Undisputed queen of kickass, Maggie Denise Quigley, aka Maggie Q, is going strong with a new TV show, a role in one of the most talked about movie franchises of the year, and a wedding in the works.
By Wen-xi Chen
Maggie Q, born Margaret Denise Quigley in Hawaii to parents of Irish, Polish, and Vietnamese descent, is a rarity in the entertainment industry. Her killer looks paired with unrivalled martial arts ability has made her a bona fide female action star. For Maggie Q, her self-awareness came early in her life. Even as a child, the actress chose boys’ toys over Barbie dolls. “I wasn’t a Barbie doll girl,” she laughs, “I won’t say I was a tomboy, because I wasn’t, I was still a girl, but I liked tough toys, so instead of wanting a Barbie like other girls did, I wanted a C-3PO. I wanted a big, tough metal guy, and I got it. I was obsessed with him for many years because he was my tough guy. It was a strange thing for a girl to like, but I did get that.”
At only 17 years old, the aspiring actress and model moved to Japan at the suggestion of a friend to begin a modeling career. From there she hopped over to Chinese Taipei only to be met with disappointment. Undeterred, she made one more move, this time to Hong Kong. It was in Hong Kong where Q’s career initially took off and endeared her to the Asian audience.
The actress has a phoenix tattoo on her hip, and according to Q, its symbolism represents her life. “When I was in Asia, I tagged along with friends who went to see fortune tellers,” she explained, “They would always look at me at the end of session and go, “You’re a bird.” As I started getting older and learned more about myself, I got it. So I met an artist who basically said, “You’re a phoenix because you’ve come from nothing, and you’re building something.” I got the tattoo actually in Vancouver weirdly, but it was an artist who drew it for me in Asia.”With barely any money to her name, Q found herself in a situation in Hong Kong that closely resembled her mother’s early years in the US as a Vietnamese immigrant. Luckily for Q, she was selected by Jackie Chan to be his protégé. His intensive training transformed the novice actress into a bona fide action star and she has never looked back since. With the popular House of the Dragon under her belt, Q appeared in the action thriller Gen-Y Cops as FBI agent Jane Quigley and then as martial artist assassin Charlene Ching in the action movie Naked Weapon. It was 2006 that saw her break into mainstream Hollywood when she starred alongside Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III as Zhen Lei.
The tough girl persona fit Q so well that she landed the much-coveted role of Nikita Mears in the eponymous TV series. It is arguably this role that made Maggie Q a household name across the world. Since the series ended, Q has taken the lead in a brand new show. Playing a police officer on the hunt for stalkers, she is in familiar territory in new show Stalker, even if she was reluctant to take it on at first. “I didn’t want to go into another series,” Q confesses, “It is such a blessing to have it, but it is a lot of work. It was the combination of Kevin Williamson, being back at Warner Bros, which is like my family, and Dylan McDermott was a huge draw for me. I thought the characters had a journey. When you take TV, you always need to look at what the journey can be, not just the immediacy of the pilot.”
Stalker will prove to be an interesting challenge for the actress. Show creator Kevin Williamson, known for his shows Dawson’s Creek, The Vampire Diaries, and The Following, is a character-driven writer. “I think that was a draw for [co-star and now fiancé] Dylan McDermott and I that Kevin’s development of these two was going to head this show in a certain direction,” she says, “There will be a case every week, but a lot of time when I am reading the scripts, I care about the cases, but I truly am curious about them. The characters’ histories, where they’re going, why they are where they are, how they got there; that, to me, is the most interesting part of the show to be honest.”
For Q, Stalker is a more grown up show than Nikita, and her role as Beth explores a different form of strength. “I actually feel my age coming into play in this role and exploring a sense of strength that is different than kicking ass!” the actress says, “There is something internally strong about Beth because her circumstance has been rough. We will find that out later. I like that. If strength is real, it is innate. It is something you feel when someone walks into a room. You know it. You don’t mess with certain people. You know that certain people have a depth of experience and knowledge. That is very, very much her. I am enjoying that because it is a true example of a strong woman.”
Strength has never been a problem for Q, just as she has shown her internal strength by boldly moving her life to Asia as a teenage in search of new opportunities, her physical strength is clear from her very physique. As a performer who is known for doing her own stunts just as her teacher Jackie Chan did before her, it is not surprising to find out that Q works out every single day, no matter how busy her schedule is. Whether it is yoga, cardio or boxing, the actress loves to mix it up to keep it fresh. Notoriously private and low-key, this is a star who prefers wearing sweats to a ball-gown, and is keen on having her alone time. “I do yoga, read, and hang out with my dogs,” she laughs about what she likes to do in her down time. But just because the actress likes her own space doesn’t mean that she doesn’t make a splash when she wants to; in March of last year, looking radiant, she made the headlines as she stepped out in a daring cut-out dress to the high profile LA premier of her movie Divergent.
Ironically, Q doesn’t actually get any action sequences in the otherwise action-packed movie. Her character, Tori Wu, has her own personal motives and becomes a mentor to the story’s main character over the course of events. With critics calling it the next Hunger Games, Divergent’s three sequels, already planned out for the next four years, are set to take Hollywood by storm. Between those movies, her TV show, and several upcoming projects that include a potential film about Chinese Pirate Queen Ching Shih, Q takes time to appreciate what she has: “People have asked me what the key to happiness is. In my opinion it’s gratitude. It’s the only thing that gives you true happiness is knowing what you have.”
Chinese Edition: Vantage