Catherine Zeta-Jones: 'National Treasure' honors legacy of grandiose adventure

Catherine Zeta-Jones' "National Treasure: Edge of History" premieres Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Disney+
1 of 5 | Catherine Zeta-Jones' "National Treasure: Edge of History" premieres Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Disney+

NEW YORK, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Oscar-winning actress Catherine Zeta-Jones says her new Disney+ series, National Treasure: Edge of History, maintains the spirit of the preceding two films, while introducing an ensemble of primarily Gen Z puzzle-solvers.

"It has a little tongue-in-cheek humor, the kind of grandiose adventure of it all, flying private planes to Mexico. It has that great roller-coaster ride feel," Zeta-Jones told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.


"I think we've done a great homage to the originals. We didn't just take the name, cast somebody else and try to sell it off. It really is from the writers of the originals, and they really brought it into what we have 20 years later."

Premiering Wednesday on Disney+, the show follows the 2004 movie, National Treasure, and its 2007 sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The films starred Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Harvey Keitel and Jon Voight. Bartha and Keitel guest star in Edge of History.


In the show, the life of amateur puzzle-solver Jess Valenzuela (Lisette Olivera) is upended when an enigmatic stranger gives her a clue to a centuries-old treasure that might be connected to her long-dead father.

Zeta-Jones plays Billie, a resourceful and powerful figure who tries to thwart Jess and her friends in their quest to find and save the priceless relics.

The show is executive produced by the franchise's original creative team of Jerry Bruckheimer, Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, and Jon Turteltaub.

Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake filmmaker Mira Nair directed and executive produced the first season.

Zeta-Jones recalled being immediately intrigued by how Bruckheimer pitched the character of Billie to her, but she emphasized she didn't want to play her unless she also had a juicy storyline.

"The description of her is a badass antiques dealer, black-market trader. I was like: 'Hmm, but why does she want this so bad? What is it about this that she wants? Why this?'" Zeta-Jones said, suggesting she was satisfied with the ultimate explanation of Billie's motives. "That was an interesting arc to play."

The Wednesday, Chicago and America's Sweetheart star said her adult kids were fans of the original National Treasure movies and excited she had joined the franchise.


"I became the coolest mother on the East Coast, and I was very happy," she admitted.

As a parent, she thinks it is vital to teach children about the past in a fun way.

"History is so important -- call out to politicians around the world -- in that history usually repeats itself and it is a great marker of where we are as a civilization," the actress said.

"We have to learn from historic events. We have to learn what is bad, what is good and where we can improve on what has been done before. History is such a powerful part of our existence, whatever country you've come from," Zeta-Jones added. "It's where we grow from."

Show business newcomer Olivera said she found it is easy to understand and connect to Jess, the character she she landed after about a month of auditions and callbacks.

"Jess is someone who is very determined, ambitious. She has a very big heart for her friends and family," the actress told UPI in a separate Zoom chat.

"What I relate to her the most on is how much she cares for and wants to be there for her friends and her family," she added.


"Our show is about a chosen family. Throughout the entire series, we watch their relationship with each other ebb and flow, and I think at the core of it, is always the heart that have for each other while also going through the craziness that it is a huge potential treasure that's lost in time and space."

The said she actress loves the idea that families can watch and enjoy the show together, since something in the story and characters might appeal to all different ages.

"I love shows that I can watch with my own family," she said. "I think it's the perfect time [for it to air] because the holidays are starting up. It's just something I think will bring joy to a lot of people."

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