Silvan Elves are woodland creatures. Do you find yourself spending a lot of time in nature when you have free time?
Definitely. I grew up in the mountains of Puerto Rico, and I think that was one of the reasons why I was so drawn to elves. I grew up there and didn’t have a TV—all I had was contemplation and being with nature. I always say that they were like my best friends. I learned so much from trees, and I played so much in nature and respected it so much, that when I saw the elves, that they revere nature and build around nature, that their spirituality is connected to it—I definitely felt an affinity to them more than any other characters.
Being in New Zealand, that is just one of the most beautiful places in the world. Also, with the presence of the Maori indigenous culture, who are also lovers of nature and protectors of their land, it was the perfect setting for me. I would go to the parks and touch the trees.
Was there a scene you loved shooting the most?
I have many moments I hope make it into the show after the edit. [Laughs.] I had one scene in particular, perhaps not the most epic, but I deliver a monologue I had auditioned with. The journey of auditioning was so epic—it was like six, seven months going through the audition process. I was rejected for the role several times and really fought for it. I really went for it and lived with this piece of text for such a long time.
Then COVID hit one day before my first day, after three months of training, and we went away for six months. So when I got to say that monologue, it had been over a year and a half of this journey. My soul was coming out of me saying this, and it’s one of the most powerful moments that I think the character has created.
Within the onscreen world of LOTR, and The Hobbit, there hasn’t been much racial diversity. What does it mean for you as a Puerto Rican actor to be in the show?
As an Afro-Latino, Afro-Caribbean who also identifies as a Black person and an indigenous person of Puerto Rico, this is what I wanted. When I set out to start acting, I always say what drove me there wasn’t another actor or a famous movie that I watched. It was coming from a voiceless place with voiceless people.
I was on this quest for voice-fullness, and acting gave me that. Every step along the way, all I’ve searched for is more opportunities to be visible that perhaps help in one way or another to visualize our peoples. When I came to this show, I knew it would be one of the biggest platforms and wanted to be there. I wanted to see myself represented. So I feel very ready and secure in the work that I do. I am galvanized by the dissent, to be honest. It means the disruption is happening. Without disruption, there is no growth. So I’m very happy to be disruptive, in that sense, and to help be part of the change, while working on one of the most beautiful, artistic, epic, beloved journeys to exist in fantasy.