Antonio Cipriano’s ‘Treasure’ hunt strikes friendship gold

DETROIT (AP) — When Antonio Cipriano was cast in the Disney+ series “ National Treasure: Edge of History,” he knew it was a great professional opportunity but wasn’t expecting how formative the experience would be for him personally.

“When I say it was the best experience I’ve ever had, I don’t think I’m actually exaggerating at all,” said Cipriano over Zoom from a hotel in Los Angeles. “The cast, crew, creatives, everybody. We were all (filming) in Baton Rouge (Louisiana), so we were all at summer camp, basically, like we were all in one spot and hung out with each other every single day and went to New Orleans and had amazing experiences.”

This “National Treasure” is a continuation of the movies starring Nicolas Cage, Penelope Cruz and Justin Bartha with a Gen Z cast. (Bartha and Harvey Keitel do reprise their roles for the series.)

Lisette Olivera stars as Jess, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico living in the U.S., who discovers a clue connected to her late father that may lead to a hidden treasure.

Jess enlists her friends, including Cipriano’s character, Oren, to help solve the mystery. A ruthless black market antiquities dealer — played by Catherine Zeta-Jones —- is hot on her trail because she wants to find the treasure first.

When we first meet Oren he’s a bit excitable, easily distracted, and is deeply invested in the latest expensive sneaker drop. His friends both love and roll their eyes at him, including ex-girlfriend Tasha, whom Oren would like to win back. Zuri Reed portrays Tasha.

“In addition to being incredibly talented and funny, Antonio is also just naturally lovable, which we really needed for Oren. Oren starts off the season as a selfish, goofball man-child, so we needed an actor who was so likable that audiences would hang in with him for the ride as his character grew,” said showrunners Cormac and Marianne Wibberley in an email.

Cipriano credits the Wibberleys with encouraging him to make suggestions for his character. “At some point you start to really know who you’re playing and then you’re like, ‘OK, let me say how I think he would say this.’ They were very open to that kind of stuff… You’re thinking on your toes all the time, like, ‘What can I do here? What can I do here?’”

The Wibberleys say a Cipriano suggestion provided one of their “favorite moments in the show.”

“Antonio did come up with a super fun little dance during a big character moment in one of the episodes,” said the Wibberleys. “He choreographed it himself.”

Cipriano got his start in theater and has an incredibly strong singing voice. He originated the role of Phoenix in “ Jagged Little Pill,” written by Diablo Cody and inspired by the Alanis Morissette album, and saw it through workshops and out-of-town performances before its 2019 Broadway debut. The show was only a few months into its Broadway run when everything shut down due to the pandemic. Cipriano then went home to Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to be with his family.

“Every actor who went through COVID can tell you it was just the craziest. You’re just submitting tape after tape after tape after tape. Most of the time you don’t hear back. It’s just kind of thrown off into the void.”

Upon reading the script for “National Treasure,” Cipriano was instantly hooked. “I knew this was something I was going to fixate on.

“I got two callbacks. I had done chemistry reads and all this stuff, and I was like, ‘This is it, this is it.’ And then I didn’t get it… Then about a month later, after I had let it go, I got a call from my manager, ‘Hey, remember ’National Treasure?’ ‘Oh, the one I really wanted? Yeah, I think I can remember.’” Cipriano was asked to do a screen test which landed him the role.

Early on, he and his castmates including Olivera, Reed, Jordan Rodrigues and Jake Austin Walker, formed a pact to have each other’s backs while filming. They told each other, “If you’re ever having a weird day, anything like that, we got you, we’re going to be on set with you, too and it’s OK to have a bad day.’ That’s what is so amazing about this cast.”

The actors spent all their free time together, and Cipriano said it was “a learning curve” to call it a night because they had work the next day.

“It’s very hard when you have all your friends in the same building as you and down the street, like, how are you supposed to not hang out? Quality time is my love language. I literally just wanted to hang out with them every second of every day,” he said.

Cipriano also just completed filming the Amazon Prime Video series “Harlan Coben’s Shelter,” starring Jaden Michael, and based on the first novel in Coben’s “Mickey Bolitar” YA series. Coben is also an executive producer.

“Antonio is a star. He’s supernaturally charismatic and ridiculously talented. He can do it all — drama, comedy, music, whatever — and he’s a joy on set. I can’t say enough good things about him,” said Coben.

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Follow Alicia Rancilio at @aliciar

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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