Ismael Cordova on Bonding With 'Miss Bala' Co-Star Gina Rodriguez Over Breaking Latinx Barriers (Exclusive)

The 31-year-old actor opens up to ET about his 'instant chemistry' with Rodriguez -- and how his upbringing shaped his career.

Everything is intentional for Ismael Cordova. 

From Mary Queen of Scots to Berlin Station to Miss Bala, the 31-year-old actor is all about diversifying his resume. But that doesn't mean he'll take just any job that comes his way. 

"They're not accidental. I'm very, very vocal with my team about what I want to do and where I want to go," Cordova told ET's Courtney Tezeno at Miss Bala's press day on Sunday. "My identity has been shaped. It shapes my life and vice versa. I can't escape it and I know that I can't. I do feel responsible. I really take that."

Cordova began his acting career as a teenager in his native Puerto Rico, before moving to New York to study at NYU and trying his hand at making the big leagues. Years later, his career in Hollywood couldn't be hotter, and it's his Puerto Rican roots that he credits for making it all happen. 

"I have a wonderful mother that was a mother at 15 years old. I come from a long lineage of teenage moms that had to make it work with those circumstances," he shared. "She's just... not even talking about a woman's strength. It's strength period." 

"Growing up, she was very clear about her circumstances, and through her life, giving us that wisdom," Cordova continued, noting that his mom raised his siblings to become strong women themselves. "All those women in my life, like the circumstances where we grew up and the poverty that we grew up in, the machismo and the extreme poverty that we were brought up in -- to see how they handled themselves, to see how they were fiercely protective and like [Gina Rodriguez's Miss Bala character] Gloria Fuentes [is inspiring]. They were not going to wait for anybody to rescue them, and often they rescued me!" 

It's those qualities of his Latinx heritage that Cordova vows to take with him as his career progresses. "I try to be as thoughtful as I can, but I won't always be. I always want people to know that I'm not a moral compass. I'm just trying to own what I represent," he said, adding that he shares that desire to represent his community with Rodriguez. 

"She's also so committed with doing her best with what she has to represent with the communities that she represents," he said. "People don't understand the body that we move in. It tells a story to the outside." 

In Miss Bala, Cordova plays Lino, the leader of a drug cartel which Rodriguez's Gloria tries to take down following the kidnapping of her friend. The actors are electric on screen, with both of their performances challenging the conventions you'd expect from a cartel-based action movie. 

"I really, really wanted to be a part of this film because of the complexity of who [Lino] is, and showing, like, a fully-fledged villain figure," Cordova noted. 

Working with Rodriguez was another plus. "[Our chemistry] was instant from the day that we met... Her energy is so incredible," he said of the actress, who definitely doesn't hold back when it comes to portraying her strength on screen. 

"It's about time that women take the lead," Cordova suggested. "We'll be so much better!" 

Miss Bala is in theaters Feb. 1. ET also spoke with Rodriguez, who opened up about the film and her new role as Carmen Sandiego. Watch below.