Lounge Talk: Lisette Olivera
The iconic National Treasure franchise is back, but this time with a reveal no one expected. With a brand new legacy of treasure hunters, the audience is thrown in once again on a search to protect a national treasure. This time alongside lead clue solver Jess Valenzuela. Played by rising actress Lisette Olivera, you can guarantee an adventure full of unexpected twists sprinkled with a comforting familiarity. Full of spirit, Lisette shares her hopes, dreams, and a little something in between as we can do a little mystery-solving of our own to uncover who Lisette Olivera is through her personal treasure map to National Treasure: Edge of History.
When National Treasure: Edge of History was announced to the public, it quickly became one of the most highly anticipated series to release on Disney+. Walk me through the emotions you experienced when the announcement was first made versus how you feel now that the show is about to be released.
The moment the world knew I was the next lead of National Treasure, I left my phone at home and went to get tacos with my dad. I had a huge rush of adrenaline, so it was nice to center myself that way. I had a rather lengthy audition process that I am really proud of, but when the announcement was first made, it felt exciting and overwhelming to share it with the world before any filming started. I had not officially lived as Jess yet, but I knew there was so much joy in the process of getting this part and getting to play her. I was excited to get started.
And now that the show has been released, I can say I am really excited to enjoy the ride of an audience watching. I honestly loved the experience of being at work and escaping to Baton Rouge for half the year. I learned a lot about myself and my process, so this project will always be close to my heart.
What is it like working with the original writers of the National Treasure franchise Cormac and Marianne Wibberley? What did you do in preparation for this role before filming began?
Working with the Wibbs was an incredible experience. I met Marianne during my first zoom audition. She fully embraced my interpretation of Jess, and she was just a kind heart. Cormac, I met later in the process, and he is just as wonderful. They make a great team, and I am incredibly grateful I was their choice.
Before moving to Baton Rouge, I took a trip to Mexico that my family had planned before I auditioned. Pretty crazy to know I would be learning all about the show’s plot on my vacation with my family (Aztecs, Mayans, and black market antiquity deals).
I also took to social media to find some brave individuals that have opened up about their experiences being a Dreamer. It is an incredible honor to play a character inspired by the hundreds of thousands of people in the United States that have DACA. I’m in awe of each individual that has shared their stories with me since starting the show.
National Treasure: Edge of History does a great job of interlacing racial identities and the challenges that so many immigrants in America face on a daily basis. In what ways has your own racial identity impacted your upbringing and where you are today?
I am a daughter of immigrants, and I know my parent’s stories are filled with heartache and triumph. Similar to Jess, I find myself torn between two worlds. I identify as both Mexican and American, and I am proud of both. What I love most about Jess is she embraces who she is and carries herself with grace. She has a difficult history but uses the dreams she has for herself to move her, inspire her, and shape her. I cannot speak for everyone, but Jess represents people I know in my life. This role is not just an achievement for me. It is an achievement for my family as well.
What quality of Jess is reflected most in you?
Personally, I like to make the most of difficult life situations. I believe a lot of character is built from the hard moments in life. Jess has rooted her dreams in hope. We pick up the story with Jess at a standstill in her life, and she is willing to jump into the deep end, determined to make more of herself. She is ambitious and cares deeply for her loved ones. I relate to her on that front.
“It is an incredible honor to play a character inspired by the hundreds of thousands of people in the United States that have DACA. I’m in awe of each individual that has shared their stories with me since starting the show.”
Was there a key moment when you realized your love for acting?
I always forced my best friends to make homemade videos with me. I would also ask for extra credit opportunities from my teachers, so I could create educational videos for school. There’s a sick rap video I made for an English lesson about the rules of Cause and Effect existing somewhere in my IMovie. Anyway, I realized if I could do it for hours and not grow tired of it, I would love to do it.
From both the old and new franchises, which National Treasure character is most like you in real life?
From the old franchise, Abigail Chase. From the new franchise, Jess Valenzuela, of course.
What keeps you motivated in life?
The joy I find in the little things. The love I share with my family and friends.
In reference to Jess’s necklace, do you have a favorite childhood keepsake? If so, what is it?
A glass bunny my Abuelito gifted me when I was a kid. He came home from a walk with a shopping bag one day and said it cost him a quarter at a yard sale. He kneeled and said it reminded him of me. I deeply cherish it.
What is a viral trend you think will fall off in the next year?
I don’t have Tiktok, so I’m not sure what is hip right now.
I saw on your Instagram that you recently traveled to Mexico! Where is one place you want to travel to within the next five years?
Yes! I love it there. I would love to explore any country in South America, Morocco, or Italy!
“What I love most about Jess is she embraces who she is and carries herself with grace. She has a difficult history but uses the dreams she has for herself to move her, inspire her, and shape her. I cannot speak for everyone, but Jess represents people I know in my life. This role is not just an achievement for me. It is an achievement for my family as well.”
What would you do if one day you randomly stumbled upon a long-lost national treasure?
I have learned through Jess that I should trust no one. So I would take a few selfies, call someone I trust to help, and figure out how to display it in a museum.
If you were in an escape room with your friends, what would be your role?
I just did a National Treasure-themed escape room with my cast mates! I like ensuring everyone is on the same page, so no steps are missed. Five minds are stronger than one.
What is something you didn’t expect to happen but did after entering the film/television industry?
Leading the NT franchise working with legends like Jerry Bruckheimer, Catherine-Zeta Jones, and Harvey Keitel. I pinch myself every day!
If you had to describe your personality in three words, which three would you use?
Goofy, Dedicated, and Loving
Off the top of your head, what is the most random fact you can think of that you think people should know about?
The ankle-biting mosquitos that have been spreading in California can reproduce with just a bottle cap of water. They have short lives but multiply quickly. Protect your ankles. Wear ankle socks.
You have so many exciting projects lined up for the next year. What is something you want readers to keep an eye out for?
Nothing I can share yet! Just happy to be here, and I hope you all stream National Treasure: Edge of History on Disney+ ☺
National Treasure: Edge of History now streaming on Disney+. Watch the trailer below: