Imagine growing up a huge Disney Channel fan and then scoring a starring role on a highly anticipated Disney+ series. That’s exactly what happened for Zuri Reed with National Treasure: Edge of History.
In the sequel series to the National Treasure films starring Nicolas Cage, we meet a new lead character, Jess Valenzuela played by Lisette Olivera. Jess loves a good mystery and has a knack for solving puzzles, so when she finds herself in the midst of a treasure hunt that could have ties to her late father, she absolutely has to see it through. But, she can’t do it alone and that’s where Reed’s character, Tasha, comes in. Tasha is Jess’ best friend and roommate, and also happens to be a tech whiz, making her an invaluable member of the team going on this wild adventure.
With National Treasure: The Edge of History three episodes into its 10-episode run, with Episode 4 scheduled to hit Disney+ on December 28th, Reed took the time to join me for a Collider Ladies Night Pre-Party conversation to explain how she went from Disney Channel superfan to starring in a Disney+ series herself. And it all began with That’s So Raven. “Growing up I loved, loved, loved Disney. That’s So Raven was one of my favorite shows ever, and I was obsessed with [Raven-Symoné].” Reed added, “I wanted to do everything that she did.”
Reed didn’t get to do a That’s So Raven-like show right out the gate, but her very first job is something wildly impressive. Reed was in The Lion King on Broadway. After her run on that production wrapped up, it was back to Philadelphia to finish high school. But, as soon as she had that diploma, her focus shifted back to building a career while living in New York City. Yes, New York City. Not Los Angeles. Reed explained why New York felt like the best match for her and emphasized the importance of having a team behind her that supported that choice:
“I love LA. I love the weather. I think that it’s beautiful. But I’m such a city girl. I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I grew up on the bus and trains, just city life, city life. So moving to LA just seemed so far off from what I was used to. And then my agency was here, and they’re so amazing. They have a New York office and an LA office, so I was easily able to audition for both cities while staying close to home and being comfortable where I’m living at. I don’t know about LA. Maybe one day, perhaps, but there were definitely people in my ear, but I know that my team was able to get me both places and I was comfortable here, so I decided to stay and I’m so happy that I did.”
As often happens with new actors trying to break into the business, Reed went through a number of years of auditioning without booking anything. How’d she power through that disappointment while maintaining the confidence and motivation necessary to forge forward? A piece of advice received from her mother was key in that pursuit:
“There were so many times when I would catch the bus to New York and go on an audition and there’s 50 other girls in the room. Some may look just like me, some may look completely different. And it’s just like, you never really know what they want. The one thing my mom has always told me is that, if the job is for you, it is for you. It doesn’t matter who else is there, who else is in the room. If it’s for you, it’s for you and it won’t miss you. So many times I was up for so many jobs I just knew [were] meant for me, but then I didn’t get it, so it wasn’t meant for me, right? But in the moment, you don’t feel that way. You’re just like, ‘But I wanted it!’ But then something amazing happens like National Treasure.”
The role of Tasha is quite clearly meant for Reed. From the moment she first steps on screen, Reed emits a certain energy as Tasha that’s infectious and ensures the character always has a strong screen presence. However, even though the end result proves Reed was indeed a perfect match for the part, she did face some challenges while adapting to filming a big show so far away from home. She explained:
“Especially when you’re filming on location, I think it’s so important to stay focused, stay focused, stay focused. We filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I had never been there before, I was away from my family, I was away from my friends, and it’s just not a very busy city as well. I grew to absolutely love it there because we were there for about seven months. So after a while, it did become home. But, it could have easily been a distraction. The fact that I was missing my home life and trying to focus here, and New Orleans is an hour away. You know, lots of distractions, but stay focused, stay professional, and my biggest thing is, be easy to work with.”
Eager to hear more about Reed’s journey in the industry thus far, including her experience working on Netflix’s The Get Down? You can catch her full Collider Ladies Night Pre-Party interview in the video at the top of this article or in podcast form below: