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SYFY WIRE National Treasure

'National Treasure: Edge of History's Lisette Olivera talks Nic Cage comparisons

Olivera plays aspiring cryptologist Jess Valenzuela in the upcoming Disney+ series.

By Tara Bennett

It's been 15 years since actor Nicolas Cage last trekked around the globe as Benjamin Franklin Gates in National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007) looking for hidden treasure and antiquities from history. While the various attempts to resuscitate the franchise with Cage never made any headway, the architects of the mythology, executive producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Cormac and Marianne Wibberley, are continuing the stories with a new generation of treasure hunters in National Treasure: Edge of History, an original Disney+ series which premieres with two episodes on Dec. 14. 

The Gates-equivalent of this series is 22-year-old aspiring cryptologist, Jess Valenzuela (Lisette Olivera), a "Dreamer" whose father was a treasure hunter in Mexico before he disappeared, leaving her and her mom to make it alone in the U.S. As an adult now living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with her roommates, Jess is working to get naturalized so she can become an FBI Agent. Like Gates, Jess is also a puzzle savant who can "see" how the most daunting codes or pictograms can be deciphered. She even sees the same glowing swirls that Gates does when he's problem-solving, but Olivera insists that doesn't mean they operate the same way at all.

"In developing Jess as a character, I think it was a smart approach to just try my own take at what it was like to think of these puzzles," Olivera tells SYFY WIRE about how that particular visual is pretty much the only thing that connects her to Gates. "I always say that Jess is similar to Ben in the sense that both are very, very intelligent people with really strong-minded personalities. But with Jess, she has had a different life than Ben."


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Jess is also very attached to her history, including her recently passed mother, and her trio of best friends. "She operates a lot from the heart," Olivera says of what motivates her character. "In a way, I was trying to figure out how it's not just analytical for her. There's so much emotion behind what she thinks about, and that was really cool."

With Jess being a Dreamer, or a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ( DACA) program, Olivera says she's very proud that the series not only makes her the hero of her own story, but a young woman that is more than her "status." "She has so many other qualities than what [categories] people put her in," the actress asserts. "She's not just this box of an idea of a woman that wasn't born here and is not a citizen of this country. She's a person who has always had a really strong presence. She is very determined and ambitious."

She adds, "And I think it's really brilliantly done where Jess has a very strong emotional tie to the treasure that she doesn't mind, that at this point in her life, to risk it all to go after it, if it means that she can take a step further with her familial ties and her history."

National Treasure: Edge of History premieres Dec. 14 with two episodes and then drops episodes weekly.

Suddenly in the mood for some historical sleuthing? Check out Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol on Peacock!