One powerful action scene in “The Protégé” required Maggie Q’s fleeing

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Maggie Q leaps into the spotlight: The action veteran finally gets her due as a movie star in ‘The Protege’
Bryan Alexander
USA TODAY

One powerful action scene in “The Protégé” required Maggie Q’s fleeing assassin to leap off a four-story balcony, holding a wall-secured fire hose to sail safely to the floor (while firing a handgun, of course).

Even with a ceiling-secured safety wire, most Hollywood stars would wisely give the moment to their stunt double.

But in her first lead action film role, Maggie Q, the 42-year-old former star of CW’s 2010-2013 spy series “Nikita,” sought to make a statement – not only could she hold her own with co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton, but she could also kick legit action star butt.

Even if that meant jumping over the rail four stories in the air for two nights.

“We specifically designed the stunt with the cameras following me in the fall to make sure our audience saw, it’s me,” says Maggie Q proudly, speaking on a Zoom call. “So there’s no dispute. Which is awesome.”

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Maggie Q takes an action leap as a lethal assassin in “The Protege”
Awesome, for sure. It’s the type of gritty showcase that made a fervent believer out of director Martin Campbell (of Bond “Casino Royale” fame). When casting the film, Campbell was immediately wowed by the actress’s drama reel, but had a big question: “Who the (bleep) is that?”

“Martin doesn’t mince words,” says Maggie Q, who found out about her director’s question long afterwards. “I’m told the f-bomb was involved there. Which I think is hysterical.”

Maggie Q performed the rail leap over two nights for “The Protege” stunt. “I’m definitely afraid. I just can’t show it, because I have a job to do. It’s very internal,” she says.
Campbell readily admits, “I had really never heard of Maggie before I cast her, that’s the amazing thing. I was impressed by the acting. I then said, ‘We’ve got to have Maggie Q, that’s the end of it.'”

Increasingly, others have had the same insistence for the multi-talented actress who can seemingly tackle any genre. On TV, Maggie Q has built a zealous fan base after starring in “Designated Survivor,” “Young Justice,” “Stalker” (alongside one-time fiancé Dylan McDermott) and playing the title assassin in three seasons of “Nikita.” In film, she’s starred alongside Tom Cruise in 2006’s “Mission: Impossible III,” and has appeared in 2007’s “Live Free Or Die Hard” and in all three “Divergent” films.

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The one-time model, born Maggie Quigley to a Vietnamese mother and Irish/Polish father, fit the role of the Vietnamese-born, often-glamorous assassin “Protégé” who is trainedto kill by the mysterious Moody (Jackson). Campbell says he found out later that Maggie Q had cut her teeth in the Hong Kong action movie scene with legendary star Jackie Chan, whom he directed in 2017’s “The Foreigner.”

Maggie Q’s Anna has a restaurant moment with Michael Keaton’s rival Rembrandt in “The Protege.”
In Hong Kong in 2000, the actress developed her single-letter last name from the repeated shorthand of a prominent Chinese newspaper (“They just put a letter Q. And that was that, everyone called me ‘Maggie Q’ after that.”) She also developed a taste for action.

Making 2002’s “Naked Weapon,” one of her stunt doubles sliced a hand open performing a wire stunt. Director Siu-Tung Ching told Maggie Q to take over.

“She’s like crying and bleeding, and I’m supposed to jump in and do the stunt,” says Maggie Q. “But I did. And I did it.”

For the mayhem-filled “Protégé,” Campbell insists his star did 98% of her own stunts, leaving only crashes with cars and through glass tables to stunt pros.

Maggie Q credits her athleticism to regular yoga. “It’s so funny because the thing that I love the most, my yoga practice is the most nonviolent gentle kind of thing you can do.”
Maggie Q spent days working on an intricate fight scene with her character’s rival frenemy with benefits, played by Keaton, 69, more than 25 years her senior. The two performed most of the complicated moves during the knockdown fight that turns amorous. (Campbell refers to it as “the foreplay scene”).

The comical look of fight exhaustion, shown onscreen mid-brawl, required little acting for the duo.

“There were moments where Michael was like, ‘Maggie, what the hell is going on? I’m exhausted,'” she says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m exhausted, too. I’m just not talking about it.'”

The flying balcony scene was Maggie Q’s peak stunt. After her stunt double rehearsed the controlled fall, she reported being terrified every time she pulled off the stunt.

“She was like, ‘You’re never going to get used to it, good luck,'” Maggie Q recalls, “I was like, wait, that’s not what you’re supposed to be saying.”

Maggie Q as Nikita in The CW’s “Nikita.”
But Q made the leap, again and again, only to see on the set monitor that the moving camera missed the shot.

“I was on the verge of tears. But we kept missing it,” she says. “It was devastating.”

The perfectionist was so intent on nailing it, she came back the next night to continue jumping until she was satisfied.

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“God knows how many times she did the stunt,” Campbell says. “But there were no doubles used. It’s all Maggie on that screen.”

While Maggie Q is following up “The Protégé” by moving to comedy with the Fox TV series “Pivoting,” she’s thankful for the action spotlight and for Campbell, even if he did initially ask who she was.

“Martin probably saved me from a few others asking the same question if I didn’t do this movie,” she says. “But it won’t happen again, not after this.”

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