LOTR 's Ismael Cruz Córdova Shares Why Becoming Middle-Earth's First Latino Elf 'Felt like a Mission'

·2 min read
Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir), The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir), The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

After seven months of auditioning (and several rejections), Ismael Cruz Córdova celebrated his The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power casting by yelling in the streets of New York City — no surprise since his role in the series is set to be historic.

The actor will be the first Latino elf to grace the Lord of the Rings saga in Prime Video's upcoming prequel The Rings of Power. It's a role he's dreamed of playing since childhood.

"I didn't see myself represented," he told TIME of growing up in the mountains of Puerto Rico. "And when I said, 'I want to be an elf,' people said, 'Elves don't look like you.'"

He adds, "When I heard about the character on the show it felt like a mission."

RELATED: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Dazzles Fans at Comic-Con with New Trailer, Live Performance

Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir), The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Ismael Cruz Córdova (Arondir), The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Ben Rothstein/Prime Video

While auditioning during a top-secret casting process (including coded messages), the 35-year-old told TIME he wasn't sure which role he might eventually play. As he got closer to booking the role, Córdova was only told he'd be playing an "Aragorn-type man."

Toward the end of the his auditions, he recalled, "They flew me out to New Zealand, and the night before my final read, they told me, 'Actually, you're playing an elf.' It started to make sense because I was like, 'Why does this man love trees so much?'"

RELATED: The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Teaser Trailer Previews a 'New Legend' — Watch

While Córdova's casting moves the Lord of the Rings franchise forward in terms of inclusivity, his character is not the only one that will challenge the way that J.R.R. Tolkien's books were originally written.

Rings of Power notably added more diversity in both race and gender to the upcoming series, and there's already been backlash from Lord of the Rings superfans who worry that the castings won't represent the original characters.

Rings of Power producer Lindsey Weber shut that complaint down, telling TIME: "We're all up for criticism," she said. "We're not up for racism."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly newsletter to get the biggest news of the week delivered to your inbox every Friday.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premieres Sept. 2 on Prime Video.