Maggie Q charmed everyone at The CW's 2010 Upfront presentation with her sweet, funny introduction of her first TV series, "Nikita."
At the time, Q had appeared in mostly action films, and rarely in a lead role. She was new to TV, and new to being the center of attention in a room full of executives, advertisers and oh-so-many young, gorgeous stars.
"They threw me on stage and I didn't know what the hell to do or what to say in this room full of very serious people, you know," she said during a recent phone interview. "Not only had I never done TV; I'd just never even been around that."
Flash forward to the present: For three seasons, Q had led a group of actors that includes Shane West, Lyndsy Fonseca and Aaron Stanford while kicking butt as rogue assassin-turned-world saver Nikita Mears. She's doing press for the action series' final six episodes, a mini-season Q and creator Craig Silverstein have been granted "because our fans have been so wonderful," she said. It's a rare chance for a perpetually endangered series to wrap up its story.
"The fact that we kind of kept going and going and we're able to end it is great," Q said. "A lot of times you don't get that opportunity.
"OK, maybe six [episodes] wasn't ideal; maybe 13 would have given us a little more story. But with six you don't have the fat on any episode. You just go for it and every single one is a movie. So we are going out with a bang big time on this show."
The final season, debuting at 7 p.m. Friday on The CW, kicks off about three months after the U.S. government launched a worldwide manhunt for Nikita, who has been framed for the assassination of the president. She's on the run, purposefully separated from the fellow spies who have become her family, as well as her fiance, Michael (West).
Nikita's new family will suffer this season even before what she teases is an epic finale Dec. 27. "There's gonna be some loss this season that is really gonna kill people who love the show," she said.
Q, who shot the film "Divergent" in Chicago this summer, returned to the city this week to film an indie movie called "Broken Benches" with John Leguizamo. It's a small role, she said, which is just fine with her.
"I've been a main person for four years," she said last week from Los Angeles, where she was hiking with her dog, Caesar. "I'd like to take a little break from that."
That doesn't mean she isn't already missing her "Nikita" family. Likening her "Nikita" experience to having a "really great meal," she says she is satisfied with what cast and crew have accomplished.
"It's exactly like that. ‘Are you missing it? Do you want it back?' ‘No, I don't. I've had this really great meal and I'm full and totally satisfied and happy to wrap it up and walk away at this time,'" she said. "I think it's great timing."
Q talked more about the final episodes, why Nikita and Michael can't communicate and what we can expect from Nikita's nemesis, Amanda.
You have six episodes to wrap Nikita's story up. Did it make things more difficult or were you just happy to have six episodes?
Well, both. It was weird because in the beginning we thought, "Great, six." And there's no sort of filler episodes. There are no bottle episodes. We could just go for it. We're just going to write six little movies and it'll be all good. Then you start getting into the logistics of it and you realize that writing six is probably the hardest thing you could do when you're wrapping up a show.
It can be explosive and exciting but it is really, really hard to wrap up everything that you've built in three years in six episodes. So 13 would have been easier but I think we're gonna go out with a bang. I'm really happy with what we've done.
It was a fun process sort of getting the six and going, "OK, how do we make this work?" And it was actually a lot harder than we imagined.
But you're happy with what's going on with what you ended up with?
Yeah. I think we really brought it. I think we did what we felt we needed to do in the time and I also think that the audiences who do love the show are going to be satisfied. And that matters a lot to us.
As somebody who's watched it from the very beginning I was sad you weren't sticking around but happy you get to end it properly.
Absolutely. You bring up a good point and I was just saying to someone that you don't often get that gift of, "OK, here is what we're gonna do. We're gonna go again but this is where it's gonna end."
Not only did I have the time on the hiatus—well, I was doing a movie—but the time to emotionally sort of detach and go, "Oh, OK. So we're ending her here. So this is where we can go. This is how we're gonna get there." Because that's a bit of time. And I was able to kind of get that sort of mental emotional block out of the way because I knew where we were going and there was a plan for it. And I think that really, really helps to wrap up the show and just feel really happy and good about it.
