Margaret Denise Quigley/Maggie Q
Margaret Denise Quigley (born May 22, 1979), professionally known as Maggie Q, is an American actress, animal rights activist and former fashion model. She achieved international fame starring as the title role on The CW's action-thriller series Nikita that aired in 2010-2013. In 2014, she will portray the role of Tori Wu in the film adaption of Veronica Roth's bestselling novel Divergent.
Quigley was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. Her father is of Irish and Polish descent and her mother is a Vietnamese immigrant. Her parents met while her father was stationed in Vietnam during the war. Q grew up with four siblings.
Q attended Mililani Waena Elementary School and Wheeler Intermediate School. She then attended Mililani High School, where she was on the cross country, track and field, and swim teams. She won the title of "Best Body" senior year, and graduated from Mililani High School in 1997.
At the suggestion of a friend, Q began modeling in Tokyo at the age of 17, before making an unsuccessful move to Taipei, and finally trying in Hong Kong. She has said it was not easy for her: "I had twenty bucks in my pocket. I mean, I literally did the same thing that my mother did when she left Vietnam... didn't speak the language... had no money." But, it was in Hong Kong that she was selected by Jackie Chan, because he saw a potential action star. His intensive training taught her the importance of professionalism and always doing her own stunts. Q later said, "I had never done a day of martial arts in my life when I started in the business. I couldn’t even touch my toes."
In 1998, she started her acting career in the TV drama House of the Dragon, which was a huge hit in Asia. In 2000, Q made her film debut as Anna in the horror film Model from Hell, and went on to star as an FBI agent Jane Quigley in the action thriller Gen-Y Cops the same year. Her appearance in Gen-Y Cops impressed Jackie Chan so much that she was cast in Manhattan Midnight and Rush Hour 2.
In 2002, she starred as martial artist assassin Charlene Ching in the action film Naked Weapon. In 2005, Q played Harmony in the German-Singaporean TV mini-series House of Harmony, opposite Fann Wong. The same year she also co-produced the animal treatment documentary Earthlings narrated by Joaquin Phoenix.
In 2006, she starred alongside Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible III. She played Zhen, the only female member of the IMF team. In 2007, she appeared as Mai Linh in the Bruce Willis movie Live Free or Die Hard, the fourth film in the Die Hard series, and as Maggie in Balls of Fury.
In 2008, Q played fictional Cao Ying, a granddaughter of the warlord Cao Cao in Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon, her first ancient Chinese costume performance. That same year, she also appeared in the drama/thriller movie Deception starring Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman, as Tina, an investment banker who introduced Jackman's character to an exclusive anonymous sex club list.
In 2010, she became the lead character, an assassin gone rogue, on the new CW series, Nikita, a revamp of the movie/TV title. Since the premiere of Nikita, Q has been incorrectly stated as the first Asian American series lead in an American television drama; this is not true as it was actually the actress Anna May Wong who was the first Asian American series lead of an American television series with her show The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong which aired back in 1951.
In 2014, Maggie Q will play the role of Dauntless faction-head Tori Wu, in the film Divergent.
Maggie Q is outspoken on the subject of animal rights and has taken part in PETA Asia's campaigns promoting vegetarianism. In a PETA ad, she posed nearly nude in a bed of crimson chili peppers to spread the word that going vegetarian is the best way to "spice up your life" as well as help animals, your health, and the environment. A second ad for PETA Asia features her wearing a bikini made entirely of strategically placed lettuce leaves next to the tagline "Turn Over a New Leaf – Try Vegetarian!"
A vegetarian for many years, she once said that giving up meat is one of the most rewarding decisions she has ever made. "I feel better, I have more energy on and off the set, and I have the satisfaction of knowing that I'm doing something to help stop animal suffering." In 2008, Maggie Q was named PETA Asia-Pacific's "Person of the Year." The same year, the organization also listed Q as one of the "Best-Dressed Celebrities" of 2008. She has since taken the step to cut all animal products from her diet by becoming a vegan.
