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Despite racist vitriol, 'Rings of Power' star Ismael Cruz Córdova is not backing down

Ismael Cruz Córdova as Elven warrior Arondir in <em>The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power</em>.
Prime Video
Ismael Cruz Córdova as Elven warrior Arondir in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

Racist gatekeepers and online trolls aren't new to genre storytelling. Actors Kelly Marie Tran, John Boyega, and most recently Moses Ingram, faced a barrage of online attacks after joining the Star Wars universe.

Now, similar trolls have made their way to Middle-earth, and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power star Ismael Cruz Córdova is not letting them win.

The Amazon show, which premiered to 25 million global viewers on its first day, was met with controversy from the day Córdova's casting was announced, as well the casting of other Black actors in the series. Córdova — who is Afro Puerto Rican and plays the Elven warrior Arondir — recently told Esquire that he has received "pure and vicious hate speech" in his DMs nearly every day for the past two years. For this reason, he said he fought hard for the role. "I felt that I could carry that torch," he told Esquire. "I made sure that my elf was the most Elven, the most incredible, because I knew this was coming."

Ismael Cruz Córdova attends the New York premiere of Prime Video's <em>Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power</em>.
/ Nina Westervelt / Variety via Getty Images
Nina Westervelt / Variety via Getty Images
Ismael Cruz Córdova attends the New York premiere of Prime Video's Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

On top of that, Córdova recently took toTwitter amid the criticism and discussed the impact his presence in Middle-earth has for marginalized communities. "It's not about the billboard — it's about becoming unmissable, undeniable, irrevocably present and rooted, as a people, as beings, as individuals," Córdova said. "A huge 'we are here.' And we have been here."

He continued, "Looking for zero favors but to live with the same chances to dream and thrive as anyone else. If you've ever felt discarded, marginalized, silenced — you are my people. And this moment is yours too!

"This billboard was blocks away from a hostel I once had to stay for a while in a room with bunk beds with many other people who were struggling with housing and money. We all had a beating heart and hopes of a better future."

Córdova then ended by expressing his gratitude for being able to share this moment with his parents, who are pictured with him above. "My heart was burning with an unshakable goal: To get to where we were told we couldn't be. Here we are. To share it with the two halves of my DNA was absolutely surreal. My heart is full, of love, of them, and all of you who share this same fire."

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Ismael Cruz Cordova (@ismaelcruzcordova)

Since the show's premiere, the trolling aimed at the actors has since transformed into a review-bombing campaign of the series. Despite having critical success with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 84%, the show's current audience score is 39%. Due to discrepancies like this, Variety reported that Amazon quietly implemented a 72-hour delay for Rings of Power reviews on its Prime Video platform. Each review must now be evaluated to determine whether it is genuine or not.

Either way, Córdova has always maintained that he is in this for the long haul.

"I've continued this quest in the hope that I would make it at least a little bit easier for someone else. And perhaps inspire at least one person to do the same," he said on Instagram in July. "In there I kept my Elven dream alive. And here I am. Black, Latino, Puerto Rican, proud, and Elven AF. You better catch that arrow and aim it as high as you can."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Pablo Valdivia
Pablo Valdivia is an Audience Editor at NPR who is focused on elevating and telling Latino stories across digital, radio and podcast. He also develops strategies to help call in the community across the network and works to ensure that Latino voices get the visibility they deserve.
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