What her headspace like? She took off and left her ring and everybody behind.
Well not just everybody and not just the ring—even though those are huge things. But they're smaller in the scope of over the past three years Nikita's actually built something she's never had.
Nikita was rogue when we found her. She was a singular sort of unit. She had one thing in mind and that was a revenge mission and that was it. And she was willing to go for it. Her own demise didn't matter. That's how we found Nikita when we met her.
And from there till the end of the third season, she in a very substantial way had changed her mental, emotional, sort of spiritual state of living and being and built this family of people, found love. She was able to not just do what she wanted to do but also find the right channels—she went through all this. So every single thing that she's built in her love and in her life she walked away from. She's walked away from things before but there wasn't any foundation that she had built that she was walking away from. This is the first time she had ever done that. So it was really, really kind of the biggest decision she's made in a long time.
She's sort of back to her season one or like when we first met her of being a loner, except she now cares about other people I guess.
Totally. Except now there are people in her heart that she wants to protect, which is what her motivation is. But you're absolutely right and I said that to Craig, our creator, when we were designing the fourth season. I said, "Oh, I'm really excited actually to throw back to the first season. Nikita's now alone again." The stakes are really high but they're much higher in her heart because there's so much more at stake than there ever was for her. And that was really exciting to me because I think one of the interesting things about Nikita is her sort of rogueness that she will never get away from.
She also must have in her head that Amanda's still out there and Amanda (Melinda Clarke) knows how to push her buttons. And, you know, go after her friends.
Absolutely. Yeah, that's the biggest thing. She comes back in the fourth season wanting to clear her name because she knows that once this goes away for her it will go away for Michael and for Alex and for Owen, for Ryan and Birkhoff. And that's really the point. That's really all it is for her—to be able to make that happen and that the people that she loves will be safe from her or free also from her for the rest of their lives. And that's really the goal. It's not about her and her name and her face and people knowing or caring. I mean it's really about them still.
When she does come back she and Michael have—things are a little chilly. Michael's a little mad.
Chilly. It's so cold in that room. Yep.
So what is the deal with them? Why can't they just tell each other how they feel?
You know, I mean, why—indeed? And I find that in life as well. It's very real. It's the strangest thing in the whole world how you can love someone so completely but in a moment where you don't understand something, everything becomes so internal for people. And I think Nikita's always sort of had a problem being righteous. I mean if it were me, if it were Maggie—like forget Nikita—if it were Maggie I'd walk up to him and like, "Dude, I get it. You're mad but you know what? I give a shit about you and everybody else and I was just trying to do the right thing." I mean that's what I would say.
But Nikita isn't that person. It's sort of like if you can't understand that I was given no choice and I was backed into a corner and what I did was so big and more out of love than anything else I could have done, then you just don't get it. And that's not something she's gonna push onto Michael because he has to go through his process.
There is a character who comes in later in the season who becomes the catalyst for Michael's little sort of emotional transformation that he needs to make because, you know, I think he's living in his own little bubble. "I'm Michael and I'm hurt and this is my bubble that I'm gonna live in and I'm not gonna get out of it or try to see it as something bigger than something she did to me personally." Even though it was very personal, it wasn't done to hurt him.
Is that person a big surprise?
It's a character that I really, really loved in Season 2 and I've been trying to find a way to bring him back forever. And he weirdly even in longer seasons we didn't have a space for him. And then in this sort of short, truncated six we found a place for him and it was really funny. So he's going to be a character that we've seen before.
Does everyone get a happy ending?
No, everyone does not. It's not what you'd expect, but wow, it's gonna be very effective. ... But it's gonna be so brave and so sacrificial in that way that there's something that makes you proud about it. It's almost like a military death, or somebody who's in a war zone. It's one of those things where you're so torn between this sort of sense of duty that they had and how proud you are of somebody that they could sort of have that and then dealing with the sadness of them being gone. So it's in that vein. You'll understand when you see it.
