Interview: Lyndon Smith on National Treasure: Edge of History

Concomitantly with the National Treasure: Edge of History premiere, ComingSoon spoke with Lyndon Smith about her role as FBI Agent Ross on the series. The actress discussed the peculiarities of her character, the importance of being part of a franchise like National Treasure, her plans, and more.

Mira Nair (Queen of Katwe) directed the 10-episode series premiere from a screenplay written by original film writers Marianne and Cormac Wibberley. Disney+’s series stars Lisette Alexis as Jess, Catherine Zeta-Jones (Prodigal Son) as Billie, Zuri Reed (Flatbush Misdemeanors) as Tasha, Lyndon Smith (Parenthood) as FBI Agent Ross, Jake Austin Walker (DC’s Stargirl) as Liam, Antonio Cipriano (Jagged Little Pill) as Oren, and Jordan Rodrigues (Light as a Feather) as Ethan.

Tudor Leonte: We are recording this interview during the holiday season. What’s your plan for these days?

Lyndon Smith: What am I gonna do? I’m gonna go see my parents and my brother. They live in Florida, so I’m gonna leave to see them for a few days. Then I’m gonna go to Costa Rica for New Year’s Eve with some friends. I’ve never been to Costa Rica. I’m very, very excited. It’s gonna be a fun couple of weeks.

That sounds amazing. I looked at your Instagram stories and it appears that you are a fan of Negroni Sbagliato. Are you planning to have a few ones on New Year’s Eve?

Oh, yeah, absolutely. Negroni’s, like one of my go-to cocktails of all time, and I’d actually never tried the Sbagliato version until, obviously, we all saw that famous clip. I was like, ‘Wait, swap out with Prosecco? That sounds amazing.’ That was the first one that I ever made last night, and it was way too good. Way too good. I’ve had a White Negroni before and obviously the classic, so that was my third version of Negroni.

I agree. It is good indeed. I would love to discuss cocktails and Negroni, but we are here to discuss a little bit about National Treasure: Edge of History. How did you land the role of FBI Agent Ross?

I read for it in September of last year. I remember when I got the audition, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, National Treasure. I didn’t know they were gonna make a series of this. This is so exciting.’ I know the fan base has been wanting a third movie for so long, and to actually turn it into a show I think is so modern and fresh. Everybody loves streaming and binging shows these days, so I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is genius. I would love to be a part of this.’ Also to have the juggernaut that is Disney Plus to be behind your show. I read for it just like everybody else, and then I didn’t hear anything for probably a month. Then I got a call that the Wibberleys and Mira Nair, the director for the first episode, wanted to do a Zoom meeting with me. I didn’t know I was in the conversation on this anymore. Had a great meeting with them. They explained what they wanted to do with the character and the show. I was immediately hooked, wanted to do it, and then it was right before Christmas that they officially extended the offer. So that was like a very good Christmas gift for me last year.

I can guess that it was a very nice Christmas gift. I was a kid when National Treasure came out and I have very fond memories of it. I’d like to ask if you watched the movie as a teenager or did you watch it later in your life.

It’s so funny. I am the one cast member who had not seen the movies before I got the job. Everybody else like grew up with them and loved them. I, of course, knew the National Treasure movies, like everybody knows these movies, but I hadn’t seen them until I actually got the job. I remember wondering, ‘It’s been 15 years, are these movies gonna hold up?’ Because sometimes you go back and you watch those movies from your childhood and it’s like, ‘Ooh, this is not good anymore.’ I loved them. I thought they were so delightful. I thought they were so fun. I loved how they wove history into a treasure hunt. History’s kind of the star of National Treasure, right? Yes, we all love Nick Cage. We love watching him run around Philadelphia, but history is the main character. To impart a learning exercise like that with action and romance and humor, no, I mean, it’s no wonder they were so successful. It’s such a fun ride. Like what isn’t there not to love? I loved how multi-generational it was. Kids loved it, parents loved it, grandparents loved that. Hopefully, we can recapture the hearts of the original fan base and bring in some new treasure hunters with this show.

Fans first meet your character in Episode 2 and it is said that she wants to make an impact when she first appears on the scene. I’d like to hear from you a little bit about her background and backstory.

Yeah, so I love this character so much. She feels like an extension of myself. She’s a very goal-oriented, focused young woman. I think she’s always felt like she had a little bit of something to prove to be a woman in a very male-facing profession like that. So she went nose to the grindstone and was top of her class at Quantico. She was given a super high-end job immediately after that in DC and made one mistake. She made one mistake and got kicked down to the Baton Rouge field office. Essentially, they said, ‘We’re not gonna fire you, but you’re gonna go from the DC office, the pinnacle of what it is to be working in the FBI to a sleepy town in the backwards of Louisiana.’ So she gets there and she’s like an underdog.

She essentially has to rebuild her professional reputation. And that was a really cool jumping-off point for me to feel like you’re somebody who just has an uphill climb now. To regain the respect of your peers and your boss. She shows up in Baton Rouge, and in the first few days Jess and Tasha come in holding a box that they say is a relic and there’s a treasure hunt, and somebody’s been kidnapped. Agent Ross naturally goes, ‘Get out of here. This is a joke.’ And then she just can’t shake that. Maybe there’s something more to this, maybe these kids are telling the truth. Maybe she was too hasty and rushed them out the door. Maybe she wasn’t listening to them because they’re kids. That’s something we kind of talk about in this series, people never wanna give kids the benefit of the doubt.

I say kids, they’re young twenties. There’s always a bit of an uphill battle when you’re a younger person bringing information to an older person. In the same way Agent Ross’s boss doesn’t listen to her, and she does it anyway. These kids just go on without Agent Ross. Then Agent Ross goes, ‘I missed something, there’s something going on here.’ She starts essentially following along on this treasure hunt, a couple of paces behind figuring out if is this real friend or foe? Who is this Billie character played by the incomparable Catherine Zeta-Jones? Why does she keep crossing my desk? Agent Ross has a whole treasure hunt of her own that runs in tandem with the kids.

Yeah, I really love how she can be pretty resourceful and even defy orders if she believes she’s in the right. What is it that you like about her?

I just loved that she has the emotional intelligence to take a step back and go, here are all the facts on the table. These are the words coming out of somebody’s mouth. These are their actions. But then she can also go, life is very complicated and nuanced and people make decisions for reasons that we don’t necessarily understand. She knows that these kids are breaking the law probably, but she also doesn’t go criminal. She goes, ‘What’s the story?’ There’s more to it than meets the eye. I love how she balances empathy towards her fellow man with being very good at her job. I just thought that was a really cool dynamic. On the page.

Is there a particular line, scene, or situation you liked involving your character?

One of the first is in Episode 2. You know what’s so funny? I don’t think it actually made it into the final cut, but I remember there was this one line which informed everything about Agent Ross. For me, it’s late at night, everybody else has left the office. Her boss walks in and goes, ‘Ross, what are you still doing here?’ and I said, ‘My apartment is a couch, a TV, and a refrigerator. I basically only go there to sleep.’ When I read that, I was like, ‘That is this girl.’ Her life is doing the best job she can being here in this office after hours burning that midnight oil because she just can’t let something go. That is Ross. She is so dogged, she’s not going home to sleep when she thinks there’s a story there. I love that line and that kind of informed everything for me moving forward.

That’s a pretty cool line. And yeah, unfortunately, I didn’t hear it in Episode 2.

I don’t think it made it, which I was like surprised. It’s something that resonated with Lyndon so much. I don’t know if the audience would’ve picked up on that, but for Lyndon, that was like the ethos for this character.

Speaking of Lyndon, how would you react if someone breaks into the room, uh, right now and tells you to look for a hidden treasure?

