INTERVIEW BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
STORY BY KATINA GOULAKOS
Ismael Cruz Cordova came from humble beginnings and has worked hard to achieve his dreams. Through discipline, persistence, hard work and talent, Cordova has found himself living his dream.
Imagista: How did you get into acting in the first place?
Ismael: I went from public school to private school on a swimming scholarship when I was fourteen. When I got to this school, it was the first time I had ever seen a drama club. I went to the first meeting and it changed my entire life path. From then, it was a quick turn around for me, I became very active in drama. By the first year of me acting, I was cast in my first movie and from then on it has just continued.
Imagista: Before this happened, had you ever thought about acting?
Ismael: It was less of an uninformed whim and more of a desire and restlessness that ended up being ignited through the craft. I grew up very poor in a voiceless community. My entire life, until I found acting, I was constantly trying to find opportunities and find a voice, to change things for myself and for my family and to access new opportunities I felt I did not have access to. Swimming was providing me with things like education but when I found theater it really, how can I put this, it is like when you find the right partner to love, everything just feels right. On many more levels, theater fulfilled my necessities, that voice I wanted to be heard, that vehicle that I had for self expression, theater brought that to me. It just felt right, it felt perfect.
Imagista: Let’s fast-forward to present day, what was your experience like and how did the role on Ray Donovan come up?
Ismael: The way that it came about was pretty much the same as any other audition. I did a taping in New York City because they were casting in Los Angeles. After seeing the tape, they were interested so they flew me out to L.A to test with Liev Schreiber.
Imagista: How did it feel walking in there, were you nervous?
Ismael: I was chillin’. The thing is that we actors do it so much. I had just experienced a really, really close call from a movie that I really wanted so when I walked in to the audition I kind of had this “whatever will be, will be attitude”. Honestly speaking, I was so connected to the material, I knew that I understood and loved this character. I noticed Liev respond to my audition and left there with a lot of confidence. I also thought to myself that if I didn’t get the part, at least I got a free trip to Los Angeles!
Imagista: You seem to have had a good attitude and also a love for the material which I am sure helped you focus more on the work than actually getting the role.
Ismael: We as humans think that every opportunity we do not get, that it means it’s over. With all the sacrifices I and many artists have made, you get to a point where you surrender and say I am going to do my best work at preparing, I am going to prepare deeply and that is all that I myself can control. I think in that moment I grasped the fact that I could not control anything else besides my preparation and my preparation was done 150%. I did my best during the audition, I felt like I nailed it, I connected to the role but I left it to them, and I continued to go on with my life. The nerves were there but I tried to not think about it too much.
Imagista: Do you think that swimming at a high level prepared you for any of this?
Ismael: When younger actors ask me for advice, they always think I am going to talk to them about acting but I always tell them about my swimming experience. I go to set sometimes at three in the morning and all the work and social sacrifices that need to be done, swimming prepared me for that. I understand that I am a piece in a puzzle that is a lot bigger than I am. When you know this, it gives you a humility and an understanding. My athletic past has helped me on set with so many things, including discipline and of course both the physical and emotional strength you need to work on set.
Imagista: If you had not walked into that room and seen that drama class in action, what do you think you would be doing right now?
Ismael: I don’t think I have ever thought about it in that way, acting took over my life so quickly. Before acting I was very set on being a pediatrician or an OBGYN, so I guess I would be a doctor. My pediatrician was such a role model to me growing up that I think he had an influence on me wanting to be like him. He was one of the few people I knew and admired that had a voice.
Imagista: When you are not working, what do you do for fun?
Ismael: I still swim and I am very physically active. I also work a lot in music. I love music, I write a lot of music and I also write a lot scripts and screenplays. I try to do this thing where I shut myself down from thinking of work but it never, ever works! I always have my journal where I write things, I have my i-phone which is full of notes or lyrics or ideas for a scene. I think I am consistently pushed towards my work.