Justin Bartha as Riley Poole and Lisette Olivera as Jess Valenzuela in National Treasure: Edge of History
Lisette Olivera as Jess Valenzuela in National Treasure: Edge of History
Zuri Reed as Tasha and Lisette Olivera as Jess Valenzuela in National Treasure: Edge of History
Lisette Olivera as Jess Valenzuela and Harvey Keitel as Peter Sadusky in National Treasure: Edge of History
Marianne and Cormac Wibberley have learned their lesson about flat head nails.
The married writers of the mid-2000s action-adventure movies National Treasure and National Treasure: Book of Secrets spent years turning American history's finer points into thrilling treasure hunts with leading man Nicolas Cage. But in the first film's climax, a crucial Colonial-era death trap is held up by flat head nails, which weren't invented until the next century.
The oversight was lampooned years later on Twitter, something the couple took in stride and took to heart as they returned to the franchise as creators and executive producers of the new Disney+ series National Treasure: Edge of History. The ten-episode season, which premieres on December 14 with two episodes, follows Jess Valenzuela (Lisette Olivera) as she and her friends follow a series of clues to uncover a centuries-old treasure.
"On the one hand, does it matter to the audience that you have flat head nails? No," Marianne says. "But on the other, if you did have a historian helping you out when you were writing it, they can give you those cool tidbits."
The Wibberleys didn't have much historical oversight when writing the movies. In fact, for the sequel, their only directive from Disney execs was to incorporate landmarks like Mount Rushmore and the White House so they could be used on the poster.
But for the new series, they had expert assistance in accurately crafting a multicultural mystery, with help from a cultural expert from the Smithsonian and a South American historian. They also partnered with Define American — a nonprofit organization which seeks to humanize the immigrant narrative through the power of media — to best represent the immigration story of their central character. Jess is a Baton Rouge-dwelling DACA recipient whose mysterious family history puts her in a dangerous race against a black-market antiquities dealer (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to find a lost Meso-American treasure.
Having covered the Colonial and Civil War eras in the movies, the creators took the series back even further to the days when Aztecs, Mayans and Incas ruled. "We say this show is 23andMe for our hero and for our country," Cormac says.
In Jess's case, her roots run deeper than Cage's Benjamin Franklin Gates, whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower. "We wanted a character whose family has been here from the get-go," Cormac says. "She just doesn't know where she came from until she goes through this journey."
Even though they've already masterminded the seizure of the Declaration of Independence and the president in the National Treasure films, the Wibberleys admitted mounting the new series was an even greater challenge.
"The map on the back of the Declaration of Independence was our big creation, and coming up with something just as good was what terrified us about the sequel," Marianne says. "But the series is even more terrifying because it's ten hours, as opposed to two. That's a lot of time to fill with capers, clues and history."
Let the hunt begin.
National Treasure: Edge of History is executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Cormac Wibberley, Marianne Wibberley, Jonathan Littman, KristieAnne Reed, Rick Muirragui, Jon Turteltaub and Mira Nair, and is produced by ABC Signature.