Nikita - Maggie Q interview (exclusive)
Interview by Rob Carnevale
MAGGIE Q talks about some of the challenges of playing Nikita (released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, September 19) including performing her own stunts often in glamourous outfits.
She also talks about her career in general and what it was like to kick Bruce Willis’ arse in Die Hard 4.0.
Q. When it first came to playing Nikita, what was the appeal? I mean, did you look to any previous incarnations of the character? Or decide to make it your own from the outset?
Maggie Q: Yeah, I absolutely didn’t look at anything else beforehand. Right from the start, when I saw the direction they were going in terms of making Nikita rogue and seeing that she’d gotten out [of Division] I knew it was going to be different. So, there was no need to reference anything that was done before. I always knew this was something that hadn’t been done before with the character.
Q. And how did you go about making her different?
Maggie Q: Well, the pilot was written really well. So, from the get-go I enjoyed reading what was going to happen to her. For me, I just thought that we’d have to create an anti-hero… someone who is obviously very tough but who is also very vulnerable, who is flawed, and who makes bad decisions. I mean, she has a mission and she’s hard when she needs to be, but I also wanted to make her likeable and to have people rooting for her in a real way – not because she’s been set up to be a hero, but because of what she wants and how she earns that opinion of her.
Q. Her story is born from tragedy…
Maggie Q: Absolutely, it’s very much born from tragedy and that’s another part of what gives her such humanity.
Q. You’re obviously a specialist in martial arts, but did the physical intensity of the series take you by surprise at all?
Maggie Q: A show like this is demanding in every way… there’s not one aspect I can think of that’s easy. It’s kind of weird… yes, there is a lot of physical stuff and it is very difficult but I’m also getting a new script every nine days and you’re on such a tight schedule that it all melds into one big difficult thing. So, because the physicality stands out, people think that may tend to be the bigger challenge, but that’s not always the case.
Q. Lyndsy [Fonseca] says the two of you compare scars a lot. Do you pick up a lot of injuries?
Maggie Q: Really? I don’t remember doing that so much as we don’t really fight that much together, or share those kinds of scenes. I know how much I get beat up [laughs]. I fought Shane in one episode and that was so intense we thought we were dying!
Q. And what scars to do you own?
Maggie Q: I remember in episode three, I had an intense fight which involved a lot of elbows. I thought I had a hematoma… the bruising was so bad and I was so swollen the next day. I had to change my wardrobe the next day. But that happens all the time on Nikita… if I pick up a bruise or something, I’ll have to change an outfit to something with long sleeves or something. But that’s all part of the physicality of doing the show.
Q. And yet you throw yourself in… I’ve read you like to do as many of your own stunts as possible?
Maggie Q: I do… but it is part of the job and [bumps and scrapes] are par for the course. It’s interesting though because on movies you can see that you might have a big sequence in three weeks time and I can prepare for it, do it and then recover. But there is no recovery time on this show. If I’m messed up after a sequence, I just have to keep going.
Q. You make it all look so effortless, but is there a special set of skills required to pull off high-octane fight scenes and chases in glamorous dresses and/or a bikini?
Maggie Q: [Laughs] Thank you! It’s so, so hard… too hard to answer in one phone call! But what’s really nice is the treatment you get from fans. I do get a lot of thanks from them for working so hard. They do seem to really appreciate the hard work we put in… specifically on this show. It’s weird that they’re often at pains to point out that they appreciate what we’re doing. That’s really surprising.
Q. You can see that… each episode could be a movie…
Maggie Q: What we’re pulling off on our budget with each episode, I honestly am so proud of this crew. You’re right, we strive to make every episode feel as though it could be a movie.
Q. Away from the physical element, the dynamic between Nikita and Alex is great… almost like a mother and daughter… or two sisters…
Maggie Q: It really is and that’s one of the things I do enjoy about it. I’m the youngest of five kids, so I’ve never had a young sister dynamic in my life, ever. So, this is what it feels like to have a younger sister to me. But I also like the reveals the show gives you and the second half of the season will show you more about how they got to where they are at present as well as throwing in some surprises, some of which are going to be really shocking to people – and maybe even sad.
Q. And how will the relationship between you and Shane evolve?
Maggie Q: Well, it already starts to change towards the end of this season. But in the second season you’ll definitely see more of Shane and I. Audiences have responded really well to that. But I always liked the idea of two people being put in a certain position and not being able to explore their relationship. It’s interesting even for me to perform.
Q. How much do you know about what’s coming up?
Maggie Q: I know a lot [smiles].
Q. Do you have a lot of input into your character? I mean, can you change things if you don’t agree with a direction she’s maybe taking?
Maggie Q: I always say that Craig Silverstein, the show’s creator, and I were separated at birth [laughs]. I will sometimes call him with a concern and say: “Hi Craig, it’s me…” And I will leave a message, say I have a concern and ask him to call me back. He’ll then call me back and say: “Maggie, this is why this happened.” But he always knows exactly what my concern is. I’ll say: “How did you know?” And he’ll just laugh and reply: “Because…” But we get along so well, we’re so on the same page that I really don’t have that problem very often. It’s been such a creative process with Craig, with the writers… we’re all genuinely very close. I’m really happy with my relationship with them.
Q. You demonstrated your commitment to the show early on by setting up and taking them to training camp prior to filming?
Maggie Q: I did! I created a training camp in LA four weeks before we started filming. I started schooling them in choreography and what to expect because I kind of wanted to get into their heads what it would feel like to be trainees. I mean, at some point, all of their characters went through training, so I wanted it in their heads.
Q. Did that also help to create a bond between you as a cast?
Maggie Q: We did bond as a cast, yes. It also enabled be to gauge a level of where people were because I do work very closely with the [stunt] co-ordinator. I wanted to see their strengths and weaknesses by the time we got to Toronto so I could say ‘this is the person who hits hard’ or this is the person who doesn’t. I wanted everyone on the show to be as believable as possible and I thought the training camp would help give them the tools they needed.
Q. Before you go, how much of an impact did Jackie Chan have on your career?
Maggie Q: I’ve been talking earlier about Jackie and I was pointing out that I really didn’t get super seriously into action until I moved to the States. But I was trained by his guys to a certain level of training. The real benefit of being around him was that I got to see his worth ethic. He is a very hard worker and he’s not where he is for no reason. So, that affected me a lot. He was hard on us because we were the younger generation and we were representing him, so he put us through the ringer. But that taught me so much.
Q. And how was getting to kick Bruce Willis’s arse in Die Hard 4.0?
Maggie Q: [Laughs] Bruce was great. He was very into it. A lot of guys wouldn’t be happy about that. But at first, he was like: “Could she really hurt me? Come on guys, seriously?” So, we did a couple of exercises and he said: “So, this is a woman’s self-defence step? I really don’t think she’s going to hurt me?” But I did a bunch of moves on him that hurt him, he screamed and after that he was all on board. But it was great fun to work with him and making that movie was a fantastic experience.
Nikita Season One is out on Blu-ray and DVD on September 19, courtesy of Warner Home Video.