'Nikita' star, raised in Hawaii, makes a stand for diversity, animals
By LYNN ELBER
AP Television Writer
POSTED: 06:48 a.m. HST, Sep 30, 2010
LOS ANGELES — "Nikita" star Maggie Q, a Mililani High School graduate, is
justifiably proud of headlining a TV series and being among the rare
Asian-American actors to do so.
But the energetic, impossibly lithe actress has even bigger ambitions, and we're
not just talking career: She's an ardent animal rights supporter — with three
dogs at home, down from eight — and eager to encourage those impressed by her
fitness to follow her vegetarian example.
"I've never felt better in my life, ever. In terms of consciousness, what
benefits our body and benefits animal welfare also benefits the planet. It's all
connected," said Maggie Q, who's active with animal protection groups.
The Hawaii native of Irish and Vietnamese ancestry clearly is a fighter both on
the screen (her action films include "Mission: Impossible III") and off, but she
was initially unaware she was advancing colorblind casting with "Nikita."
Her role in the CW freshman drama (9 p.m. EDT Thursday) is inspired by the 1990
French film "La Femme Nikita," in which the title character was white, as was
the case with a 1997 TV series. In the CW version, Nikita, trained as a spy and
assassin by a secret U.S. agency, goes renegade to destroy the operation after
Maggie Q learned that her hiring was unusual when she read it in a trade paper.
That unleashed a flood of emotions, she says, including gratitude tempered by
surprise that "the United States of America, the biggest melting pot in the
world," shouldn't routinely show its diversity on TV.
She's pleased that aspiring Asian-American performers can point to her and say,
"'When I get there, it's going to be easier for me."'
The actress credits open-minded studios with bringing her into "Nikita" and the
summer movie "Priest," which provided another opportunity to move out of the
constraints of ethnic-specific roles.
The 31-year-old Maggie Q was born Maggie Quigley, abbreviating her name when she
launched her acting career in Asia. Her training for on-screen martial arts came
courtesy of Jackie Chan, and her lengthy credits in the action-film genre
include 2007's "Live Free or Die Hard" with Bruce Willis.
The production pace in TV is grueling, she said, but her experience with Chan
("one of the hardest-working people on the planet") prepared her for "Nikita."
"It just feels right to be here," she said.