I would be like, ‘Let’s go, let’s go!’ I was always the kid who was like kicking baseboards to see if something was gonna unlock. I’m not joking. I remember my grandma had really squeaky tile in her old house, and I would be on my hands and knees trying to like, pull up tiles to see if there was a treasure in the walls. I always thought I was gonna find a treasure as a kid. Then as an adult, this turned into an obsession for vintage hunting. I love going to antique stores or auctions, and yard sales. I love finding the things that people don’t know what they were and then they get rid of it. I have so many little treasures in my house of things that I’ve found on the side of the road found in thrift shops. Yeah, if somebody walked through the door right now and was like, ‘Treasure?,’ I’d be like, ‘Let’s go. Let me grab my shoes.’

I was expecting an answer like that.

I mean, who would, if somebody was like, ‘Hey, there’s a treasure,’ like who’s gonna say no?

Yeah. The adventure of a lifetime. Is there anyone in particular with whom you have bonded on the set?

The whole group became so close, so fast. The guy who plays my love interest, who you’ll meet in Episode 3. His name’s Tommy Savas. He plays this coroner who agent Ross ends up teaming up with because nobody in the FBI office is really gonna help her. She enlists the help of this really funny, quirky, cute coroner. He and I became very, very close. We just like hit it off immediately, like the chemistry was there. He feels like my brother from another mother. We had a great time. People are going to love the agent Ross-Dr. Zeke dynamic. I think it’s really fun.

I saw just four episodes but I still, I don’t want to make any spoilers. I would like to hear from you if you could tease us a little bit about your character’s journey throughout the series.

It’s so hard to talk about Ross’s journey in the series because she’s very directly tied to spoilers, especially towards the end. What I can say is in the first few episodes, you don’t really know if Ross is on the side of Jess and Tasha and Ethan and Oren. You don’t know if she’s gonna be a hindrance to them or she’s gonna be an ally. She ultimately does become an ally to them, and it’s really good to have friends in high places. What better to have than an FBI agent, maybe watching your back if you’re potentially breaking the law? I will say that as the season goes on, Agent Ross starts working a little more closely with our treasure hunters and aiding them.

I would like to hear from you about your plans for 2023.

Oh gosh, hopefully, we’re gonna go back and shoot Season 2. That’s what we’re all waiting to hear on. I imagine we’ll find out early in the new year. Hopefully, my plans will be shooting National Treasure Season 2, but that’s the only thing I’m really focused on right now. I think in the meantime, I would love to go back to theater and do a play. I mean, I started on the stage. We’ve got wonderful theaters here in LA so I might try to go do a play in the meantime. That’s the best way to learn. It’s the best way to freshen up your skills. Hopefully, Season 2 will be starting shooting in late spring.

2022 has been the franchise year for you. National Treasure, Fear the Walking Dead. How is your experience with relating to those franchises and are you willing to try again or aim at other franchises in 2023?

Well, walking into a franchise is great because you already have that fan base. The world has already been established and you get to come in and just kind of like live in this amazing thing that has already been set up. Yes, jumping on Fear the Walking Dead for that episode where Madison made her return, everyone was waiting for that moment. Getting to be a part of that was really, really special. Obviously, fans have been wanting this extension of National Treasure now for years, so to walk into that is great. Franchises are awesome. Luckily, Disney is spearheading a ton. I would love to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point. I would love to join one of the Star Wars shows. I loved Andor, I loved The Mandalorian. Being employed by Disney now is such a gift. If I get to work with one company, this is the one to work with. They spearhead so many franchises that I would love to do so. If any of them are watching Make me a Marvel villain, I wanna be a villain.

Well, fingers crossed it will happen next year. Lyndon, do you have any last messages?

I’m just so excited that people are gonna see this. I can’t wait to hear the immediate feedback. I love that you get two episodes to start to really kind of sink your teeth into our re-imagining of this. I just hope it’s something that people watch with their family over the holidays. Have a great time. It’s wonderful, just popcorn entertainment. Maybe you’ll learn something along the way, but you’re definitely gonna laugh. You’re definitely gonna get invested in this treasure hunt. You’re gonna do it with us in real-time. I’m just excited to see the reaction. I think I’m gonna be on my phone a lot.

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