O Magazine: Our readers first met you in 2014, after you were cast as Mando, a writer from Puerto Rico, on Sesame Street. Who's harder to work with: people or puppet's?

Ismael Cruz Córdova: Technically, puppets. Actors rely on eye contact to connect with their scene partners. On Sesame Street, all I had to look at were Googly—eyed monsters! Then again, humans are so emotionally complex. Puppets never have bad days.

O: So performing on Sesame Street was sometimes tougher than the gritty work you've done on Ray Donovan?

ICC: Definitely! I'm naturally a more subdued person. Casting directors have even called me Benicio Del Toro Jr. because I gravitate toward darker characters. With Mando, I really had to practice his bright—eyed persona. And then he hung on to me! The first job I auditioned for after Sesame Street was to play this damaged guy, and the folks asked me to "unbubble" myself.

O: And now you're in Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a war movie that's about as far from big yellow birds and alphabet songs as you can get. What was it like working with Oscar-winning director Ang Lee?

ICC: A dream come true. He's a man of few words, but there's a lot of trust. I mean, Ang Lee is a genius!

O: So has your life done a total one-eighty since Sesame Street?

ICC: I definitely feel like I've grown up. And I do get approached on the street a lot more—but my mother is still my number one fan.


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