IN CONVERSATION WITH LYNDON SMITH
Lyndon Smith can next be seen starring in the highly anticipated Disney+ action/adventure series ‘National Treasure: Edge of History’, which is premiering today (14 December). While off screen, Lyndon is an active advocate of sustainable and charitable fashion and helps support a cat rescue in her native Florida.
Lyndon, you’re starring in the highly anticipated Disney+ action/adventure series ‘National Treasure: Edge of History’. The series is a continuation of the original ‘National Treasure’ feature films produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and starring Nicholas Cage. How does the series continue from where the films ended?
‘National Treasure: Edge of History’ picks up fifteen years down the line. Ben and Abigail are presumably living in bliss with their matching Boston tea tables. Riley is off being Riley, but he will pop in during the show to elaborate. And FBI Agent Sudusky, played by the national treasure Harvey Keitel himself, is a retired man who now bestows a clue on young Jess Valenzuela, which kicks off our entire series.
In the series you star as the FBI Agent Ross, a young investigator who was at the top of her class at Quantico and given a top assignment in D.C. After she makes a near career-ending mistake in D.C., she is reassigned to the Baton Rouge field office. How was it portraying a FBI agent? What preparations did you have to undergo for the role?
Well first of all, I had to mentally gear up to fill the shoes of Harvey. He captured the indelible cocktail of dogged detective and ally in the franchise so perfectly, so to come in on those historic heels as the new agent chasing our treasure hunters was daunting. To begin, I watched the first two films. I actually had not seen them, something my costars still rag on me for. But after that, I honestly did not have to do much. The Wibbs created such a fleshed out, complete and nuanced character all on the page. And when you are given a gift like that, you don’t really have to look elsewhere. There were some physical preparations, like weapons training, but that was about it. Shoutout to my incredible instructor Nicole Young to make sure I felt comfortable with the action and stunts in the season.
You’ve guest starred on many succesful and popular series. Is there any guest role that you wish would have been extended to a recurring or a main role?
Oh gosh, that’s hard. Recurring on ‘Parenthood’ for two seasons was one of the highlights of my entire career. I wish I had come in earlier on that show and could have lived in the Braverman world for longer. The most recent guest star I did was on ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ and I really loved my character. If she hadn’t, spoiler alert, turned into a zombie, that would have been a blast to continue.
You received your BFA in Theatre Performance from the University of Florida. When did you decide or know that acting is your calling?
I started on stage when I was in elementary school and acting was really all I ever had my sights on. My backup was marine biology, but it was never something I actually pursued. I pretty much put all my eggs in this acting basket from a young age, so thank goodness it worked out because I’m massively ill-equipped to do just about anything else.
You recently starred in the world premiere production of ‘Death of the Author’ with none other then Austin Butler and the late Orson Bean. How does working on a theater production and on set of TV & film differ for you?
There is a luxury of time in theatre. You rehearse for weeks and then have the opportunity to live and evolve with that character every night in front of an audience. In fact, I’d say the time invested in a theatre production is both the joy and, simultaneously, the greatest challenge. Because when you’re with the same script every single night, eight shows a week, that can easily turn into purgatory if you’re not actively staying open and malleable on that stage. Conversely, TV moves so quickly. You shoot a scene in a few hours and then that’s it. You’ll never see that text again. So the work ends up being more gut-driven. Yes, of course you’ll work with your director, writer, castmates and the scene will take shape together, but when you’re breezing through pages each day, instinct drives performance.
Lyndon, you are also an active advocate of sustainable and charitable fashion, regularly partnering with brands via social media to share the environmental impacts of the fashion industry and to raise money for charities. Why do you believe sustainable fashion is so important nowadays?
I think one day I just really looked around my house and was embarassed by the excess. Clothes I had only worn once or never. Shoes in every corner. And yet I was still bringing things in almost daily. Social media was training my brain to think I needed stuff. And not just stuff, but new stuff. Never wear the same thing twice. Keep up with trends, etc. And I just found myself feeling gross about it. Meanwhile, I’ve always been an avid thrifter. My favorite way to spend an afternoon is to pop in my earbuds and dig through secondhand stores. So I reframed how I viewed fashion. I stopped purchasing new fast fashion, learned how to repurpose and restyle my closet, care for my pieces and prioritize longevity over trends. I started speaking about it on my Instagram and realized that the sustainable fashion movement was already in full swing, and I’ve never looked back. The fashion industry is responsible for 10 % of global carbon dioxide output, more than international flights and shipping combined. There are entire trash islands of clothing across the globe. We have to reign this in.
Recently, you have teamed up with Gabriel & Co/Jewelers for Children on two initiatives to raise over $91.000 for The National CASA/GAL Association. Tell us more about this fashion charity initiatives. Who do these charities support with what is being raised?
Just as I started adopting a more environmental standpoint with my shopping, I decided to start putting my dollar towards companies that give back and that is where the partnership with Gabriel & Co developed. Jewelers for Children (JFC) is a non-profit that runs campaigns year-round to support different initiatives, so for the two aforementioned campaigns, The National CASA/GAL Association was the charity of focus. I believe right now, Gabriel & Co is partnering with JFC in aid of Make-A-Wish. And I think that any company who prioritizes philanthrophy as the backbone of their brand is one that deserves to be celebrated.
You also help support a cat rescue in Florida, called ‘The UWF Campus Cat Program’, that your mom started. Why did she start this rescue and what is your view on animals needing rescue, not only in the US but around the world?
The University of West Florida is set on a 1.500 acre nature preserve and my mom saw a need for the feral cat population to be both contained and protected. The county was regularly rounding up the animals and euthanizing them. Not only is that inhumane, but also euthanizing does nothing to contain a feral population. More cats will just come back to the same spot. However, if you protect these animals and support them with safe feedings, medical care and foster/adoption programs, you are creating a sterilized colony that can live out their lives in a protected environment. In fact, the number of feral cats in the UWF colony has been cut in half or more. Nearly 2/3 have been adopted and those that do not have the disposition for domestication are contributing to the overall ecosystem of the nature preserve. At the end of the day, we are all sharing this planet. I know that may sound cheesy, but I believe that animals deserve our respect and protection.
While off screen, you’re an avid vintage antique hunter and enjoy mixing up cocktails in your own home tiki bar. I would love to hear what made you decide to have your own Tiki bar at home?
I fell in love with Polynesian culture. I’ve been to Kauai eight times and consider it my second home. I wanted to have a piece of that aloha spirit in my house.
Lyndon, with ‘National Treasure: Edge of History’ now airing, what’s up next for you in your career?
Hopefully ‘National Treasure’ is my career for a while. I would love to see them make the third movie and hopefully our cast could be a part of that. Outside of that, I would love to get back on the stage again or sink my teeth into my dream role, which would be to play Elizabeth Taylor. Meanwhile, you can find me at the local thift shop digging for treasures.
interview by JANA LETONJA
photography JONNY MARLOW