Q previously dated Hong Kong actor Daniel Wu who also was a costar of Naked Weapon. She has three tattoos: one on each arm and one of a phoenix on her left hip, which she has had to conceal for most of her roles except Nikita. Q also suffered temporary hearing loss in her right ear, when her eardrum was blown out in an explosive stunt.
Nikita Mears is the primary protagonist and eponymous character of Nikita, an American action and drama television series, which debuted in September 2010 on The CW Television Network. She is played by American actress Maggie Q. The series follows Nikita's efforts in bringing down Division, a secret agency that trained her into becoming an agent and assassin, and then betrayed her by killing a man she fell in love with, civilian Daniel Monroe. She recruits Alexandra Udinov (Lyndsy Fonseca) into helping her destroy Division from within.
Q was in talks to appear on the series as the title character in February 2010, and it was her first time working on a television series. She was chosen for the role because series creator Craig Silverstein believed Q had qualities that would fit the character; "beautiful, who could fight," and be believable with a gun. The actress meanwhile was intrigued by the original Nikita film and Luc Besson's creation of a flawed female character. Q performs her own stunts of the series. The series also deals with Nikita and Michael's romantic tension, then relationship, described by the fans as "Nikita." The character and Q's portrayal garnered mostly positive reactions from critics.
In the pilot episode, Nikita and Alex gets Division's attention by setting up a robbery where Alex would be arrested for the murder of a man Division was after. From there, Alex would assist Nikita by warning her of several Division operations so that Nikita can sabotage them. In "The Guardian" Nikita reluctantly takes Owen Elliot (Devon Sawa), Monroe's killer, as an ally; Elliot is a guardian to one of seven black boxes, hard drives with information on Division's past assignments. She would later plan on finding all of Division's black boxes to destroy them. In "Phoenix" Nikita is offered a position in Gogol, a terrorist organization who also wish to destroy Division, but she declines. In "One Way" she aids a reluctant Michael in killing Kasim Tariq (Haaz Sleiman) in Uzbekistan, a terrorist responsible for killing Michael's family. Nikita is helping him because it is an unofficial assignment, and she would disappear after it is done. However Division soon learns of her involvement and sabotages it. In "Dark Matter" Nikita finds another ally; Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst Ryan Fletcher (Noah Bean), whom she saved after Division framed him for murdering a Chilean presidential candidate when Owen leaked the candidate's death from the black box to the press; Fletcher and Nikita would occasionally cross paths in helping each other in stopping Division. In the midseason finale "All the Way" the shell program which Nikita uses to communicate with Alex is discovered by computer programmer Seymour Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford). She is also captured by Division, though Alex would detonate several bombs as a distraction to allow Nikita to escape.
Later, Michael discovers the location of Nikita's safe house and discovers that Alex is her mole in stopping Division. In "Covenants" he forces her into finding and killing Tariq, who later turns out to be a former Division agent. After this is completed, Michael and Nikita begin a romantic relationship. In the season finale "Pandora", Nikita's access to Division has been damaged. Firstly, Alex is discovered to be the mole. After she is released, she no longer wishes to help Nikita because of her role in her family's murder. Secondly, Amanda takes control of part of Oversight, and Michael is no longer able to retain his cover at Division when he tries to kill Percy for organising the death of his family. However, Birkhoff has helped Nikita hack into one of the black boxes, saying he will "cross [his fingers] behind [his] back" to help her. By the end of the first season, Michael and Nikita then end up on the run together to find the remaining black boxes.
Nikita and Michael use their black box to continue their effort into sabotaging Division's operation. The two team up with Birkhoff, who also escaped–and made himself millions of dollars–fearing for his life now that psychologist Amanda (Melinda Clarke) is now running Division after arresting Percy. They use Birkhoff's wealth in stopping Division. In "343 Walnut Lane" Nikita comes across Richard Ellison (David Keith), whom she believes to be her father. However, it is revealed that he is a Division operative ordered to retrieve their black box; Nikita kills Ellison. In "Clawback", Nikita fails to save Ryan Fletcher's life in prison, but unknown to her, Amanda faked his death, and Nikita is unaware of this until his release in "Doublecross". In the meantime, throughout the first half of the season, Alex works against Nikita because of her desire to kill Sergei Semak (Peter J. Lucas), who paid Division to kill the Udinovs, and Division wants her to take back the black box, which gets destroyed in "Fair Trade". After Alex finds out her mother (Sarah Clarke) is still alive, and escaping her childhood home with Nikita, the two decide to work together again. After Alex publicly announces she is an Udinov, she becomes wealthy and becomes a new source for funding after Birkhoff lost his money.
