experience that you're having, we have to go through a sacrifice of maybe not knowing everything, you know?

I had read that you didn't read the books when you were younger but that the movies were your way in. So does this fill in more? I mean, I'm assuming now that you've read the books ...

Yeah, I started my journey with it.

Do you feel like you know exactly how he fits into where everything is going?

Yes and no. Because the grit that Arondir has is not something that jumps from the page in terms of Elveness, even from the other Woodlands elves that we've met before. We've met Legolas, we met ... I always mess up his dad's name, played by Lee Pace [Thranduil]. I owned it. But we met a lot of royalty. We met a lot of royalty in terms of Elveness. But he's a common elf. He's an elf that maybe enlisted because he needed a scholarship, you know?

I mean, if you bring it to our world, like, I know these guys. I know these guys that were in the hood that the military was the one way out. Or some people whose lives have been turned upside down, and they enlisted because that was the only ... way out. Or people who are like, "I am a soldier, and I must protect." So I was like, "Where does he fall?"

I think he was one of the people who have to do it. And then [he] found himself ... and the audience sees that because he's a soldier, foot soldier doing the thing. Suddenly falls in love, and suddenly there's evil. He's the first one. Breaks rules, follows his heart, gets captured, has to decide whether he's going to be a martyr or ends up. I think he decides to be a martyr and then ends up being the sole survivor and then carrying this thing. Loses almost everyone that he loves. So it's a transformation that it's more human than anything else.

'The relationship really parallels what you see on the show

The relationship between Arondir and Bronwyn is so beautiful and so lovely. And I'm just curious, did you look at Aragorn and Arwen or any of the other romances?

Yes and no. Again, because there are parallels, of course, we make them. But again, these two characters have no royal blood, so the stakes are not the same. They're grit; they're day-to-day; they're outcasts by nature. They're dirty; they're physically ... in the mud. They are one of many. So the exceptionalism is not there. So there is the groundedness of their love, their groundedness of their circumstances; it's completely different. So it's hard for me to — Aragorn is just larger than life and he descendant of Isildur, which is one of the greatest of Númenor. And then you have Arwen, who's also just darling. But who are these two?

But that's why I love them.

Yeah, that's what I mean. Who are these two? I love stories. I love to read stories. I love to watch stories. I love to write stories that are about "losers," people in the world that get the worst deck dealt and what they make of them, and that's them too. So I really admire them. I really love this. I'm biased, of course, but I really love my character.

I do too. And the last thing, I just love the relationship at the end with Theo — that's so sweet. I just want to know what it was like filming those scenes.

I mean, I love him. I love Tyroe. He started as a little boy transforming into a pre-teen, teen, and now young man in front of my eyes. He started acting at the same time that I started acting, about 14 years old. I feel extremely protective of him. I'm very good friends with his mom. His mom [is] always like, "Watch over my kid." And I said, "I will, I promise." And trust me, I will. So I've been with him every step of the way. I know there's a part of him that looks up to me even if he doesn't say it. And I take that, and it's a part of me that looks up to him, he's a fantastic actor to work with. It's inspiring to work with him. So I think the dynamic of our offset, offscreen, the relationship really parallels what you see on the show.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power" is currently streaming on Prime Video.