After what seems like an elf’s age waiting for Amazon’s hugely-anticipated TV take on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth to arrive, it’s here at last, with The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power premiering its first two episodes at the start of the long Labor Day weekend. For Ismael Cruz Córdova, though, the wait might’ve seemed even longer than it has for fans, as the actor, who plays the elf Arondir, explained in a recent interview.
Sharing that his direct message inbox had been the focal point of “pure and vicious hate speech” in the past two years since his casting was revealed, Córdova told Esquire that he specifically sought out the part, in which he plays an elf of color, because he believed in Amazon’s endeavor to bring diversity to a new adaptation of Tolkien’s familiar material.
“I fought so hard for this role for this very reason,” Córdova said. “I felt that I could carry that torch. I made sure that my elf was the most Elven, the most incredible, because I knew this was coming.”
Somewhere between the critics’ more measured responses to the series’ first episodes and early review-bombing from a vocal subset of viewers, fans have spent the show’s debut weekend forging their own firsthand impressions of The Rings of Power. The show’s bifurcated Rotten Tomatoes score (84 percent favorable from critics; 39 percent from audiences) appears to demonstrate the hate Córdova’s referencing, though he said all those allegedly angry DMs have only served to bolster his resolve to invest fully in playing Arondir — the first elf of color ever to arrive in a Tolkien screen adaptation — to the hilt.
“I knew that I would have the eyes of the world on me,” said. “I needed to be undeniable, and to be the most Elven elf that I could be. And I needed my soul to shine through, too…You can never use it as an excuse: ‘But elves don't look like that. They didn't, but now they do.”
Córdova appears opposite a new-to-the-franchise character, Browyn (Nazanin Boniadi), the human object of Arondir’s romantic affection. At the center of The Rings of Power’s building showdown with Sauron is Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), bent on probing the darkest shadows of the Second Age to snuff out the supposedly defeated evil…even if she has to do it alone. In addition to Clark, Córdova, and Boniadi, the series’ sprawling ensemble cast is anchored by Robert Aramayo (Elrond), Megan Richards (Poppy), Maxim Baldry (Isildur), Lloyd Owen (Elendil), and Markella Kavanaugh (Nori).
The Rings of Power’s first two episodes are a big streaming hit at Amazon: Deadline reports the series amassed more than 25 million views in its first full day after of availability after hitting the platform on Sept. 2. The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power drops new episodes each Friday through the first season’s 8-episode run, with the Season 1 finale set to land on Oct. 14.
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