Throughout much of the season, Nikita's relationship with Michael is strained after they work alongside Cassandra Ovechkin (Helena Mattsson), one of Michael's old flames while he was in Division, and unknown to him, he is the father of Cassandra's son Max. Michael desired to have a family again since the death of his a decade before. After the couple help Cassandra–revealed to be an MI6 agent–again in London, and realizing Max is his son, Michael briefly stays behind to look after Max. Their relationship appears to strengthen after they help Cassandra and Max fake their deaths after being outed as a Gogol mole within MI6. "Wrath" explores Nikita's dark side when she is captured and tortured by Nicholas Brandt, an arms dealer Nikita tortured during her days in Division. Nikita confesses to Michael that "there is evil" in her, but Michael assures her it is only a part of her. After the two are rescued, the ordeal brings Michael and Nikita closer than ever. Percy in the meantime, manages to gain control of Division again after proving to everyone that Amanda has been colluding with Gogol. Nikita and her entourage then work to fight Percy, who has a nuclear bomb built, which he plans to use against the United States. Nikita, having decided that she is "not running anymore," breaks into Division with Michael and kills Percy. Ryan takes over Division, and Nikita returns to work on field missions.
Creation and casting
The CW was looking to create a female-driven action series. Creator Craig Silverstein discussed with Warner Bros. about the previous incarnations of Nikita (the original 1990 film, and La Femme Nikita) and wished to make the current television series look fresh. Silverstein wanted to follow Nikita after she left the agency, as that chapter was yet to be told in the previous incarnations. He also believed it would have done the original story justice. Also, he wanted to include a highlight of Nikita's original story in the pilot to earn the title, and then move on from there. Silverstein described Nikita's transition in a Collider interview; "It's a dark fairytale. This girl is taken from one life, her identity is erased, she's put in another life and she's transformed. It's like Alice in Wonderland. She's told, "Eat this, drink that, steal this, kill that," and she's not told why. And, she begins to find her own identity through that. It's just a great story."
On February 2010 it was announced that Maggie Q was in talks to play the title character of Nikita. Q's casting would mark the highest-profile series role for an Asian actress on a broadcast drama series. Q was drawn to the series because she was intrigued by the original film and Luc Besson's creation of an incredibly flawed female. According to the actress the process of her casting took about four to five days. In describing Q's casting, Silverstein stated;
“ Before we knew who Nikita was going to be, we all talked about how impossible it was going to be to cast this role. It had to be someone who was beautiful, who could fight, who you could believe holding a gun and who you believed was smart, in order to plan everything that she was doing. You'd think those things would be easy to find in an actor, and they're not. We had actors come in and these girls would be gorgeous and smart, but you'd put a gun in their hands and it didn't work. The second we heard Maggie's name, Danny Cannon, our director, and I looked at each other and were like, "Yes!" It was really early on in the process. ”
Appearing on Nikita would be Q's first television role. During an interview with IGN, Q explained that she previously was not on television "not because I didn't want to. I just never thought about it," adding "When this came up, everything just felt right. I knew McG and when Wonderland came on he was like, 'This is you, we're not doing this without you.' and I went 'That's very sweet!' So it felt right."
Because the CW is a fashion-orientated network, there were times Nikita had to be dressed in a certain way to get her noticed by her targets. Q liked the idea, but at the same time wanted Nikita's dress sense to be "toned down a bit" because she is an assassin. In one scene in particular Q had to wear a red bikini in the pilot, which "mortified" her. She added "that red bikini was the bane of my existence. You're not going to see me in a bikini again, that's for sure. [...] I was like, 'Danny, can you put me in a one-piece?,' and he gave me that red bikini. I was like, 'That's not a one-piece. That's a two-piece with a string.'" However, Q did not have to cover her tattoos like she had to in the films, as it was in keeping with who the character is; a hardcore, street kid.