Will Nikita ever be able to reconcile that no matter how careful she is in everything she does to try to do the right thing, that there's always some kind of collateral damage?
Kind of. I mean she's sort of forced to do that. ... She has to do that and face that in this season so it's funny that you brought that up. It's not defeatist, but it is a little bit like at some point you have to just give in to the fact that you don't and you won't control the outcome of everything. And no matter what you do, like you said, there's always gonna be that thing that comes up, you know, a wrench in your plans.
I think we do see Nikita kind of acquiescing to that in a way this season and sort of going, "OK, I can't win but here's what I can do." And there's that one last thing that she's gonna do. And it's really pretty epic man. I can't say anything about the finale without giving it away but let's just say she is very purposed. She's got one thing in her head and she wants to do this one thing and she's done.
You don't have to answer this but I'm guessing it has something to do with Amanda.
Because I just can't wait for Amanda to get hers.
Oh yeah. Oh, and it's gonna be so great.
You're gonna love it.
It's gonna hurt you from your core. You know, it's not like oh she's gonna slap her around. It's so much bigger than that.
Are you going to miss all your "Nikita" friends?
Oh yeah. Already I miss them so much. They're my family. They're closer than family because I see them more than family. ...
Do you feel you've done what you wanted to do with it?
Absolutely. ... A lot of times you don't get that opportunity. It's sort of like you get canceled and you don't even know it's coming blah, blah, blah. But it was very important to the studio, Warner Brothers was very adamant about it because our fans have been so wonderful and because the story is something that people cared about a lot. They were very, very adamant about really giving people a satisfying end to this character and this show. So they give us that.
I'm glad about that. I remember you on stage at the upfront the first year that "Nikita" was happening. You were so funny.
I'm backstage with, I don't know, the who's who of like Barbies and Kens. And it was all very strange because it's the network. They don't hire ugly people—let's put it that way. I'm sort of back there and going, "Is this for real? What's happening?" I thought I was at a pageant. ... Even my movies I was always the youngest person in my films. They're rated R. They're action. I just never had been around that crowd. So, to me it was just very, very funny. The whole experience was very funny.
You were in Chicago for "Divergent," in which you play Tori. And that's kind of familiar role for you in that she's a mentor like how Nikita was with Alex.
It is. It totally is. It's sort of like Tori's a little bit of an unwilling mentor because Shailene's character sort of puts her in that position where Tori's sort of trying to run away from being that person, does not want to be involved with this girl and does not want to advise her on anything. It's something that she wants to be 10 miles from but this young girl sort of seeks her out and she won't leave he alone about what she knows.
Did you have fun in Chicago or was it just all work?
Yeah, I really like it a lot. It's funny because I have a certain role in the first "Divergent," but in the second one my role's a lot bigger. So if we do come back to Chicago, which we will if we do the second one, it'll be there a lot longer.
And you're coming back next week? It's going to be a lot colder than it was when you were here this summer.
I'm coming back next week; it's going to be freezing. But because I've been in Toronto for four years making "Nikita" I've got all my sort of Canada gear, my Arctic wear, so I'm bringing that. Because your city is cold.
What's the movie you will be filming here next week?
Oh, it's a little movie called "Broken Bench." It's basically about this team of finance people who were one of the few groups of people who were able to actually hack the New York Stock Exchange. It's a movie about finance. It's very topical right now obviously.
It's this little character actually. I wasn't even in the main movie. John Leguizamo had created the character who is now a paraplegic and because of that he created this character he wanted who's this woman who's very close to him who cares for him but they have this sort of very strange and funny relationship. ... The producer called me and she's like, "Would this be fun for you?" And I just thought that would be fun because I love John and it'd be funny to just kind of come in as not one of the main people. ...
So just come in and sort of do a bunch of improv with John and just kind of create this dynamic between these two people. And I think it'll be really fun.
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