The Undoing Actor Ismael Cruz Córdova Is Proud to Be "Changing the Paradigm"
The actor stars alongside Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in the HBO limited series.
Ismael Cruz Córdova started off as a competitive swimmer in Puerto Rico before getting into acting, and since then he's starred in shows and movies like The Good Wife, Ray Donovan, and Miss Bala. Right now, though, you can catch him in HBO's limited series The Undoing, alongside Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant. "It was such an incredible cast that I didn't give myself a chance to really be like, 'Oh, yeah, I'm gonna be in that,'" he tells People CHICA of his audition. "It was more like, 'That'll be a long shot.'"
In The Undoing, Córdova plays Fernando Alves, a single father and the widower of the murder victim at the center of the show. "In terms of my character, the feedback has been very positive," he says. "It's a nice, different aspect of what I've been able to show as an actor before —the young father, committed father. I do play sometimes quite emotionally complex, heavy characters. Fernando doesn't really stray much from that in terms of bearing at all. It was definitely a new challenge."
The actor is adding more to his resume with his role in the upcoming Lord of the Rings Amazon series, set to premiere next year. "We're out here repping, changing the paradigm," he shares. "It's fun to be a part of something that people are already fans of [all over] the world."
The road to success hasn't always been easy for Córdova, who tries to represent his Afro-Latinidad through his work. "Needless to say, I have faced an enormous amount of opposition," he explains. "One of the first experiences I had in the States was with a casting director who blatantly said, 'You look Black, but you have that name. You look kind of Black, I don't know if you're Black or not, but then you have that accent, it's very confusing. You need to lose that accent so that we can put you anywhere.' I was like, 'Oh, my God,' but again it wasn't a surprise. I also experienced a lot of anti-Afro-Latinidad in our own community. So I was just experiencing it from different angles. So for me, my career as an Afro-Latino has been visualized on both sides."
Having been a part of beloved franchises like Sesame Street, Star Wars, and now the Lord of the Rings, Córdova still has some big-ticket series on his list. "There is one role in the Marvel universe that I would definitely love to play, and that is something that I'm actually trying to see about pitching myself [for]," he says. "I hope to mobilize that because it would be a big win for Afro-Latinos."
Córdova would also like to take his skills behind the camera and tell not only his stories but those of people who are misrepresented. "I want to continue working with big projects," he says, "but I also feel that need to be able to tell my own stories and be in the position of creative input, because right now I'm on the interpreting side of it all. There are already projects in motion, which I plug myself in as an actor, but I want to develop projects, I want to direct projects, and I want to produce projects. I want to make sure that all sides of the production [include] misrepresented people. I was reading the other day that we shouldn't call ourselves underrepresented, we're just misrepresented. I want to be a director and make sure that the crew's diverse story is used meaningfully, that the whole process has a clear, diverse soul. There's a lot of stories I want to tell, and I think it's time for me to just step into that."