Q performs her own stunts in the series. The actress liked to have her character "be able to do her own thing," as it is an action series where females play lead roles; during her film career, she noted "but in movies, alongside big action men, we've always got to take a step back and let the men shine. And in this, it's about the women who know what they're doing." At some point Q set up a three-week long training period for the rest of the cast to make their fight scenes in the series believable; she had her partner, an action director, bring his stunt team to train them. In filming the stunts she was already used to working in an environment where filming in television would be faster than in American films, because of her time starring in films in Asia, which usually took two to six weeks.
One of the more prominent aspects of Nikita's character development since the beginning of the series is her relationship with Michael, and has been dubbed by fans as "Mikita". Unlike other works on film and television, Silverstein did not play the traditional "Will They/Won't They?" game between the two characters. Co-star Shane West stated "It's not hard to bring Michael and Nikita together," but it is "really hard to keep them apart...We're barely into the season yet, so why not keep teasing?" When the first season started airing, West also expected that their romance would come, citing Michael and Nikita's past relationship while she was working with Division. Now that the two are together by the end of the first season, in the second season Craig Silverstein wanted something to happen to get in their way, saying that no new tension would make the relationship boring, adding "I don't think you can just have them happy and in love, kicking ass together forever."
Nikita and Maggie Q's portrayal of the character was met with generally positive reactions from television critics. Nikita was included in TV Guide's lists of "TV's Sexiest Crime Fighters" and "TV's Toughest Ladies". Alessandra Stanley of The New York Times felt that Q was suited for the role, stating "she has a solemn, exotic beauty and hauteur that echo the heroine's self-possession and cool relentlessness," adding "Nikita is noticeably more hard-boiled and less girlish than the undercover agent played by Jennifer Garner on Alias, or the C.I.A. rookie that Piper Perabo plays on Covert Affairs." Troy Patterson of Slate felt that "Ms. Q's Nikita is only half so crush-worthy as Bionic Woman's Jaime Sommers or Dollhouse's what's-her-name, but her predicament is no less tasty." Robert Bianco of USA Today believed Q's performance was "a fairly sizable incentive" to watch the show, adding she "combines stunt-fighting chops and lithe beauty with an unusual-for-the-genre air of somber intelligence. Her Nikita is not above cracking a joke, but it's clear from Q's eyes and bearing that she has suffered at the hands of evil men, and she's not going to take it anymore." Alan Sepinwall of HitFix believed that Q "carries herself in a way that makes it believable she could be a hard-core killer, and she has the requisite dramatic chops and charisma for the part." Maureen Ryan of AOL TV said "Maggie Q, has real charisma and presence; she invests Nikita's drive to bring down the secretive Division with potent energy. You have to believe that Nikita would devote her life to wreaking vengeance on the people she views as her former captors, and you also have to buy her as a butt-kicking, gun-toting action heroine who also looks great in a cocktail gown. Maggie Q makes all those things look easy."
Some other critics however, did not react so warmly towards Q's Nikita. Chris Conaton of PopMatters felt that Q "seems to be a good choice for the title role," but noted that the pilot did not call attention to the character's background. That said Conaton stated "it's still something of a novelty to build a TV series around an Asian American lead—though plenty of recent ensemble and reality TV shows have featured prominent cast members of Asian descent." Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe felt that Q was "too much of a sad sack," adding "Q doesn't seem able to layer any other emotions over her cold resolve," and compares the character to "a little bit like [Saturday Night Live character] Debbie Downer." Mary McNamara of The Los Angeles Times believed that while Nikita "provides some sizzle," her emotions "run that famous distance from A to B, as do virtually [every other character]."
Before the show started airing, Q posed for several billboard posters. However, they were met with some controversy for being revealing, and several locations across the United States, including in areas of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, refused to allow them to be put up, as they were located near churches and schools. Rick Haskins, the marketing executive for the CW stated "we've been down this road a few times with some of our campaigns."