Plus a surprising experience with co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones
It’s hard to believe it’s been over 18 years since the world first saw Nicolas Cage’s Ben Gates steal the Declaration of Independence in the 2004 film “National Treasure.” And now, many years after the 2007 sequel, the action-adventure franchise is continuing on with the Disney+ series, “National Treasure: Edge of History,” with a fresh cast, a new treasure to be discovered, and a major modern revamp.
In an interview with TooFab at the show’s virtual junket, stars Antonio Cipriano (Oren), Zuri Reed (Tasha), Jordan Rodrigues (Ethan), Lyndon Smith (FBI Agent Ross) and Jake Austin Walker (Liam) opened up about how the Disney+ series updated the “National Treasure” franchise to reflect the times, including having a diverse cast and highlighting topical issues like immigration.
“I mean, they really said, we’re gonna talk about modern-day issues. We’re gonna bring in modern-day technology. I mean, things have changed a lot in 15 years, right?” Smith said. “I remember thinking it was crazy that Riley Poole [Justin Bartha] was flying a drone and now everybody has a drone. You know what I mean? So, yeah, they updated this. They said, all right, let’s restart this franchise and let’s talk about [what] people are talking about now, and let it reflect what life really looks like. Let’s bring in a diverse group. Let’s view history from different lenses, people from different walks of life, and then also give them a scavenger hunt.”
Walker pointed out how the treasure involves a part of history that’s not often discussed.
“I think one thing I love so much about our show, especially for a modern audience, is we shine light on indigenous culture and the histories of people that deserve the platform … that really deserve to have their story told, especially through Jess,” he said, referencing the lead character in the show, who is played by Lisette Olivera. “I mean, she’s connected to such a giant Pan-American treasure, and she’s such a strong, well-written character. And I think audiences are going to pick up on that.”
Walker added, “It’s been really exciting, kind of deep diving into this new treasure, new culture, new history, and I think it’s a perfect time and the perfect platform for a modern audience as well.”
Rodrigues said that as someone from Australia, he didn’t “really know” much about DACA or Dreamers, and shared that Olivera “introduced” him to some documentaries on the subject. He noted that he’s “being educated” about these important issues and hopes that viewers will educate themselves as well.
Meanwhile, fans hoping for OG stars Nicolas Cage and Diane Kruger, who starred as Ben and Abigail, respectively, in the films, to pop in the series will sadly be disappointed. However, the two are mentioned in “Edge of History,” and the show leaves the door open for the characters to make an appearance in the future.
Reed and Smith explained how they’d like to see Cage and Kruger incorporated into the series if the pair were to, in fact, guest star on the show at some point.
“I mean, well, Ben Gates is the OG code cracker, right? Like, I feel like it would be so cool to have a moment where you’re like, everyone’s back is against the wall, what’s gonna happen? And then he comes in … Smith said, to which Reed finished her thought, “Swoops in and saves the day.”
Smith said Kruger is “so brilliant” in the films and said she would like to see Abigail collaborate with Reed’s character Tasha.
“I thought she was gonna pop up as a character. She didn’t, but you know, never say never. There’s always room for anything in the future,” Reed also teased, to which Smith added, “And I think the way that they kind of worked out our casting characters is everybody kind of fills a role. Nobody’s taking the roles of Abigail or Ben. So they would fit in with this group like gangbusters. Like, we’re gonna need the pieces to the puzzle eventually.
While Cage and Kruger didn’t make an appearance in the series (so far), there are a few actors from the films who guest star in “Edge of History,” including Harvey Keitel (Peter Sadusky), Armando Riesco (FBI Agent Hendricks) and, most importantly, Justin Bartha, who reprises his role of Riley Poole.
When asked if they learned anything about the “National Treasure” world from the OG stars, Cipriano said, “I mean, the first day that Justin was on set, we got rained out for four hours and we all had to sit in the same van together for about three or four hours. … Actually, Armando was in there too.”
“And we just got all of these stories about life on set and talking with Justin about the first table read of the first movies and everything,” he added. “It was like treasure in that conversation too. It was the best. It really was.”
In addition to the young up-and-coming actors in the cast, the one and only Catherine Zeta-Jones stars in “Edge of History,” playing Billie, a black-market antiquities dealer.
The cast opened up about their experience working with their co-star Zeta-Jones, revealing what people may be surprised to know about the Oscar-winning actress.
“I mean, it was an absolute dream. It was a pleasure. It was an honor,” Reed said. “She is incredible. She is so, so warm. I tell this story, like, you know, obviously, she is a Broadway star, so she has an amazing voice and we are such a singing cast offset and behind the scenes. So I think there was one day, I was singing something, I was trying to teach a part to like this gospel song to Antonio or something. And Catherine comes over. I didn’t even know she was listening and sings it perfectly. I’m like, ‘Catherine, what?! Okay, Miss Zeta-Jones!'”
Walker, meanwhile, said Zeta-Jones is “really funny,” adding, “I mean, it’s not that you wouldn’t expect her not be funny. But she’s just like really witty, and has got like a super funny sense of humor.” Cipriano chimed in, noting that while the actress “plays such an intimidating character,” she’s “such a sweet human” in real life.
The synopsis for “National Treasure: Edge of History,” per Disney, reads: “Jess Valenzuela’s life is turned upside down when an enigmatic stranger gives her a clue to a centuries-old treasure that might be connected to her long-dead father. Jess has a knack for solving puzzles, and her skills are put to the test as she and her friends follow a series of clues hidden in American artifacts and landmarks. But can Jess outsmart a black-market antiquities dealer in a race to find history’s greatest lost treasure and unbury the truth about her family’s past?”
See more from the cast of the Disney+ series in the video interviews, above!
“National Treasure: Edge of History” two-episode premiere begins streaming on December 14 on Disney+.